Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitehall, New Hampshire is home to one of the newest ACFEF Culinary Apprenticeship Programs. We talked to the program’s coordinator, Nathan Varney, about the new program and why apprenticeships matter so much.
What made you want to start an apprenticeship program?
I have always wanted to start a program. Many of the chefs I have worked for created one or went through the program themselves. For us here at the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa, it took time. We had to be ready. We had finally reached a stride in the kitchen that I felt that we had a responsibility to establish an apprenticeship program here. With college tuition on the rise and lack of nearby schools it only made sense.
What was the process of starting the program like?
The program coordinator worked very closely with us, and still does. Since we had started from complete scratch there were many questions on both ends. We have also received a lot of help and support from our local White Mountain ACF chapter. It was a little daunting in the beginning stages of establishing the program, however when do chefs not create these scenarios for themselves?
What does a typical week look like for the apprentices in your program?
The work week for an apprentice at the Mountain View Grand is not too much different from some of our other cooks, as far as their daily duties go. We try and hold the standards that we have in our kitchen in line with the ACF apprenticeship program. Knife cuts, techniques and uniforms are responsibilities that all of our team members have to uphold and continuously work on. Beyond that we have weekly apprentice meetings. We will go over log books and training hours. We also talk about where the apprentice wants to go as far as their career. We really try to stress that this is a proper blue collar career that you can be proud of and that you can go as far as you are willing to work.
Tell us about some of your students.
One of our best stories is the one about Divon Bailey. He started with us as a kitchen steward. Originally from Rhode Island, he came to us from a career of machine metal work and fishing. He was one of the most hard working people to ever walk through our doors. As time went on he slowly started to do more and more production work along with his other responsibilities. As of last year he was promoted to a cook 3. He immersed himself in the craft here. He has surpassed our expectations many times. This is all coming from someone who, prior to this kitchen, had no formal training in a commercial kitchen. Once we begin considering starting the ACF program here we knew he would be top of the list. Our program is still very new but we are all proud of Divon for what he has accomplished and where is going in this industry.
Why do you think apprenticeships are so important?
The ACF apprenticeship is very important. There are several reasons. It enables those who have passion for our craft, but perhaps do not have all the means to attend an expensive college, a pathway of getting to where they want to go in their career. I am also a firm believer in “time spent.” Time spent cooking, time spent learning, time spent on the line, time spent grilling. I understand the importance of formal college, but there is something pure about learning directly with your hands as you go, and spending time understanding the intricacies. It is immediate. There is also a very strong community with the ACF and other places that have an apprenticeship program.
Do you feel as though the industry as a whole is shifting more towards apprenticeships as the educational standard?
The industry is going to have to do something soon. From my point of view having an apprenticeship program certainly helps mitigate the staffing pressures that we are all facing now. More importantly we are able to be more impactful on these students’ careers for the long run. These programs only strengthen our industry. It is important that not only more chefs support these programs, but also the communities that they exist in.
What advice would you give to students who might be interested in becoming apprentices?
I would say make sure you love food. As long as you love food and love creating something that makes others happy, you will be just fine. Of course it’s a lot of hard work, long hours, missed holidays and events, but if you are aware of that now, you will be just fine. It is a craft and with time you have the ability to become a true craftsman. There is honor in that.
Click here to learn more about starting your own apprenticeship program or becoming an apprentice.
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