Sunday, February 6, 2011

Internship, First Try

I neither had the time availability nor the interest in completing my internship at a restaurant. Unless it would have been working under a pastry chef. But even that, it wasn't really my interest.
What I was interested in was combining my interests of food and psychology, preferably in a way that helps others. There were two options for this: a non-profit baking company that was aligned with a church to train homeless people how to bake (and job-skills, of course), and a cooking program through CPS. I couldn't do the high school program because, well, I work during the day.
So I talked to the baking company. I'd link, but there's this thing on their website that says you can't link to it without talking to them, and, as you'll see, things didn't really go so well that I would want to link to them.
The purpose of the company was to put a group of homeless people (about 6-8) through courses on sanitation, baking, and job skills, and then they would work in the kitchen, under the guidance of two lead bakers, who had years of experience working in restaurants and hotels. The company is a collaboration between a really talented pastry chef who worked for years in Florida and a church ministry. They sold their baked goods to companies in Chicago - particularly breakfast items that were delivered daily and baked goods for special occasions.
I tried to start my internship early - with the permission of my program. I was trying to bank the bulk of my hours over my winter break, since the company worked only some days in the evenings and weekends. 
I accidentally asked the lead baker if she was one of the students - oops. See, this is where introductions would have been helpful.
We had a set schedule that would have allowed this to work, but then the manager decided they should stop accepting orders during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Which was a business choice, but did not exactly work well for me.
While the bakers and students worked hard, I couldn't quite figure out what the other people did - there was the person who ran the classes, but there were multiple weeks between groups, and I couldn't figure out what else she did. She was really nice to talk to, though.
And then there was the manager - I think she created the recipes, but it appeared that every time I was there, she spent those hours (and sometimes I was there for at least 6 hours) just talking in her office with someone else - I think he was in charge of selling the products and managing customers. I could have missed what else they did, but it appeared that they had more people working there than were needed. Then again, it was the end of December, and they didn't have a ton of clients.
Somehow, their computer program that multiplied the recipes didn't work properly - they wouldn't come out the same as the single batches, which they are supposed to. That isn't good for business.
The snow didn't help. While that storm was nowhere near as bad as the one we had just last week, it was enough that they sent us home early. But I didn't get to leave for awhile since we were on a side street and my car's wheels spun and spun no matter the amount of salt I put around the tires. Luckily, a chef from a catering company down the street, who was much stronger than me, was able to push me out after a few tries. That was not fun!
Then the manager called me in for a photo shoot for the baked goods for their website. I made it through the snow, and she didn't really explain how much shortening I was supposed to put in the ganache to make it hold under the camera lights. So I kept having to put more in. But then it didn't even matter because the photographer couldn't get there due to the snow. Darn it. More hours that did not happen.
Next I had to go back to my actual job. And I started to look at my calendar - when could I call in sick? Did we have any days off? Looking at the number of hours I still had to complete, I just could not figure out how I could make it work without putting my school psychologist career in jeopardy. And I went through this huge debate in my head - why did it even matter if I completed it? I wasn't planning on becoming a chef, so did it matter if I graduated the program? Well, if you know my family, it mattered. We're not big on quitting.
So I hunted down some help at the culinary school - turns out, they don't advertise it, but if you do well in the program, such as be on the honor roll like I was, they'll let you complete the internship in their in-house cafe. I had to meet with the head of program, but she approved me, and I called to set up an appointment with the manager of the non-profit.
I made the appointment. She didn't show, and wouldn't return my calls. I left a message with the minister, who was the only person in that day, and he was really nice. I would have liked to speak to the manager though. It just felt wrong to quit that way, even if they weren't paying me.
Then again, writing this two years later, and you all having read the post about how I ended up quitting that high school job in a not-so-great way either, that this is clearly something I need to grow up about already...

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