On this episode, you'll hear from instructors and former students about what the Culinary Arts Program entails and how it's helped propel these students into successful culinary careers.
Lincoln's mission is to provide superior education and training to our students for in-demand careers in a supportive, accessible learning environment, transforming students' lives and adding value to their communities.
Careers in Culinary Arts Podcast
Chef Leslie Silva, Lincoln Culinary Institute Graduate and Chef de Partie: Doing the program definitely prepared me for the real life experience that I would have in the kitchen.
Chef Peter Crouth, Lincoln Culinary Institute Instructor: You'll learn everything from knife skills to sanitation, teamwork with other students and hands-on training. You'll cover everything literally from soup to nuts.
Chef Derek Dugan, Lincoln Culinary Institute Graduate and Executive Chef: If you're going to go, go for the passion, go because you want to learn. There is a bevy of knowledge and there are some fantastic instructors within the program. They can teach you a lot of lot of great things. Go in with an open mind. Don't think you know everything.
Chef Pauli Milotte, Senior Culinary Recruiter for the Walt Disney Company: Lincoln has not just taught the same old brigade of cooking and plating. “This is the way we learned it, and that's the way you're going to learn it.” They have modernized the steps and the adjunct instructors and the chef instructors have kept up with the industry very well.
Host: Welcome to the official podcast of Lincoln Tech. Lincoln Tech's mission is to provide superior education and training to our students for in-demand careers in a supportive, accessible learning environment, transforming students’ lives, and adding value to their communities. On this episode, we'll find out more about the Culinary Arts program from instructors, employers and former students. So let's get cooking.
Silva: My name is Leslie Silva. I am a chef de partie at Pineapples and Pearls in Washington D.C., and I graduated from Lincoln Culinary Institute back in May of 2022.
Chef Shamal “Shimmy” Watkins, Lincoln Culinary Institute Graduate and Chef de Partie: My name is Shamal Watkins. I actually go by Chef Shimmy. I graduated from Lincoln Tech in September, but I actually finished in March. I work right now at the University of Maryland as chef de partie, or assistant chef. So it's a fun transition that I had. I actually started my externship in January, and by the time I finished my externship, I was looked at as a candidate to become a full time cook. I then became a chef in July. It was a quick transition from one position to another to another.
Crouth: I’m Chef Pete Crouth and I am a chef instructor at Lincoln Culinary Institute in Shelton, Connecticut. My background - I've been doing this going on 40 years. I co-authored an award-winning children's nutrition book titled The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice. I also won a national recipe contest, the grand prize winner of the Louisiana Sweet Potato Recipe contest. And I won a grand prize for my BLT sweet potato hash, which was bacon, leeks and tomato. We won't go on from there, but that's enough, right?
Host: That sounds delicious. I wish you could go on, but we'll talk more about food in a second. So, Leslie and Shamal, what are your stories about making the decision to enroll in the culinary arts program at Lincoln Tech?
Silva: It was just kind of pursuing culinary, I think. I originally took the traditional route after high school of going to four year college, and I wanted to major in food science and nutrition. And then I kind of figured, well, this would be a lot more fun if I got the fundamentals of culinary down. I did my research from there and fell in love with the idea of working with food and fine dining and how much of an art it is. I thought about going to a four year - Johnson or Wales, CIA, that kind of thing. And then I figured the best learning tool is experience, and a trade school seemed like it would give me a really solid foundation [in] the basics. From there, move my way up and things like that. I enrolled in the middle of the pandemic, so that was a little hard to navigate. I think the whole world was struggling to navigate with life itself at that point. But, you know, I'm really glad I took that step. And now I'm working at one of the top restaurants in Washington, D.C.
Watkins: Before I went to culinary school, I worked in three different restaurants. I was actually front of house for three of those different restaurants. But I also interacted with most of the chefs, and they showed me like a little thing or two about cooking. And the more I cooked and I invited people over to eat, they would always ask me, why am I not in the kitchen? And I always thought it was crazy because I'm like, Well, I'm not this experienced person. I know how to cook, but I can't be in the kitchen with you. But again, more and more of hearing the same thing, I decided to try my hand at actually jumping into a kitchen.
Host: Chef Peter, can you tell us a little bit about the culinary courses at Lincoln?
Crouth: The courses are great. Whatever role you choose - to either be a culinarian or a baker - you're going to start out with an introduction course. Some of the bakers join the culinarians in the same classroom as an introduction to basically cooking in the culinary world. You're going to learn to do things the right way. Unfortunately, when someone's out in the field and they aren't trained properly, they pass bad habits on to the next guy or they run the place wrong. And that's when you get all these bad food stories and people are getting sick or what have you. But we break some of that. There's no bad habits started here. You're going to learn the right way and we're going to tell you and show you the right way and why we do it this way.
