“The chef instructors were knowledgeable, the lessons were interesting and challenging, the class times worked with my schedule, I had diverse learning experiences, and I met great people.”
Nadia Stokes (’15), Chef and Owner of The Brown Cookie Company
“They didn’t sugarcoat anything. The small classes and instructors prepared me for work in a real production kitchen.”
Laura Davidson (’12), Owner and CEO of A Beautiful Plate
“Culinary school taught me the essential kitchen skills and culinary knowledge that would set me up for success in future roles, whether as a restaurant cook, food editor and writer, or event programmer at the James Beard Foundation.”
Elizabeth Laseter (’12), Assistant to the Director of House Programming, James Beard Foundation
“I gained the knowledge and confidence to tackle any issue within the catering world.”
Debra Abramowitz (’10), Catering Manager & Executive Chef of Signature Caterers
“The professional training and restaurant experience I received gave me a competitive advantage in my chosen field.”
Jennifer Farley (’10), Cookbook Author, Recipe Developer, Food Photographer at Savory Simple
“The chef instructors pushed me to my limits. They made me tougher, smarter, more hard-working, and passionate.”
Ivy Odom (’16), Recipe Developer and Test at Time Inc. Food Studios
“They are serious about technique. It’s a place where egos are checked at the door and everyone is equal because no one is above learning the fundamentals of French culinary tradition.”
Kevin Carroll (’12), Digital Coordinator at No Kid Hungry
“They teach you how to cook and think on your feet with classic correct knowledge from authentic French teachers with impressive backgrounds.”
Austin St. George (’15), Junior Sous Chef at Bresca
By Alec Webster, Chef at The Ocean City Marlin Club
I’ve had an interest in the culinary arts since I was a child. A daily Food Network habit helped grow this passion but left me yearning to understand the more tangible aspects of working in a kitchen, which I began pursuing through a culinary program offered at my high school. After graduation, I spent months searching for the perfect culinary school to turn my passion into a career.
The moment I walked into L’Academie de Cuisine I was home.
Small class sizes and excellent instructors cemented L’Academie as the best environment in which to hone my craft. Although training proved tougher than expected, the experienced and dedicated chef instructors constantly pushed me to achieve the best outcomes possible because they know first-hand what it takes to succeed in the industry.
From L’Academie’s kitchen to my current place of work, these are three rules I’ve learned to live by: 1. Keep an open mind. As a chef at The Ocean City Marlin Club, a private fishing club in Ocean City, Maryland, I learn something new every day. The members of the club bring in fresh fish off the docks, giving me plenty of opportunities to experiment with new methods of cooking. The fundamentals taught at L’Academie have enabled me to grow professionally in unimaginable ways.
2. Think positive, be positive. Attitude is everything. When it inevitably gets hot in the kitchen, both figuratively and literally, remember to tell yourself: you’ve got this.
3. Love the work. During an internship at Fager’s Island on the bay, we would have 550 to 650 covers per night with no air in the kitchen. Some nights, the heat would get up to 190 degrees (see rule #2). This line of work is not easy, but with passion, dedication, and a whole lot of love, it is the most rewarding.
After graduating from L’Academie de Cuisine about three years ago, I completed my externship at Petit Louis, a Foreman Wolf restaurant on the lake in Columbia, MD. I stayed on as a pastry cook for the next two years before receiving a promotion to Pastry Sous Chef at Cinghiale Osteria in Baltimore, another Foreman Wolf restaurant. This new position was exciting and presented a number of challenges and opportunities.
Interested in being a Pastry Sous Chef? Prepare for the responsibilities by polishing these three important traits:
An Open Mind. Assisting the Executive Chef in coming up with new menu ideas was a challenge for me. As a notoriously picky eater, learning to broaden my palette has been a gradual process over many years. Fortunately, the Executive Chef was understanding and pushed me to experiment with flavors.
Business Savvy. As the Pastry Sous Chef, and only pastry representative in the business, I was also the Back of House Manager (BOH). This entailed opening the restaurant five to six days a week, doing all the prep work, ordering and managing inventory, setting up transfers with other restaurants in the company to get rid of excess products, and handling any incorrect or damaged deliveries. It was a big list, but also offered hands-on insights into how a business runs and operates.
Commitment. While the manager side of being a Sous Chef came naturally to me, I still have plenty to learn, improve on, and explore. The best chefs always do!
