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Externship Advice

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone........

New here, but I thought I might get a better response posting under this forum, as opposed to the student forum, as many of you are probably ex-students yourselves.

I'm enrolled in the B & P program at LCB and I am desperately trying to gather any information/contacts that I can to allow me to extern overseas. I'm game for traveling to any of the hot spots, such as Paris (duh), Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy........I'm sure I missed a few. I seem to be running into several problems during my quest:

1) I don't know where to start (aside from random internet searches) and I don't have any personal contacts overseas!!

2) I have a family and am unable to commit to a long term externship. My max would probably be 3 months.

3) It seems to be much more difficult to find work as only a pastry chef, as opposed to having full range of culinary knowledge. Not many business owners want to invest the time and energy into someone who can only offer partial help.

4) Time is running out. I'm about mid-way through my courses and will need to meet my externship criteria before I know it!

I haven't had any luck with my contacts at school or in student services. Can anyone out there offer any insight into becoming an understudy overseas? Any suggestions on what else I should be doing to make it happen? The best I can do right now is get all my ducks in a row in regards to paperwork, passports, visa, etc.........then cross my fingers for something to come along.
post #2 of 7

Agents and US owned Hotel chains

:chef:have you tried talking to the big hotels from the US that also have hotels in the countries you have mentioned e.i Hilton.
There are also agents for pastry chefs that find jobs and match them. Sorry don't know how to get this info but will ask around and send a post later, when I find out.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
That would be really great.......thanks!! In regards to the major hotel chains, I will definitely pursue that route too. Ideally, I'd love to find some small, yet well known, boulangerie/patisserie......you know, the really picturesque kind found only in the European countryside! A place that thrives on quality and authenticity and can teach me things that I'd probably never learn here in the states. One can dream, right?!? Honestly though, I'm sure any opportunity would be valuable. I just want to make sure I don't end up spending a whole lot of time and money traveling, only to find out I've taken a position that is no different than what I could find here.
post #4 of 7
kane, I think you should consider Austria. To me, they have much more going on in terms of pastry than any of those countries you mentioned. I think it started with the Habsburg tradition, and continued from there.

OK I'll give you France, Belgium, Switzerland for choclatiers, Or France and Italy for bread, but for pastries, to me the Austrian pastry shops are the bombe.;)

You're after Cafe Zauner in Bad Ischl, from what you've said.

Now with your three month issue (and as a max no less), and the other factors that go with that as to "what's in it for the pastry shop" are issues... (what's in it for them, you tell me). A lot of European internships are more structured than that, for instance, I know some of the fine chocolate shops in France will sign apprentices under contract to a two year term. Ask Bo Friberg about his five year apprenticeship, you're washing baking pans for the first couple years. Just a little wake up call to really think about what you could offer them, and try to approach it from that direction, to help you secure a position.

I was thinking maybe you could luck out in an Austrian pastry shop in a summer town (like Bad Ischl or somewhere in the Salzkammergut (Salzburg lakes district) to take you for the busy season, as a three month summer contract. There are lot of different small towns and lakes in the Salzkammergut, so if you play the "numbers" game and hit all of them, I would think you could find a position for their busier summer season.

Vienna has some fine pastry shop-cafes too, with their cafe culture, where it is de rigeur to hang out in fine pastry shops for a coffee and a slice of very elegant torte. I would say Demel, then Sacher or Cafe Centraal (sp?).

There are some nice bakeries in ski towns like Chamonix, Mont Blanc, Zermatt, etc., for a blend of bread and pastry, if that's what you're after. Also near Monet's house in Giverny, there is an incredible little bakery, I don't know what it's called, we grabbed some stuff on our way to Normandy, ate it a few hours later, they were the best Chaussons pomme I've ever had, sensational! I'm going to have to go back there just to find the darned bakery, hope it's still there, everything was so wonderful.

Best Wishes!! Let us know how it goes.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Very valuable information........thank you, thank you!! Honestly, I'm a newbie here at the site and had no idea what to expect. Everyone's interest and enthusiasm has been wonderful!! Hopefully I can offer some valuable input as well as some point! Keep it coming!!
post #6 of 7
(To summerize my background: I have lived, worked, and cooked in France for many years, and I am married to a French baker, here in the US)
Bread and Pastries in France are two different professions, and rarely is there any crossover(croissants are bread and tarts/tortes are pastries).