Host: And who are the students that go here? Is it diverse?
Crouth: Absolutely. It's so diverse. Maybe a woman in her job, she’s been doing this all her life or what have you, and it's just not doing it anymore for her. And she wants to change careers. And then you get the students right out of high school that need direction; everyone doesn't have to go to college for a liberal arts career. We all need plumbers, we all need cooks, we all need nurses, […] electricians, and what have you. So it's great. The diversity that we have is fantastic.
Milotte: Hello, everyone. My name is Chef Pauli Milotte, and I work with the Walt Disney World Company. I'm the senior culinary recruiter for the Disney culinary program in Orlando, Florida. Walt Disney World. I've been with the Disney Company for 44 years, and I've been in the culinary position since my start of employment. I joined the company as a line cook back in the late seventies and in the early eighties. Around ’82, ‘83 I got promoted into my first salaried position as a sous chef for the Disney Company over at Epcot Center during the grand opening. After 25 years of cooking and working in our resorts and parks, I decided to take a different change in my career and try to give back to the food and beverage team in a different way, by developing an internship program. The internship program is for our resorts and parks in Orlando at Walt Disney World, and I travel around to different culinary schools and bring talent in to support our line of business.
Host: Can you tell us more about the Disney Internship program?
Milotte: Sure. The internship is year round. Go to Disney careers and search Disney culinary programs and find more information on it. For those who want to do a quick search while you're listening. The internship is based on education. You have to be in culinary school or a recent grad of up to two years from leaving your commencement. Each culinary school has an internship required, so it's a work experience off campus. They have to go to an employer. Lincoln has a set program where they have to do an internship at the end of their school. It's the last thing they do, which is very beneficial because this gives them a chance to get employed, not have to worry about going back to school because they've completed their degree and most likely can stay on with the company, begin a career. The internships are based on four months, six months. It could be up to a year. And we do provide housing and our program for the students. So it makes it really convenient. The hardest thing to find in this country is affordable housing, so we put that right in front of the students and take that headache away for them. They come down and they work in the kitchens, either cooking or baking. We have a full baking, but just three programs. These students work with Disney leaders. They are working with chefs that they were looking to inspire to become at some point in their young career as they go through the journey of food and beverage. So they're working with sous chefs, chefs, culinary directors, executive chefs, and in some cases working real close to our guests who are on vacation and are inquisitive about the cuisine, about the food that the student may be baking or cooking. So there is a little bit of a guest focus on the program as well, not just the product focus.
Dugan: My name is Derek Dugan. I am the executive chef of Lucas Local Oyster Bar in Southbury, Connecticut. I've been the executive chef of Lucas Local Oyster Bar for the past three and a half to four years. When I started cooking and getting the passion for cooking, I was raised by a single working mother. So I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandmother when my mom was at work. While my grandmother wasn't a fantastic cook, there was always little projects for me to do around the kitchen. So that kind of ignited a passion for it locally where I grew up. At nine years old, I got a job folding pizza boxes at a local pizza shop and they paid me in a large pepperoni pizza and a two-liter bottle of Coke. So for a nine year old, I was rich, but I got to spend time in the kitchen watching them stretch pizza dough. So that's the first time I ever kind of got the little bug of seeing something work out there in the industry. My first job was in a small commercial kitchen at 16 years old, and then I went in and out of the industry for many, many years, tried different professions, whatnot. And then when I got into my early thirties, I decided that it was time to stop switching professions. It was time to stop working just for the paycheck and start working for the passion. So I quit all my other jobs. I went and enrolled in Lincoln Culinary. To just bone up on my skills, polish everything off, get that self-satisfaction that I went and got some proper training other than just, you know, being in and out of kitchens my entire life and deciding that that was going to be my final career, that I was going to go full on headfirst into becoming a chef.
Host: Chefs Derrick, Leslie and Shamal, as former students at Lincoln Tech, what would you say to those that are contemplating enrolling in the Culinary Arts program?
Dugan: The Culinary Arts Program at Lincoln Tech - the most valuable things I found from it was it has a fantastic grasp of the foundations of cooking the basics. Everything is derived from them. And the instructors there did a very fantastic job of relaying that to the student, that everything is versed in the basics and everything comes off of that. So if you understand the basics of how to make a stock, how to make the five mother sauces, everything is derived from that. You can trace any recipe back to the basics. And the culinary program at Lincoln had a very good foundation of that. I had some very good instructors. What I found most valuable when I was there was actually latching on to certain instructors, chef instructors that I identified with, that I felt comfortable with, and they would go above and beyond when they recognized the passion. And in my personal experience, when they recognized the passion in me of where I wanted to go with this. There were certain instructors that would go above and beyond. Give me more tips and advice in reading material outside the normal curriculum to help advance. So that's the best things that I took out of the program.
