In today’s hard economic times, it’s not unusual for even the most qualified college graduates to have difficulty finding jobs. But for students who graduate from Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts Program, that is not the case.
According to program director, Richard Freilich, nearly all of the students who graduate from the program find work, many of them in high-end commercial kitchens on the North Fork.
“We don’t do placement, per se, but we do have connections with a lot of the local businesses looking to fill different types of positions,” said Freilich. “We try to find students that are best suited for those positions.”
Freilich credits the school’s culinary arts internship program with the tremendous success its students enjoy in securing permanent employment. As part of their studies, students are required to fulfill a 200-hour internship with a restaurant, hotel or other hospitality-based business; and, Freilich confirmed, those internships often lead to full-time positions.
“There’s a great demand for our students, so we get calls all the time looking for experienced help,” said Freilich.
Students enrolled in the program receive specialized instruction in baking and pastry arts and fulfill part of their internships working at The Baker’s Workshop, the college’s retail outlet. “The input we get back from students is excellent. They say had they not come here, they wouldn’t have gotten their job,” Freilich confirmed.
Courtney Rowehl, a student enrolled in the program, got her start at the Plaza Café in Southampton through her teacher, Doug Gulij, who also is a chef and the owner of the premier seafood restaurant.
“I’ve been there three years now,” Rowehl said. “At Suffolk, there’s a core of teachers that know all the students by name, post jobs and will always push you to do harder internships. I wanted to do the fine dining thing, so I just went for it.”
Ethan Crook, another student enrolled in Suffolk’s Culinary Arts Program, began interning at North Fork Table & Inn in July and is now a full-time employee at the Southold four-star restaurant.
“Working here has definitely helped me progress as a cook in the sense of working more independently and confidently,” Crook said. “I try to do that as much as I can—to just go for it. I like Julia Child’s quote, ‘In cooking you have to have a what-the-hell attitude.’ I feel like if you don’t just go for it, then you’re not going to learn how to do it . . . .”
Along with career-specific courses, the hands-on Culinary Arts Program at Suffolk includes study in business and liberal arts and a strong introduction to international cuisine.
The statistically high employment rate the program’s graduates enjoy demonstrates that they are indeed well prepared to enter the workforce and meet the demands and challenges of the food service profession—whether in intimate fine-dining, quick-service, institutional or worldwide food service settings.
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