L’Academie de Cuisine may be a place to learn technical skills, but it’s also where I evolved from an over-caffeinated amateur into a steady-handed, professional pastry cook.
Early in my training, I tipped over a tray, knocking both a classmate’s and my cakes to the floor 20 minutes before an exam ended. Fortunately at L’Academie, I only lost 10 points and was allowed to stay and rebuild my cake. In the real world, the consequences would have been severe.
Since then, I have never dropped a full cake on the floor. And while I’ll admit that my apron still gets covered in flour (which would have cost me points on an exam), my ability to move, speak, and react in the kitchen is stronger.
After graduating from L’Academie, I worked my way through many restaurants, from early morning production to late night service shifts. The restaurant route offers constant variety. Today, for example, I’ll make focaccia, pavlovas, and bon bons; tomorrow a wedding cake; and the day after, brunch turnovers, scones, and cinnamon rolls.
At L’Academie, their program encourages the skills and attitudes that differentiate average cooks from the best.
Want to know how to get that extra spark that chefs look for in their most promising cooks?
1. Stage with a variety of chefs. I’m lucky; Altamarea Group has everything from pizzerias to Michelin-rated restaurants. They encourage cross-pollination of knowledge. Staging at Ai Fiori taught me about bon bons and my sous chef expanded her knowledge of bread from Vaucluse.
2. Seize every opportunity to learn and grow. Even if you’re not in a group like Altamarea, don’t discourage. Your coworker’s roommate’s ex worked at the place of your dreams? Use that connection and get in! Don’t know anyone? Ask L’Academie or call the restaurant directly and ask. Knowledge, problem-solving, and understanding how different people and teams work all increase your value and hireability, but only come from experience.
3. Embrace weaknesses. Don’t be afraid of not being the best on a team. It’s easy to feel embarrassed and anxiously avoid a specific project you’ve failed or never tried. The best way to overcome fear: ask for help!
4. Don’t be a superstar. If you’re the only one who can do your job, there’s no motivation to promote you. To be both a good team player and leader, embrace your strengths and weaknesses by balancing them with the team’s.
5. Keep it professional. Anxious or over-confident emotions can cloud your work and impede interactions with teammates. This is a skill that is complex and needs constant awareness.
6. Find joy in your projects, big or small. Don’t be disheartened by making chocolate chip cookies every day. Instead, learn how to become consistent and efficient. Once steady, ask to learn something in addition to your current responsibilities. Creativity and drive are just as important as consistency and efficiency.
By Amanda Zimmerman, Pastry Alumna and Executive Pastry Chef at Gertrude’s
I started my career in foodservice in 2008 while attending college, where I was studying ministry and Spanish. During my time as a supervisor with Sodexo, the campus dining management group, I learned all the basics of food service, which prepared me to take a managerial position at a Barnes and Noble cafe in Baltimore after graduation. But plating pre-made pastries wasn’t enough. I wanted to make the pastries.
In 2015, after working there for three years, I was passed up on a promotion. Someone better qualified was hired for the position and I was left evaluating my options. I knew I wanted to go back to school, this time to learn how to make cakes. With the encouragement of my husband and mom, I started looking for schools in Maryland and discovered L’Academie de Cuisine.
My training from L’Academie equipped me to take the position of Executive Pastry Chef at Gertrude’s restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art, where I’m still happily working now. My pastry arts education comes into play every day, despite the fact that Gertrude’s is a Chesapeake Bay- style restaurant, not a French one. Understanding traditional French techniques influences how I put together dessert menus, which includes weekly specials, seasonal items, and weekend teas.
At the end of the day, my favorite thing to make is cakes. There’s so much to love: the different flavors, the mixing and matching of icings and fillings, the decorations like borders, fondant, gumpaste… the whole nine yards! Because of L’Academie’s curriculum, Gertrude’s now offers custom wedding cakes to clients that get married here, which was a service they were unable to provide until I joined the team.
Considering going into the pastry field?
Follow these three commandments of pastry patience and practice to achieve perfection:
1. Practice. Practice. Practice. Each time you ice a cake it will be smoother. Each time you write with chocolate it gets easier. Pastry is an art, and art takes skill that only comes from dedicated practice.
2. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to master the art of pastry and it can be frustrating, but the more you do it and the more time you spend refining your technique, the better you will become.
3. Be patient with the pastries. You cannot rush pastry. Timing is everything. Allow your cakes to bake fully, allow your macarons to set, and allow your bread to rest. It all takes time, but it’s all part of the beautiful process.