Craving Something Different
Food has always been a passion of mine–well before being a “foodie” was trendy. Most of my career as a chef has been spent in the trenches, working in kitchens with some amazing and talented chefs and absorbing as many techniques as possible. I’ve worked in, owned, or run every type of kitchen you can imagine – pizzerias, delis, private catering, hospital cafeteria and bakery, to name a few.
I’ve been lucky to love the industry intensely—but it can be grueling. You often work 80-100 hours per week and rarely spend holidays at home with loved ones. But when I got the call in 2005 to come to Sussex Technical School to teach culinary arts to students interested in the work I’m passionate about, I jumped at the chance to be a part of training the next generation of hospitality industry professionals.
Sussex Tech is a vocational public school that provides hands-on learning opportunities, and has a knack for making high school come to life for many students who are best-suited to learn outside the traditional classroom setting, by giving them changes to learn hands-on with the latest technology and equipment. As a teacher, I knew I wanted to instill a strong work ethic and give students an immersive experience that would prepare them for the real world. Throughout the academic year, I work with students to run a cafe, serving customers and being cross-training, which gives our students over 400 training hours over their four years of study. This gives our students a huge advantage when they graduate with management-level Servsafe (a National Restaurant Association Management Certificate). Students are learning so much more than just cooking—they are learning how to run a small business.
Still, Sussex is a rural community, and many of our students haven’t been exposed to the world outside of the county lines. And when my students graduate, I want to inspire them to dream big in their culinary career. So, I’ve been teaming up with WorldStrides for eight years to expose my students to international adventures in culinary arts.
While the opportunity to learn from chefs who are tastemakers in Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Austria is absolutely invaluable, the exposure to new cultures and places seems to be the most transformative aspect of the trip.
Students who start out wide-eyed and shy become gregarious and curious. Often, I watch as they timidly wander through the airport for their departure, and then marvel how they confidently usher themselves through the metro stations, busy airports and intimidating customs procedures upon their return! They develop maturity; they engage with adults more comfortably; they ask more questions; they show a genuine interest in the unfamiliar cuisines, traditions and even fashion.
During our trip last month, I walked into a small cafe to find several of my students cheerfully engaging in conversation with local elders about foreign cuisines. Later, a few of them were even given a private tour of the kitchen because the owner was so happy to hear that they were on a culinary travel journey!
Watching this transformation unfold is one of my favorite things about traveling with WorldStrides. The students are changed as they discover the confidence to navigate the unfamiliar. Their sights are reset. They come back with a better understanding of what they want out of their careers and a new dedication to pursuing those opportunities.