Why and how you should volunteer at ICE

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Before I was a student in ICE’s Culinary Arts program, the only foodservice job I had was working behind a bakery counter. Aside from reheating quiche, I wasn’t preparing food — I helped customers, made coffee and took cake orders. When my class was asked to start looking for an externship, I was nervously excited. Although I learned many technical skills in the classroom, the pressure and intensity of working in a professional environment was intimidating. I felt I needed a practice situation before I put myself in a position where there was a lot of pressure (like applying for a job).

Enter: volunteering.

ICE works with local restaurants, food festivals, competitions and cooking events, as well as catering companies, to facilitate. student volunteer opportunitiesThey come in many shapes and sizes. For example, some of my classmates volunteered at Daniel Boulud’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant Daniel, assisting with catering prep and on-site service for a wedding in the Hamptons. Another student worked with Duff Goldman. mise-ing ingredients and helping participants make his famous chocolate cookies at his masterclass at the New York City Wine & Food Festival.

In the zone

I volunteered for New York EATSS. The event was hosted by American Indian College Fund, and featured some of the best Native American Chefs in the country. Each chef had their own station where attendees could taste their dish and meet them. I was assigned a task to work with Chef Freddie Bitsoie along with a Native American culinary volunteer student. Chef Freddie served Navajo mutton with sumac, caramelized onions, and butternut squash. Chef Freddie explained why he selected his dish, showed us its components, and plated up a sample so we could refer to it as we worked. 

As the event picked up, we were swamped — our two-person assembly line was only just matching the rate at which plates were being picked up. As I was working quickly, it was a challenge to smile and describe the dish. It was an excellent learning experience. We had a lot to learn. It was a lot of juggling and a small simulation to what my externship will be like.

A major benefit to volunteering is networking. Impressing a chef and getting to know them can help you get a job or an internship at their restaurant. Volunteers can provide you with valuable insight into the industry and have connections that will be helpful to you. You never really know where you’ll find that once in a lifetime opportunity. In this industry, networking is an important skill. Volunteering allows you to practice your networking skills while learning technical skills. 

Other organizations that partner with ICE looking for student volunteers include the Jacques Pépin Foundation, Le Best Chef Competition, City Harvest and the Canadian Oyster Festival. Some volunteer opportunities are on campus, while others take place at restaurants or event venues around the city.

Pro tip for students looking for upcoming volunteer opportunities:Keep an eye out on your weekly ICE student Newsletter.

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