Thoughts For Food

Insights into the Mind of a Culinary School Student

Life in the CIA: My Externship – A Summary

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Well, my externship period is over. Four months have come and gone in a flash, even thought at times, it seemed like it would drag on forever. Despite my ups and downs, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Berkshires and will take all those experiences (and injuries) with me as I finish my tenure at the CIA. I will say that my externship was a very humbling experience. It taught me to look past my own weaknesses and embrace my failures as learning experiences. It also made me expand my sense of humor in many ways.

During my time at the Store and the Inn, I had the opportunity to experience brand new ways of working in a professional kitchen, using tools and techniques that I have never seen before. Moreover, I had the opportunity to bond with a whole new set of coworkers whom I had never met until then. Truth be told I was a little frightened, but excited at the same time. It was a bit awkward at first, bonding with everyone. It was very much like being a freshman at college all over again, complete with many, many hazing rituals. I understand that many, if not all kitchens use racial slang and/or terminology as a joke or because they’re just comfortable with it. Honestly, I was very uncomfortable with the whole thing throughout the entirety of my externship. Even when asking Chef Peter for feedback on my performance, he would drop some form of Asian stereotype while doing so. I voiced my concern to my coworkers about this matter, and they did stop using the stereotypical slang as much, though they still did. However, I did learn that it was just one of those things that goes on in a kitchen. They did not mean any disrespect towards me for my race, but instead meant it as a joke or a nickname (as they kept calling me “Chino”). In return, I treated them with the same amount of respect and trust that I have since day one.

All the different methods and techniques that I was introduced to while working helped to broaden my mind and see possibilities for any dish, savory or otherwise. The most important lesson they taught me was that the line between pastry and culinary, while present, is not a dividing factor, but merely a small obstacle that can be easily crossed. Many pastry items that I would only ever see in a bakeshop actually got a fair culinary treatment, as either a main ingredient or just backup to the larger dish. In any case, it served to let me see that the food industry is not as black and white as many would have us believe. It is this mentality and outlook that has helped me focus on my ultimate career goal of being a food writer, even more so. Despite not having a lot of free time to do actual writing on my day off, my externship did give me the clarity and focus needed for such a career. Many new ideas are are swimming about in my mind. My outlook on the food industry as a whole is renewed and refreshed. One of my coworkers even said he’d pass my name onto someone who works for a major publication, once I graduated. So I suppose I have a bit of a head start in that regard, and for that, I am ever thankful for my coworkers.

If given the opportunity to do this externship over again, I would change a few things. Make myself more assertive in certain situations, push myself a little harder, etc. But mostly, I would do exactly what I did, and that’s work as hard as I can, no matter what. It is this new-found confidence that I am most thankful and it is with this new-found confidence that I can face any challenge that comes my way.


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.

One thought on “Life in the CIA: My Externship – A Summary

  1. Thank You for sharing your experience! Your Post are making me more and more excited to begin The Culinary Institute of America!