You may not realize this, but I hope you do, and I hope you’ve been taking full advantage of it:

AS A CULINARY STUDENT, YOU HAVE ACCESS TO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING FOOD!

It’s true, and today was a great example of that. Our school arranged for us to have a tour of Darden’s brand new corporate offices. If you’re not familiar with Darden, they fully own and operate a myriad of leading restaurants such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Season’s 52. Regardless of whether you dine in those restaurants, agree/disagree with their food production philosophies and cooking methods, their state-of-the-art, outrageous, dreamy, and possibly close to being the 8th wonder of the culinary world facilities are to be respected and envied.

They exposed their entire corporate world to us, providing a snapshot into their operations and manufacturing. It was fascinating to learn how the finished product begins as a concept and eventually becomes part of a menu through months of testing, and how that recipe is then plated across the country, without variation. That’s just one part of it; marketing, advertising, HACCP and training are simultaneously integrated x 720+ restaurants for Olive Garden alone.

As a student, you can get a backstage pass to places like Darden, Borden, Kraft, and other culinary giants, as well as just about any culinary-related place you’d like to visit, and you should be taking advantage of it before you graduate. Because once you have your diploma or certificate, those doors close.

Companies are very willing to share their insights and learning materials with you for many reasons: you’re all potential employees or interns; you’re a great free marketing tool by telling people about your experience (I’m already talking about Darden…see how that marketing thing works?); and despite any pettiness you may have experienced in the kitchen, the corporate culinary world is quite excited to share with students.

All it takes is a phone call and a simple question: I’d like to arrange a tour of your (facility, kitchen, office, etc.) for our culinary class; with whom can I speak? You’d be surprised how excited people get, and how much they’re willing to share.

I hope you get to see some neat things, like we did today! When you do, or if you have, tell us about it here.