The rise of any elite chef inevitably goes through one man: James Beard.
A perk of attending culinary school in the New York City are the volunteer opportunities at the James Beard House. Students get a chance to work and observe chefs from around the world who come to the foundation to cook.
Here's a little background: James Beard is often considered the father of American cooking. Before Julia Child, he was the one to appear on TV and teach people about cooking. He mentored chefs and helped promote the success of many unknown chefs. The Beard awards given in his honor are considered the Oscars of the culinary world.
If you have the chance to volunteer at the James Beard House, do it.
I have volunteered a few times since starting school and enjoyed every minute of it. Some chefs have students take on more responsibilities than others. Sometimes you simply watch the chefs work, other moments you be asked to sear some pork chops for serving.
This week I worked with a chef from Baltimore as he served everything from foie gras mousse-filled semolina cups and lobster croquetas to tuna tartare cannelloni filled with crab and a rack of lamb with crispy lamb belly, samfaina, black empeltre olives and jus.
To work and be part of such a historic organization feels good. You step into the quaint brownstone in the Greenwich Village surrounding yourself with people passionate about food and feels like you're cooking with James.