My Excellent Externship at the Chevy Chase Club

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As an aspiring chef, the best gift you can receive is an environment where you are always put just a little bit outside of your comfort zone, a place where you are at the right spot between possessing sufficient skills yet being a little bit above water. I was fortunate enough to be in an environment during my externship this summer where I was pushed to grow. From May through August, I had the privilege of completing my externship at the Chevy Chase Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where I worked alongside chefs who constantly pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to be a part of memorable events.

My externship was full of highlights, including working an action station for various club events and parties, helping to plan and execute a few Sunday Brunch menus for the pool canteen and participating in the club’s biggest event of the year on July 3rd, during which we served 2,400 people and ended the night with a fireworks display on the golf course. Another opportunity that served to really push me outside of my comfort zone and consequentially inflict growth was being in charge of feeding 400 people at the employee picnic.

For this picnic, I was tasked with working alongside the chef to come up with a buffet-style menu to feed approximately 400 people, to help create diagrams for buffet layout, to order food and create a prep list and to oversee the other interns and staff in executing the buffet. I was required to attend meetings and gather with interns from other areas of the club to ensure we were all on the same page and that our responsibilities were staying on track. Planning this picnic definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. Menu planning was challenging due to the “candy land” theme, specifically in finding the right balance of sweet and savory foods. Thankfully, the executive chef offered a lot of assistance, and we settled on a chicken and waffles station, a donut grilled cheese station, a salad bar and a dessert challenge held among the club’s senior staff members.

Another area of professional growth was my management skills, as I was basically the chef on duty for the day of the picnic. Co-workers who normally instructed me were now coming to me for direction. It was a big switch in roles, and it showed me what I have to look forward to one day as an executive chef. I learned the value of managing stress well so that you can lead your team to success. When things went wrong or something had to be changed, I had to stay calm and focus on fixing the problem. Chefs were giving me their support, help, and advice along the way, thus making the experience a positive learning environment where it was acceptable to make mistakes, as long as a lesson was learned from them.

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This summer proved to be more of an adventure than I ever expected. The chefs at the Chevy Chase Club really helped me to grow into someone who can lead a kitchen one day. The picnic was successful, and all of the employees and their families loved the food. I am now more confident in my abilities and possess the leadership skills necessary to manage others in a way that brings the whole team to success. I also learned that being out of your comfort zone is a good thing because sometimes that is the best way to grow.

By April Johnson