Hotel F&B Magazine
All Back Issues » May/June 2011

Growing Their Own
Broadmoor apprenticeships turn students into staff.
By Michael Costa

Broadmoor apprenticeship program

Broadmoor apprenticeship program
At the end of three years, a Broadmoor apprentice will have dedicated more than 6,575 hours to the program.

Broadmoor apprenticeship program

Broadmoor apprenticeship program
Apprentices receive five hours of kitchen classroom training each week in courses such as food safety, nutrition, and management. Mentors help them stay on track throughout the challenging program.
"The first thing we hear from the chef’s mouth is, ‘If you’re here to be on TV, then you should leave right now.’ That’s not why we’re in this industry. We’re here because we love it. We don’t need the publicity; that’s just part of the upside.”

That may sound more like boot camp than student orientation, but for 21-year-old Emily Strempke, it’s the reality of participating in the Broadmoor’s Culinary Apprenticeship Program—a three-year, American Culinary Federation-certified education for those who hunger for hands-on experience.

The Apprenticeship Program started in 1995, when “we had a labor shortage in Colorado Springs,” says C.W. Craig Reed, director of F&B at the Colorado Springs resort. “It was becoming difficult for us to recruit the high level of talent that we wanted working in our restaurants and hotel at the time, so we decided to raise our own, if you will.”

The Broadmoor is the longest-running Five-Star, Five-Diamond property in North America—51 and 35 years, respectively. “Raising” culinary talent who understand those lofty stakes is just part of what makes the Apprenticeship Program unique. For the budding chefs taking part, it’s an alternative to traditional culinary school at a fraction of the cost. “I was going to spend $64,000 on culinary school, and that didn’t include the lab fees or books,” says Strempke, a third-year apprentice.

The Broadmoor’s program is $3,300 for three years, with a fourth-year option that focuses on baking and pastry at no additional cost. Tuition is kept low through annual fundraising dinners, one of which is prepared entirely by apprentices.

Students are also treated as employees; they receive a bi-weekly paycheck and average around 40 work hours per week. “Every six months we give them a raise,” says Executive Chef Siegfried Eisenberger. “They actually get paid instead of just paying for school, and we supply the knives and books too.”

Once a week, apprentices travel to Warren Tech in Lakewood, near Denver, for five hours of kitchen classroom training in courses such as food safety, nutrition, and management. At the end of three years, an apprentice will have dedicated more than 6,575 hours to the program, rotating every three months through each dining venue at the Broadmoor, including nine restaurants and all banquet and catering facilities. They also spend several weeks in the butcher shop and work the front of the house during events.

“We learn from different chefs in a variety of settings, ranging from Five-Star, Five- Diamond all the way to our cafeteria. We know how to cook for different people and how to sell the menus to different types of customers. That’s something I probably wouldn’t get in a college setting,” says 24-year-old Amanda Sinclair, who finished her apprenticeship in 2010 and is now in Aspen working in pastry.

The Broadmoor has 30 apprentices at any given time, and that number can fluctuate due to attrition with first-year students. A class of 15 can drop to 10 or 11, for example, once the gravity of day-to-day culinary duties sets in, along with not being able to take breaks on days when they have to make the nearly three-hour round trip to Warren Tech for class.

“Sometimes I’ll have a shift in the bakery from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m.,” Strempke explains. “I’ll go home and take a nap, wake up, get to school at 5 p.m., and get back home around 11 p.m. Then I have to be back at work at 3:00 a.m. again.”

Reed says it’s “like they’re going to college and beginning their first job at the same time. They’re not only accountable for their job performance, but also for mastering each kitchen ‘station’ as they move through our operation. To help them stay on track, we’ve set up mentor programs, where they meet monthly with an assigned Broadmoor chef to review and work through any challenges.”

Apprentices work alongside externs from nationally recognized culinary schools, and apprentices joke that there’s a friendly rivalry between the two camps. But Eisenberger says sometimes it’s no contest.

“When we put [some externs] on a hot line and the orders are piling up, they freeze—they just don’t have the experience. Our apprentices are usually quicker.”

Apprentices who complete the program will earn a Certified Cook title from the ACF and a Journeyman Cook certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship. Also, through coursework and successful testing, each apprentice receives a ServSafe certificate for sanitation, a certificate in nutrition recognized by the National Restaurant Association, and a foodservice management certificate recognized by the ACF.

“The Apprenticeship Program is definitely something you have to know you want to do,” says 19-year old Nathaniel Juevera, a first-year apprentice. “It gives you humility before you start your career, and you can’t go into it like you’re going to be a famous chef. It keeps you humble before you reach bigger successes.”

Michael Costa brings culinary school education, a background in hotel foodservice, and years of professional journalism experience to his position as Industry Relations Editor for HOTEL F&B.

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