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Advice on Kickstarting Your Culinary Career from C-CAP Chefs & Alumni

Posted by Avero Team | December 08, 2016
Advice on Kickstarting Your Culinary Career from C-CAP Chefs & Alumni
The following is a special guest blog post from Jill Lloyd, Director of Development at C-CAP

With the beginning of a new year approaching, C-CAP wanted to take a step back and look at another kind of beginning: first jobs. Whether with a cringe or a smile, we all remember our first jobs, and we all know how crucial they are in forming who we become. C-CAP’s Job Training and Internship Programs introduce thousands of high school students each year to working in professional kitchens, often their very first jobs. Our talented staff teach basic kitchen skills as well as soft skills, such as communication, time management, and work ethic, and our students are mentored by today's top chefs and go on to work in some of the most notable kitchens in the world.

With the support of generous partners like Avero, C-CAP gives students the opportunity to achieve their dreams. But how do they get from their first day on the job to a fulfilling career in the food industry? Practice, preparation, and access to experienced mentors are key. This time of year, our students are busy practicing knife cuts and recipes in preparation for cooking competitions to win scholarships, while our staff is busy providing individual guidance and educating students about culinary school options, how to apply, and how to prepare for visits and life on campus.

One of the most important ingredients in the success of our young chefs is mentorship from the culinary leaders who serve as C-CAP advisors, judge our cooking competitions, hire and supervise our students, participate in our chef panels, and so much more. We recently caught up with some of these supporting chefs and alums and asked them to share stories of their early days in the kitchen, as well as give some advice to other young chefs. Here’s what they had to say!

Andrea Anom, Executive Pastry Chef, Streetbird
“During a stage, the sous chef who interviewed me asked me to fetch the cabbage. I returned with a deep Lexan full of cabbage heads. He responded, ‘Wow, I only needed a couple heads, but you’re strong!’ I worked for that company for four years. A great attitude is contagious. If you have drive, determination and a good attitude, nothing and no one can stop you!”

Jason McClain, Executive Chef, Jonathan Club
“When I was a butcher, I forgot to scale the fish. Once the orders started going out, the chef started to yell! Learn your craft and take your time. Create a discipline and work on your time management, organization, and learn good technique. Work for a great chef and don’t worry about the money in the beginning.”

Benjamin Miller, Co-Owner, South Philly Barbacoa
“I once cooked a terrine without a water bath. That experiment failed! I learned my lesson, and the reason for my failure. I guess it was worth it! Observe everything. Use your discrimination to choose what you want to take with you and what you saw that you would do differently in your own place. As a future chef and business owner/entrepreneur, you can make a big positive impact on your community. In some respects, it’s more important to focus on that because as your community grows and gets stronger, their ability to support your business improves as well. If you're just worried about making money, the love and the quality won’t be there.”

Carmine Guglielmino, Private Chef
“My first (painful) mistake was not using the protective guard the first time I ever used a mandoline. All it took was one slip and there was blood everywhere. It made for a very interesting rest of my shift. To this day, I try to avoid using a mandoline at any cost! And it is the most basic rule, but read all recipes from start to finish! I still do this, especially when I am trying out something new. Learn the proper way to perfect the recipe, and then make it your own from that point on.”

Antonio Tanzi, Roundsman, Hilton Garden Inn
“I probably prepared more food than was needed, but it seemed like a good idea at the time to have enough food than to run out! My advice is to trail first to know what you are doing and what tools you will be dealing with. If you do not know something, it’s better to ask than to mess it up or risk injuring yourself.”

Bethania Peña, Line Cook, Daniel
“My first mistake was to complain to one of the pastry chefs that my feet were hurting! Take the first week of your first job to learn and see exactly what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it. Take notes and listen. If you have to complain, wait until you get home and complain to your cat.”

It’s time to heed our supporting chefs’ advice and plan accordingly for 2017! Stay tuned for more stories from C-CAP students, alumni, staff, and friends, and catch us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! #CCAPIsCooking