An intership in France is called a "stage", and the government can sometimes arrange one with you, but it takes several months to set-up, and they are looking for a 6month-1 year commitment.

Please, I apologize, this will come across very negatively. However it is important to realize that finding work, even free internship work in the EU is very close to impossible unless you already have contacts, or know someone. The governments do not encourage it, and unless you speak the language well, and have a working knowledge of the scene, no one is going to talk to you. Europe already produces more interns that are state trained, than are needed. While you may be the exception I find so freqently that most American cooks/students have no idea the reality of working in a kitchen in Europe means. It is different, and rarely romantic. Frequently, working conditions are not good, and authenticity is overpresumed. There are some excellent opportunities but they will take lots of research, and calling on the phone.

There is nothing romantic about working in a small boulangerie in a quaint little town in France. First, most of them are family owned, and family run. They don't have time to arrange the work permits for you, won't take you if don't have one. And probably won't talk to you w/o a CAP To be a baker in France starts when you are very young, and there are a certain skills that expect you to master. It is a blue collar job, and if you are a women forget it.

Not to mention that LCB in France is not a professional school (I am not trying to start an argument, this is the French perception) so their perception of it is that you took some amateur classes and are not prepared for the realities of the profession.

Large chains will probably not send you abroad for an internship, the paperwork is a nightmare and with so many EU candidates, besides if you have never worked for them before why would they set up a plum situation for you with so many of their employees clammoring for the opportunity.

If you have never been to Europe, or France and researched these areas and restaurants then it is fairly unreasonable to try to find a place to live and work there(unless you have unlimited funds.)

Again to be blunt but I cannot emphisize the following enough: Examine your motivations for interning there. With the exceptions of pastries in Austria (which I agree the other posters). There is a large misconception that France and Europe are better at bread and pastries then us here in the US. That is overly romantic and in many ways is not true. (Who wins the Coupe de Monde regularly?) There are artisan bakeries here in the US that far exceed what France can produce, and I have only visited a few (and I make a point to visit many) in France that are comparable to what is being done in the US at some of the better artsian bakeries. Price fixation forces many bakers to cut corners (i.e. margerine) and many bakeries now buy what is called "formulas" basically patented flour mixes for their bread. Also many bakers are very secretive (and not the most social of people) and are reluctant to share their information.

There is nothing being done in Western Europe that is not being done somewhere in the US, even in California. At least at entry level. (Our economic climate and attitudes toward the profession encourage may European chefs to come work and train here.)

Regardless of where you go, three months is too short to expect to learn something from an internship. Since I assume that full time employment will be your goal, I would concentrate on finding an externship here in the US that meets your career goals. Something that concentrates on your focus, and gives you lots of production and floor time. (That is what i look for as an employer)

Don't get me wrong I am not anti-France. I have a deep love of the country, one that is based on its culinary merits and my experience there. There is lot to be gained from studying Europe. Honestly I believe that for the same amount of money that you would spend living there that you could take a tour of the above mentioned places and develop your sense of tradition, taste, and presentation. One thing that so many culinary students forget is that learning doesn't just happen in the kitchen, but must also come from looking, tasting, and experiencing as a customer and researcher.
"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
Willie Nelson
"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
Willie Nelson
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
You raise some very interesting points and forced me to see things from a different perspective.......thank you.

I like your point about allowing your education to go beyond the kitchen. It's easy to get caught up in the student mentality, but what I need to remember is that my education will not cease just because I've graduated. If something doesn't come up as an externship this time around, there's nothing saying an opportunity won't arise years down the road. You make a good point about using my money for travel, gathering cultural experiences from everywhere, as opposed to living in one particular country.

It's funny you mentioned the lack of interest in women in the kitchen. I've only visited France once, and found my experience to be less than favorable in terms of women's equality. I found shop owner's level of customer service to be far different when my husband was around, versus when it was just my daughter and myself. And nobody cracks a smile over there!! I don't think I made eye contact once on the Metro!! :lol: Having said that though, I wouldn't hesitate for a minute if an opportunity to study there came about!

Thanks again for your honesty and for offering different ways to approach my externship. Another place I've been considering pursuing is the Vegas scene. Anyone know if it's tough to get a foot in the door out there. I'm relatively close, about 3 hours. A culinary mecca in the middle of nowhere, but there is tons of knowledge to be gained!
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