It’s a good problem to have. Almost weekly, instructors from the School of Culinary Arts receive emails from restaurant owners, executive chefs and those in the hospitality industry looking for students or graduates to fill open internships and vacancies in their businesses.
“We get these open-ended emails from people saying they need employees, they need people to work, and we forward it to the students. But to the students, it’s just one more email they miss or don’t see,” said Chef Aaron Ware.
So Ware came up with the idea for the Cowboy Chef Internship Bazaar that brings those from the industry to OSUIT where students can meet with them face-to-face to learn about their career options.
“If they can see it, if they can touch it, it’s more real,” he said. “I want it to be about the people coming and establishing a relationship with the students.”
This first Cowboy Chef Internship Bazaar was Oct. 4 with representatives from several companies there to meet with students and tour the Culinary program including Big Cedar Lodge; the BOK Center; Choctaw Nation; Downstream Casino and Eagle Creek Golf Club; national corporate dining company Guckenheimer; Muscogee (Creek) Nation; OMNI Hotels & Resorts in Fort Worth, Texas; and River Spirit Casino.
David Secrest is executive chef at OMNI Hotel & Resorts in Fort Worth and an OSUIT alumnus who oversees the property’s nine eateries.
“We don’t have enough culinarians to fill the positions we have. The Dallas/Fort Worth market is thriving. The industry has changed a lot, and the demand has changed,” Secrest said.
Hailey Eatherly is in her first semester in the Culinary program and came to the bazaar to begin to network with those in the industry.
“I’m trying to put faces to the names of people I’ve heard around the building,” said Eatherly, who is from Okmulgee. “I made some good connections. I got to talk with a couple gentlemen from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. I’m Muscogee (Creek). I feel like I’d have a good opportunity there if I decide to stay close to home.”
Making those connections is why Secrest got in his car and drove from Texas to his alma mater for the bazaar.
“I’ve been here an hour and talked with 10 to 12 people. It’s better than a Craigslist ad. You get to look them in the eyes,” he said. “Meeting with possible employers, it will further motivate the students. They see that people are interested in them.”
Eartherly said it was great to make those connections and see where she can go when she finishes school.
“I can go to culinary school and do well, but if I don’t know where to plant my feet when I get out of here, what was the point,” she said.
Ware said he hopes to continue and build on this first Cowboy Chef Internship Bazaar and hold it several times a year and invite more industry partners and students from other culinary programs.
“I’m excited about it. I’m happy for the support from my fellow chefs, the staff and Culinary Dean Gene Leiterman,” he said. “They all think it’s a great opportunity for our students.”