We allow externs from many different schools to work with us, and we meet many different types of students. We have a lot of success with the California Culinary Academy because the externship is the last class they take. That means if the extern likes the restaurant and the staff likes them, they usually ask to stay on after they've completed their schooling. One of those externs stayed with us and has made it to Per Se in NYC as sous chef. Another former extern is now a sous chef at Amasia, our restaurant in Maui. I just heard from another girl who is the Sales Director for the Nikko Hotel in LA. Externing or staging, is a great way to get to know if you will really like working here. It is sort of like a New Hire Orientation. When they decide to stay on with us after their externship, they have such a running head start. They know everyone, and they know how the place runs. They know where everything is, and they somewhat understand the culture and our expectations.
For the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the externship sort of comes in the middle of their coursework, so Alex will be going back to school after she finishes here. It is a joy to have someone like her. As you can see by her journal entry (below), she really enjoys what she does. She has always been positive, hard working, and she gets along with everyone. Her most important attribute, her attitude, is what will take her a long way in this career. She has been a great addition to the team.
Module #6 Essay - Alexandra Co, CIA Extern
Working at Alan Wong’s Restaurant for the past six weeks has been such a big learning growth for me, as a pastry extern and as an individual. Learning and understanding more of Alan Wong’s philosophy and vision in regards to promoting Hawaiian Regional Cuisine has definitely changed my own perspectives and outlook on the food industry today. For the past six weeks, I’ve been to two farm trips that the restaurant organizes for the employees and a chance for everyone to learn more where the food originally comes from.
The first farm trip was at Waialua Cacao and Coffee Farm. This was definitely an exciting trip for me since I’ve been learning and working with chocolate back in school and in the kitchen. I had the opportunity to taste and see the cacao pods. I was also able to see in person each stages on how chocolate starts from a cacao pod to fermentation then to cocoa bean. It was amazing to see in person the cycle instead of just reading it from a book. Also, we were able to learn about the milling and grading of coffee beans in Hawaii. Going to the farm and seeing how buying their products improves their business and the economy was a learning curve for me. It reminded me of my gastronomy class back in the C.I.A. where we talked about sustainability but we didn’t really dived into the economy perspective and the impact that it makes on agriculture. So, seeing it one on one showed me a bigger picture on how important it really is to support local farmers and local products.
The next farm trip was at Otsugi Farm. They supply the restaurant various kinds of vegetables. It was interesting to find out that they put seaweed, which they acquire from the bay nearby, on the soil where their vegetables grow. Also, Mr. Ed Otsugi himself gave us a whole tour of the farm and was generous enough to have a lot of taste tests. We were able to eat vegetables straight from the ground, ate some sweet lilikoi, and even see his chickens. Being able to go to two different farms in just six weeks has been such an amazing experience since I haven’t been that interested in agriculture in the past but now that I’ve seen the impact of supporting local products and farmers, I’m definitely going to be visiting more farms in the future.
Kitchen-wise, Pastry Chef Michelle has been working on various kinds of bread pudding during the last Menu Development. On menu development days, we’re given the freedom to create our own specials and receive feedbacks from Chef Alan. It was interesting to see how Chef Michelle was able to create different derivatives out of a simple bread pudding. She presented a mango bread pudding, two-times baked bread pudding, lilikoi bread pudding, and pineapple bread pudding. She explained to me how knowing the basics is very critical in order to create different derivatives and make it unique. Once you are able to master how to make the perfect bread pudding then you can start experimenting with different variations. This also stems back to our New Hire Orientation, which was held last Sunday. Chef Alan drew a house and explained that a house that doesn’t have a good foundation won’t be able to survive. Through that, I now believe that by mastering all the basics, no matter how insignificant they may be, is very important to be successful in the future. Also with success, it takes time. During the orientation, Chef Alan drew a backward staircase where he labeled each step from the bottom entry level position to being the owner of a restaurant. Chef Alan explained that one must start from the bottom in order to be truly successful once they’ve reached the top. But most importantly, he stressed that it will take time, dedication, and sacrifice to reach the top.
I truly am grateful for being given the chance to work at Alan Wong’s Restaurant as I’ve learned and experienced so much in just six weeks. I believe that each day I am growing as a person and as a student. Not only is the working environment great being surrounded by such dedicated and motivated people but it is also inspiring to see how everyone is always hungry to learn more.