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looking for an externship in NC


jonnymikes
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I am finishing culinary school in Orlando in late Feb-early March 07. My wife and I really want to go back to North Carolina, but I want to attain an externship where I can really start a (hopefully) elite culinary career.

I am 29, a career changer and currently working at a fast-casual (I know) Italian restaurant where we make all our own sauces, dressings and dough. I am a newbie in the industry but passionate and dedicated. Anyone have ideas about where a good externship would be? My goal would be to work in a fine dining place, but I don't have a snotty attitude about food.

Jon

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I would recommend something a little smaller, say Lantern in Chapel Hill. It's loyalty to seasonal goods and chef/co-owner Andrea Reusing's leadership of our Slow Food chapter will tap you into the local industry I think more than Fearrington. They tend to be heavy on catering/weddings and friends I know who have worked there have expressed disappointment with the verve of those who cook. To be fair, this was a few years ago and maybe things have changed.

However, I am unsure of whether or not Lantern takes externs.

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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I guess it depends on what you want. If you're truly after "fine dining" and "reputation," then Fearrington is probably your best bet. This isn't to say, however, that there aren't good, lower-key restaurants that are more in tune with the area/community.

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If I may add a story that may explain why a place like lantern (or any number of smaller places) would be a better fit.

Back in the day, I was working at a place in Berkeley called 4th St. Grill. It was a popular place but not considered A-list akin to the likes of Chez Panisse. A young couple came to town to do some internships, he came and worked for us, she went to Chez Panisse. Over the next few months he worked nearly every station in the restaurant and picked up a ton of knowledge, she (according to him) spent all day picking thyme, peeling tomatoes, and blanching vegetables. Barely sniffed the line.

Why, because chez panisse was constantly innundated with people looking to do externships there and always had several around. People were apparently willing to trade getting some actual reps in the kitchen for being able to say they worked there. Either that or they didn't know what the were (or rather weren't) getting into.

For the vast majority of those of us in the industry, restaurant work is not about beautiful spacious kitchens with tons of prep staff and always immaculate product. It's about having a line cook at home with the flu, a dishwasher in jail, his brother helping out in his place, making do because you got sent lamb shanks rather than racks, and knowing your going to get pounded because it's friday night and nobody cares about your problems. As you're more likely to encounter these sorts of things in a less iconic place, you might be well served to work at one of them.

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That is the kind of thing a lot of chefs at my school have told me so far, and I totally agree. I respect and admire elite chefs, but to work NEXT to someone with superior skills is much more of a concern for me than working FOR someone like that. The best thing about my current job at a fast-casual indie place is that a total of 15 or so people work there, and 4 are the owners, one or two of which wrote almost all the recipes we follow. It's such a boost to me as an aspiring chef to hear the hows and whys of the business and the food that I really don't want to even look for something in fine dining or a chain, because I still learn something almost every minute I am at work.

I have heard good things about Magnolia Grill in Durham. Anyone have any opinions?

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I've got an old friend who works at Magnolia and he loves it. I also met and cooked with Ben and Karen Barker at SFA Camp Athens. They are two of the nicest, warmest people I have ever met. They are chef-owners in the truest sense of the word... always in the shop doing whatever needs to be done, cooking, cleaning, fixing whatever is broken. And the food is great. Only thing is, I don't know if they take externs.

Chuck.

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Here's an idea....find a restaurant you like, call them and tell them you'll work for free wanting to learn. I can't imagine a place that would shoot you down. And word of advice, stay small. Otherwise in a big place you'll be lost in a crowd and shoved in the back corner to cut mirepoix.

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well honestly, where would you like to go? NC is quite a big state, and now people are talking about south carolina. You have mountains, hills, and coast.

Just a quick idea, the Biltmore in Asheville?

Also, there are many great places in Virginia (VA Beach, Norfolk, Richmond, Alrington)?

What and where are you looking for?

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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  • 2 weeks later...

hey this is my first post here on eGullet, but i wanted to jump in on this one. i would reccomend strongly against fearrington. i have a couple of good friends that externed there in the last couple of years and they basically hated it. there were many complaints, but one of the biggest problems was the lack of movement in the kitchen. one fella spent his first ten months (out of 18) in garde-manger. he was very dissapointed by the poor learning environment, and felt as though he were being exploited not educated. you don't want that in an externship. one of these guys also did a stage at lantern (in my opinion the best restaurant around here) and had a great time. andrea and her brother are really knowlegeable, passionate and gracious, and they would be great to work with. the potential problem would be that the kitchen there is pretty small and always busy, so i don't know if they have the room for a full time extern. i would agree, also, with the previous posts that mag grill and enoteca vin are both really good restaurants with a good staff and a really good reputation. definitely worth a call. finally, would it be totally against the forum etiquette to mention that i'm opening a new restaurant in durham, and that i might be a good person to speak to??

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finally, would it be totally against the forum etiquette to mention that i'm opening a new restaurant in durham, and that i might be a good person to speak to??

Not at all bad etiquette, and I think I'll start a new discussion about this restaurant. Go here for the discussion about Piedmont, the soon-to-be-opened restaurant from the team that brought us The Federal.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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finally, would it be totally against the forum etiquette to mention that i'm opening a new restaurant in durham, and that i might be a good person to speak to??

Not at all bad etiquette, and I think I'll start a new discussion about this restaurant. Go here for the discussion about Piedmont, the soon-to-be-opened restaurant from the team that brought us The Federal.

Thanks everyone for all your help. I have decided to stop my journey on one side of the counter and am withdrawing from culinary school. I realized that I wanted to be a good cook at home, and I loved exploring new cuisine while eating out, but I didn't really want to do it for a living. I probably will check out almost every restaurant mentioned here, but it will be sitting at the table instead of standing in the back. Again, thanks to everyone for your time and guidance.

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John was actually a student of mine, who asked me for advice, and I introduced him to EG. It is an honor to be a part of a community that is willing to help out a young culinarian, I know we have all been there, but to see the responses to his posts truly makes me feel like what we are doing here is great. Thanks guys!

And John, you rock. Don't ever forget it. Still stage, go and see what is out there. YOu can do it, whether you believe you have it in you or not. I know you do.

Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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