Thoughts For Food

Insights into the Mind of a Culinary School Student

Life In The CIA: Externship


Anton Plaza just in front of Roth Hall, the main hall of the CIA.“Externship” is a term that confuses a lot of people, both at the CIA and those who don’t go to the CIA. The one phrase I hear the most when I mention the CIA externship program is: “Is that like an internship?” Yes. Yes it is. In fact, it’s exactly like an internship, but at the same time, it is much more important than an internship.Allow me to explain.

The externship program lasts 6 months and is essentially counted as a class block, even though you’re not at school. In fact, in the extern manual the school give you, there are assignments for you to do. Yeah it’s a little annoying, but it is for your own benefit; your personal education is in your own hands, which I personally really like. Oh, and if you don’t complete the manual, you can’t graduate. Incentive! So, it’s plain to see that the assignments in the manual are indeed worth your time and effort on many levels. I personally cannot wait for my externship period to arrive (Feb. – Aug.). It’s going to be such a great experience and if you do come to the CIA, I hope your externship is exciting and productive! Now, some tips passed onto me from chefs regarding externship:

  • “Don’t go home.” Externship is supposed to prepare you for living and working on your own out in the industry, after graduation. You may think that getting an externship close to your home to save on money, gas and other travel costs. DON’T DO IT. You’ll end up spending more money at home and lose out, especially if it’s an unpaid externship.
  • “Go somewhere you’ve never been to before.” As I’ve said earlier, externship is a growing experience. No sense in staying in your comfort zone for 6 months. Honestly, it’s going to get boring for you if you do. Get out there and explore!
  • “Make plenty of connections before, during and after.” 90% of the time, your extern site will become a future employer. If that’s the case, make plenty of connections within the establishment. Get to know people. And even if you don’t end up working for your extern after graduation, it’ll still be a great contact within the industry, as well as a fantastic resume builder. Above all, it pays to make good contacts and befriend everyone you work with and work for. Which brings me to my next point…..
  • “Loose the attitude.” CIA students have an unsettling attitude when they go out on externship, and I’ve heard this from so many chefs and faculty that I’ve taken it upon myself to avoid doing this when I go out on extern. The attitude everyone’s speaking of is the cocky, know-it-all, snobby, “I’m better than you are” kind of attitude that many CIA students bring with them to extern. This kind of attitude is such a bad thing to have on extern. You’ll burn so many bridges and quickly. You’ll practically ruin any and all chances you may have to get a job with that establishment in the future. Here’s the deal: everyone does everything a little different than you’ll be taught at the CIA or any culinary college for that matter. That’s the reality of the industry. Respect those who have a successful and established business because no matter how much they differ from what you’ve been taught, DON’T SAY ANYTHING. If anything, just ask why it’s so different. Take it as a learning opportunity. DO NOT say “That’s wrong” or “That’s not what I was taught.” It’s a great way to get you fired.

I hope this advice has been helpful to you. Best of luck on your extern/job searches! And as always, post a comment or email me if you have any more questions! I’ll be doing a MWF update schedule, so I’ll see you Wednesday!

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Author: NJ_Chef

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and aspiring food-writer. 28-year old chef, blogger, eSports fan, gamer, jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

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