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Apprentice anyone?


Chocolot
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Have any of you had an apprentice? What is the protocol? Here is the deal. A gal contacted me several months ago and asked if I would consider letting her apprentice under me. She was willing to sign a non-compete and a confidentiality agreement. She is not planning on staying in the state and just wanted to explore some possibilities. She is in her 30s, married with one child. She is going to school and works in an Italian deli. She comes one day a week for about 6 hours. She has no experience in chocolate, and doesn’t seem particularly gifted in that area. She has come for 3 weeks, driving 30 miles each way. I provide her lunch. She will work for about 4 more weeks, then needs to work her regular job for the Holidays. I am trying to teach her general stuff, tempering, a little dipping, etc. I don’t want her really involved with making my chocolates, as I can’t afford to have someone learn when I am busy getting my stock built for the Holidays. On the other hand, I don’t think it is fair to just have her do grunt work. Anyone in a one-person shop has to do it all, but I don’t want her to have to spent all her time cleaning molds, and putting finished chocolates away or boxing. She is left-handed and I am not, so it is really hard to have her do much with the chocolate. I do have her hand dip small samples that don’t matter how they look. This is hard because of her left handedness. I have not, and will not have her involved in making ganache. I will show her how to make a ganache, but not my formulas. Here is my question: Do I offer to pay her for her time? She isn’t particularly helpful, but she is willing to try. Do I get her a gift card on her last day? What is my moral obligation to her? I know she could use the money, but I am not set up for payroll. She has never hinted that she expects anything, but I don’t know what is standard. Anyone?

Ruth Kendrick

Chocolot
Artisan Chocolates and Toffees
www.chocolot.com

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A small consideration (gift card) or gift from your shop (small box of chocolates), along with a letter acknowledging her good work and time spent would be a nice gesture. I don't think you have any further obligation to her . . . and I also don't think you should shy away from giving her a certain amount of "grunt" work as you call it(it is all part of the experience and is to be expected). She is the one who solicited you for the opportunity and experience. I have been an intern, (albeit not in the culinary arena) and as long as you are getting what you signed up for, and not being completely abused, and you learn something from the experience, you have no reason to expect to be paid if that was not part of the initial agreement. If she wasn't getting something out of the experience, I am guessing she would not continue to show up (and even might have made an excuse to end her time with you). Sounds like you are doing fine; I wouldn't sweat it. Good Luck :)

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I agree that if she were not getting something out of the experience she would not return each week - but on the other hand she might be hoping that this is the week she does something a little more involved. Does she ask you questions or do you tell her about what you're doing and why as you are working? She may be able to absorb a lot just in conversation (I'm guessing she doesn't have time to take notes while she's polishing molds and whatnot).

Have you asked her directly whether she is getting out of this what she wanted? She may not know what to do next or how to do it and perhaps doesn't know enough to ask so if she is not particularly helpful, it may be because she is unable to approach you in a way that doesn't interrupt you or interfere with the work flow. It's hard to fit in when you're only there one day a week and being left handed in a right handed set up probably makes it just as hard for her as for you.

I would not expect an unpaid intern to do more than watch and learn and some grunt work; but if she was expecting to apprentice (learn more actively), it doesn't sound like that's what she is doing by cleaning molds and putting away chocolates.

I think it would be a really nice gesture to acknowledge the help; a gift card would be a thoughtful thing to do.

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You could exit interview her before she finishes her apprenticeship, and ask her how you could improve your program.

As far as the difficulty in teaching someone who is left-handed when you are not, I taught a left-handed niece of mine how to make sugarpaste flowers by sitting directly across from her, and had her mirror what I did. That may be an option for you, if you can set up a spot in your kitchen that way.

And about your formulas, I agree with you on not teaching your own. When someone asks me to teach them how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I decline from teaching them my recipe, which took me two years to develop. Instead, I teach them the "Martha" method, which is probably the easiest set of instructions I have ever read for making it.

Theresa :smile:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

- Abraham Lincoln

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Ah, the Lefty Conundrum. My daughter is left-handed; I have learned to become ambidextrous as a result (20 yrs in the making). Theresa's mirror method sounds like a charm. I should try that, soon.

Now, back to the task at hand. If you ask the apprentice what she was hoping to learn, would it fit into your schedule to explore one or two items from the list? It may be that she is researching smaller food businesses in general, and not chocolate specifically. In school we were encouraged to speak with people who would not be in "exactly the same" business area as ourselves.

Are you able to set aside a few minutes of time at the end of each session to discuss what tasks can be done the next week?

Great that you provide lunch. That is a gesture that I would appreciate. :)

As for "payroll". I'm not sure that you would need to have any system in place to pay an "honorarium". Here, it's the same sort of Line Item Expense as paying a supplier invoice, or buying advertising, or purchasing a giftcard.

Karen Dar Woon

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