Breaking into a new industry can be difficult for recent graduates, especially if they don't have connections.
To remedy that problem, Justin Farmer '04, a Reed College alumnus, established a culinary apprenticeship program for fellow Reed alumni.
Justin uses Switchboard to find his Reedie apprentices and help them get started in the restaurant business. Justin has taken on three apprentices since he made his first offer on Reed Switchboard last year, and he's committed to hiring more alumni in years to come.
Why did you start using Switchboard?
I think I started using Switchboard maybe two years ago. I have always helped fellow Reedies make connections if I can, and Switchboard makes that easier to do.
You started a culinary apprenticeship program specifically for Reedies. Could you share your story?
I have so far taken on three Reedies via Switchboard. One still works at my bar, Hill & Dale, in the the city. One is in China right now I believe, and she may come work for me when she gets back. The third is starting here at the Deer Mountain Inn next Wednesday.
Beyond that, I have actually brought many Reedies into the restaurant biz over the years, and many of them are still in it and doing great.
I started taking on Reedies for two reasons.
- The talent pool of cooks is very thin right now, and it is hard to find good employees with intelligence and a good work ethic, two very important qualities for a cook. Tapping into the Reed talent pool seems natural since intelligence and a good work ethic are very much something you can expect from all Reed graduates and even most Reed dropouts, like myself.
- Reedies are at a disadvantage starting in the food biz after graduation, and I know there are many interested in it so it makes sense to provide a bit of a boot camp that helps teach them the ropes.
I know that, upon graduation, many Reedies don't really know what to do next, especially if they decided not go to grad school or if grad school didn't work out for them. Of the type of Reedie that doesn't end up in grad school, I have noticed they tend to go towards a more entrepreneurial route with a decided bent towards the food and beverage industry and tech/software stuff.
While I am sure the transition into the tech world is a bit smoother for most Reedies, jumping into the food world is a bit more of a drastic change from the academic atmosphere of Reed.
Although their intelligence and hard work will eventually see them to the top, they are starting with the heavy disadvantage of joining a career path that many start in their teens who have already developed highly specialized skills and knowledge that the late comer Reedies simply do not have. So they have a huge experience gap to overcome.
Along with that is a culture that exists within the food and beverage industry, and especially in the restaurant industry, that can be difficult for many Reedies to accept and become a part of. You have to have "thick skin," as they say, to be successful in this industry.
This program provides an environment where I can integrate Reedies into the food business in a way that is a lot less shocking than simply taking a prep-cook or waiter job in the city.
Would you recommend Switchboard to other Reedies?
I would and have recommended Switchboard to my friends, two of whom have been actively hiring entry level people within the architecture world via Switchboard for the last year now.