A group of ICE Los Angeles alumni in black shirts and blue aprons at the Otium restaurant kitchen smile

What is an Externship?

Why hands-on training in a professional kitchen is a vital part of ICE education

ICE LA alumni who were hired on from externship at Otium

As most chefs will tell you, getting hired into a professional kitchen takes more than just memorization of culinary terms and sauce recipes. With over 45 years of experience preparing passionate cooks for a career in the field, ICE knows a culinary education must continue beyond our teaching kitchens.

With this in mind, we’ve constructed all of our hands-on training programs in Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts, Plant-Based Culinary Arts and Hotel & Hospitality Management* to culminate in an ICE externship — an off-site hands-on experience that functions as the transition from being a student into being a professional.

You’ll find ICE externs at top restaurants, bakeries, hotels and many other venues all over the country. But what does an externship actually entail?

Four ICE Classmates On Their International Externships

What is an Externship?

Similar to an internship, or in a kitchen, a stage, externship positions are generally entry-level work in a restaurant or hotel.

This is where the Career Services team and a careful selection process comes into play. Looking to work at a Michelin-starred restaurant? Generally a competitive position, these roles can be focused on contributing a very particular task toward a large, heavily staffed kitchen. It could be cleaning produce, prepping herbs, dicing onions— you name it. The philosophy of many of these large kitchens is doing something perfectly is how you become perfect. Starting with these seemingly menial tasks and performing them well not only gives you a skill, but it provides insight into the ebb and flow of a high end kitchen environment's teamwork.

Other students may prioritize wearing many hats and getting the broadest range of exposure possible, which usually leads them to smaller restaurants that rely on an ‘everyone does everything’ mentality to get service-ready. Still other students may have a very specific goal of how to balance this career with personal obligations, so they might focus on kitchens within their home communities as a means of developing rapport and a network in the specific region in which they expect to build their career.

The same "large versus small" logic applies to hotel and hospitality venues as well. Exposure to the well-oiled machine of a major international hotel provides different insights and skills than those you would accrue from time spent at a boutique hotel or small resort.

But how do they get there? That’s where the ICE Career Services teams in New York and Los Angeles come into play.

ICE alumni in black shirts and blue aprons work the kitchen line at Otium restaurant in Los Angeles
ICE alumni work in Otium restaurant in Los Angeles.

Advisors Lead the Way

Lessons dedicated to giving students time to sit and talk with their dedicated Career Services advisor are woven throughout the courses of every career program at ICE. Career Services advisors visit classes and discuss both:

  • What exactly it takes to land a spot as an extern
  • How students can best prepare themselves for the boundless opportunities available throughout the hospitality field

Everything is considered, from identifying skills and experience from past careers that may be transferable to this field, to discussing students personality and work environment preferences, to the practical nature of what sort of time commitment various restaurants and venues expect from their externs. Your Career Services advisor is here to help every student navigate their way into a rewarding externship experience.  

Once the foundation is laid, students start to take the helm of testing out kitchens they may want to spend their final moments as a student in. This part looks a lot like any other job hunt in that it’s a mutual selection process. Some students visit two or three kitchens or hotels and find a good fit, others explore their options and visit several places before honing in on a particular offer.

The restaurants and hotels have to feel it’s a good fit too, only extending offers to people they feel would be a good addition to their team. It’s this careful process that helps to put students in a position to potentially be offered a job at the end of their externship. While the externship-to-job path may be straightforward for some, for others, they utilize this time to gain the experience and network with people that may springboard them into other opportunities after graduation.

ICE alumna Gabriella Russo stands in front of a sign that reads "Single Thread Farms"
ICE alumna Gabriella Russo at Single Thread Farms.

While there are many types of professional kitchens in which to do an externship, our Career Services team strongly advises students to take advantage of the vast ICE network to get experiences they might not otherwise have access to.

ICE Alum Drew Johnson on Externing at a Brand New Restaurant

For Culinary Arts and Plant-Based Culinary Arts students, doing their externship in a restaurant generally provides the speed and confidence that will serve them no matter where they go within the culinary field. Similarly, Pastry & Baking Arts students are encouraged to look for externships in production bakeries or restaurants, as it starts them out with exposure to a wide variety of recipes and skills as well as the speed work that is so vital to producing desserts and baked goods in a timely enough manner to turn a profit.    

Throughout the externship students are graded by their chefs and submit proof of their hours worked to their Career Services advisor in order to successfully graduate from their program. Though the externship functions as a launching pad into a hospitality career, the Career Services team continues to support alumni through the years as they grow professionally.

With regular emails announcing job openings, to in-person career fairs and one-on-one professional mentoring, an ICE externship is just the beginning! 

*NYC Campus only

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