Interview with Apprentice Coordinator Kevin C. Clarke, CCE, JD

Kevin C. Clarke, CCE, JD, is the director of culinary education and professor of culinary arts at The Colorado Mountain College Culinary Institute for the Keystone Resort Apprenticeship.

Chef Clarke was a graduate of the first apprenticeship class and the program will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018. He shares  some background on the apprenticeship program and its importance to the culinary industry.

What kind of culinary apprenticeship opportunities does Colorado Mountain Colelge offer?

Colorado Mountain College offers a culinary (not pastry) apprenticeship through the Keystone Resort; a member of the Vail Resorts family of resorts. Apprentices spend a six-month rotation in up to six different restaurants and dining facilities, including three fine dining restaurants, the Keystone Resort Conference Center and the restaurants in a full-service hotel.

The apprentice is paired with an associate degree curriculum offered through Colorado Mountain College. Apprentices traditionally work five days a week in their sponsoring restaurant and attend class one day a week.

Who began the apprenticeship program and what year was it established?

The Keystone Resort conducted a feasibility study regarding apprenticeships in 1991.  The program was based on the large property apprenticeships operating at the time including the Opryland Hotel, The Broadmoor Hotel and The Greenbrier. The original program director was Chef Doug Schwartz and the program matriculated its first apprenticeship class in 1993. I am a member of the first apprenticeship class and we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the program in 2018.

How has the apprenticeship program at your school changed over the years?

Apprenticeship is the real culinary world. Because the apprentices work in the real world and not just a classroom setting, the food they produce must reflect the current trends of the industry and not just be a static part of a classroom curriculum.

Just as restaurants must adapt and change to the current needs of the market, so does the working part of apprenticeship. Relevance is all about providing the apprentices with the tools to produce the food that the Resort guests are expecting. Our chefs are constantly working with the formal curriculum to make sure we are teaching the techniques that will allow our apprentices to succeed. It has not been so much about starting new programs of study, as it is about always evolving.

What do you feel is the future of culinary apprenticeships? 

The future of apprenticeships is an interesting question. Obviously there is a lot of interest from the business community, and the Department of Labor, around apprenticeship. If apprenticeship is going to grow, it is up to the chefs in the industry to get the word out about why a formal apprenticeship helps prepare you for the industry.

More importantly, the story needs to be told in a way that the prospective apprentice sees the value in going through an apprenticeship. I would say that the ultimate question for apprenticeship will be whether chefs embrace their former role as the master to the apprentice. If we as chefs accept that role and share our craft, apprenticeship will grow.

What do you feel makes an ACFEF-accredited apprenticeship different from other apprenticeships? What are the benefits of an accredited apprenticeship?

ACFEF-recognized apprenticeships are the only true culinary and baking & pastry apprenticeships in the U.S. The formal apprenticeship curriculum helps ensure that an apprentice has successfully demonstrated a wide variety of culinary competencies that will help them move into almost any segment of the industry.

The modern ACFEF apprenticeship is a carefully constructed balance of specifically selected skills and minimum hours spent in a variety of kitchen environments to help ensure that the apprentice can move into the industry as a journeyman cook, not just an entry level culinarian.

How does you the apprenticeship program prepare apprentices for ACF certification and why is this important?

All ACFEF-accredited programs have been developed with the goal of producing graduates who can certify at the Certified Sous Chef (CSC) level. In an extremely competitive job market, having the certification, backed up with apprenticeship experience, provides the apprentice with a credential that the industry understands. The hiring industry chef can look at an apprentice graduate, with their CSC certification, and feel comfortable in the level of culinarian that they are hiring. For the apprentice, the CSC certification helps set them on the path of future certification levels, which can only serve to help keep potential career choices available.

For more information on ACFEF apprenticeship programs, fill out the contact form below and someone from the ACF national office will be in touch. Can’t wait? Call us today at (904) 484-0217 or visit our website at www.acfchefs.org/apprenticeship.