Silva: I definitely recommend it. I would honestly recommend doing a trade school over the traditional four years. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but for me I felt like doing the program definitely prepared me for the real life experiences that I would have in the kitchen. The skills tests that I had done for Pineapples and Pearls was the exact same format as my final in school. So it just kind of gave me a little bit more confidence of, okay, I remember when I did my final, I remember how it went. I remember the little mistakes I made and how it just kind of prepared me: all right, the real thing, I'm not going to make this mistake. I'm going to time everything out and I'm going to have my whole day planned for it and definitely walk there in there with more confidence. If I hadn't gone through the national test trial, I guess. The program, it's what you make of it. Like most things. And in every kitchen that I ventured, they tell us the same thing. This place is what you make of it. You know, if you're someone who is really wants to pursue it but is a little afraid of taking that leap of faith, I would just say take the leap. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? Right? But it definitely did prepare me for the real life experiences I would have in the kitchen. And it gave me that solid foundation of working hard at things. Things are a lot better when you work hard for them. They're a lot sweeter, I guess. The instructors were amazing. I learned so much from them in the year that I did the program, and it wasn't just always teaching the basics of culinary and things like that. It was also navigating your way through a kitchen because you have all different types of kitchens. You have kitchens where the chefs are really nice and they won't really tell you anything. And then you have those kitchens where the chefs are absolutely crazy and you just kind of have to learn how to take those punches. Figuratively, of course. But I'm glad I did it. I don't think I would be in the position that I am today if I had not gone.
Watkins: The best way to pitch – and I pitch it a lot – is that I always tell people it is awesome that you work in a restaurant. You know how to cook, but some key things that you can't really learn in a restaurant, you can learn in culinary school. One, being able to create your own menu. When you work in restaurants, you do their menu more times than not. They will not say, “Hey, give me a menu item out of your creativity.” Two, learning all the stuff you need to create your own brand and your own business. The stuff that you can go and learn in Lincoln Tech, most of the skills that most people wouldn't show you, like cutting stuff by hand. We all have machines now, but being able to cut them by hand and still keep that skill, that's something that a lot of people are looking for. Not just, hey, yes, I know how to use the machine, but I don't actually know what dimension deep cuts can be or how many pieces I can cut a whole cow into. The kind of thing that you learn at Lincoln Tech. When you learn about the history of cooking, that makes all the difference of knowing where the first restaurant came from, where all the skills came from, where the brigade came from. That's so much information that helps a lot when it comes to going through life of the cooking in a different perspective than what you would see just working in a restaurant.
Host: As an instructor, what careers are grads going on to?
Crouth: Well, it depends. You learn the basics here and you learn the right way. There is still a ladder to climb as far as that goes. Some people are so talented that they see them right away and you come out and it's all a learning process. You're not just born a chef. They have to work on their skills, work on their speed, stuff like that. But that comes with repetition. You know, we're showing them the right way, but when they get out there, whatever they choose to do with it, that's up to you. It's almost like a musician, right? You learn how to play music, if you're any good or you want to pursue it further, you know, you work on your craft.
Host: Okay. Now the important question, what kind of money can a chef make?
Crouth: It varies. So much depends on where you want to go, how many hours you want to log and have some luck involved. But all in all, how much you put into it is what you're going to get out of it. There are chefs out there making really big bucks, but there is a sacrifice as well. They're logging long hours and not a lot of family time and what have you.
Host: So I know some people out there don't like bringing their work home with them, but I mean, we all have to eat, right? What are your go-to dishes to make for yourself?
Silva: I think my go to dish when I'm ready to just kind of come home and eat is a classic meat sauce, spaghetti and meatballs, pretty basic. But when you add a little bit more spice and different ingredients to it, it's very versatile, I feel. And it's definitely my go-to; it's like, All right, what's for dinner tonight? Pasta.
Dugan: If I had to pick something, I do like working with game meats a lot. Things such as venison, ostrich, duck, things like that. A little more off the wall, things that you don't find everywhere. Things that are a little more delicate to cook with. On my current menu at the restaurant, I have a venison French rack of ribs. That’s one of our top sellers that the guests rave about. I'm very proud of that dish. So if I was going to have to pick one thing, I like to work with game meats a lot.
Host: Did you hear about the pastry chef that went to jail? He got arrested for breaking and entering.
Dugan: Oh, you’d get along with a couple of my servers. They love telling the crazy dad jokes.
Host: Does the culinary arts program at Lincoln Tech sound like a fit for you? Find out more information, schedule a campus visit and talk to instructors or the career services team online at lincolntech
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