Courting Culinary Mentors

From by Institute of Culinary Education
Courting Culinary Mentors


By Jenny McCoy—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts


I distinctly remember the first time I tried to establish a relationship with a pastry chef that I really admired. I had just eaten at Trio in Evanston, Illinois and Della Gossett was the pastry chef. Her dessert menu blew me away, and I knew I had to meet her. I called her kitchen and asked if I could spend a week working with her. She agreed.

Chef Jenny McCoy - pastry chef - blueberry - pastry - plated dessert

After a week of making simple recipes and helping with basic prep work, I thought Della and I were two peas in a pod. So about a week after my stage, I decided to call Della, IN THE MIDDLE OF DINNER SERVICE, to ask what her thoughts were about the best flavor pairings to use with pomegranate. I still cringe at Della’s response: “Ummm…pomegranate is out of season. Why are you calling me right now?”


Of course, I was just a silly pastry cook who forgot that a pastry chef might be a bit too busy to entertain my creative whims. Don’t get me wrong; Della was perfectly civilized in her response, but I quickly learned that bothering a chef in the middle of dinner service is not a professional way to build a friendship with a new mentor.


So how exactly do you go about cultivating a relationship with a potential mentor? Read on for five tips.