A common career trajectory for an onsite chef often goes something like this: graduating culinary school and then working nights, weekends and holidays at a commercial restaurant, finding that the crazy lifestyle is wearing thin and then discovering the slightly saner life of cooking at a college, hospital, school or business cafeteria.
More and more, culinary students are skipping that middle step and seeing the advantages of working for a big foodservice management company right out of the box.
“Some of our students definitely have the ‘entrepreneur gene’ and will become chef-owners, but others go into the world of onsite dining—it’s a huge industry,” says Waldy Malouf, senior director, food and beverage operations, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
The CIA and Restaurant Associates (RA) have teamed up in an effort to make that path even easier for students to follow, starting at the CIA’s flagship campus in the Hudson River Valley, where 2,200 students attend to earn their culinary chops.
The strategic partnership is geared toward benefiting everyone involved: the students get to know the noncommercial side of the foodservice industry, and RA gets to know potential future managers, chefs and cooks.
“It’s a great partnership that does a lot of things for both of us,” Malouf says. “Working together is very symbiotic. RA brings very current concepts to the school, so we stay current on what’s going on in that [onsite foodservice] world. And RA is always looking for educated people who will become leaders.”
This is where the construction of the new Student Commons comes in.
Set to open this summer, the campus dining facility, which will be operated by RA in partnership with the Education Division of the CIA, is slated to be much more than just a very nice dining hall.
Teaching and learning will be part of almost every aspect, from five teaching kitchens to several exhibition areas to a teaching micro-brewery in partnership with Brooklyn Brewery and a pop-up restaurant that will become a new class project every semester to test concepts and menus—it could be “a meatball concept one semester, and a Thai-street-food concept the next,” Malouf says.
The central part of the commons is named The Egg for its oval shape, and includes an espresso bar, a sushi bar, a pizza oven and more.
“Our faculty will work with RA and develop menus and food programs that will be very cutting edge,” says Malouf, who is quick to add: “It’s also going to be fun and flavorful.”
In addition, to support the CIA’s capital campaign, Restaurant Associates and Compass Group have committed to provide financial assistance to students in the form of scholarship dollars.