What is a Culinary Externship?

A culinary externship is a valuable work experience that provides culinary students with opportunities to sharpen their skills, expand their knowledge base and make valuable industry contacts. Most culinary arts degree programs offer externships as part of the overall learning experience.

What is the Purpose?

Not every externship will be the same for culinary students. The main purpose is to help students transition into a successful career. Externships provide students with supervised support and feedback, which will help them hone their skills and perfect their culinary techniques. The daily feedback they receive from chefs throughout the program is extremely beneficial for their long-term career goals.

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 This benefits the restaurant or hospitality organization through allowing them to select the highest performing candidates who are a good fit for their company culture and mission. Some culinary externships give students the opportunity to rotate throughout departments of the culinary division. This is common at large hotels, resorts and hospitality chains. The externship hours are divided between the various units to give students the opportunity to receive training and gain experience in banquet events, restaurant operations and pastry kitchens.

Externship Description

Externs will be expected to produce consistent food products through following recipes or the chef’s specific directions. They must maintain safety and quality standards regarding food preparation. Externs are expected to be able to identify and safely use all kitchen tools and equipment. They need to exhibit a basic understanding of knife skills, cooking techniques and the culinary arts. Externs will be assigned basic duties, such as labeling, dating and rotating all food products to ensure safe keeping and sanitation.

They must also continually maintain a clean, organized and sanitary work area in accordance with company and health department regulations. Externs are expected to be very familiar with ServSafe standards. They need to have excellent communication skills in order to understand and follow directions from chefs delivered in fast paced and somewhat stressful environments. They must properly break down stations after each shift and ensure that all items are appropriately stored.

Job Qualifications

Externs will perform most work tasks indoors, but they must be comfortable working in hot kitchens and occasional cold temperatures, such as when they are in the freezer. They must be able to stand all day and exert well-paced mobility hours at a time. The time lengths of their tasks will vary from day to day and task to task. They need to have the ability to physically handle knives and pots as well as lift and carry items up to 50 pounds between shelves, counters and storage rooms.

Safety awareness is important because they will handle various kitchen machinery that includes slicers, choppers, grinders, mixers and other food processing equipment. Attention to detail is necessary because externs must be able to demonstrate the techniques of fine cutting, cooking principles, plate presentation and sanitation practices. Most organizations prefer candidates with a high school diploma and at least six months of food preparation experience. A working knowledge of weights, measures and basic math is required.

A culinary externship is an excellent way for aspiring chefs to gain professional experience and business contacts.