From Apprentice to the Four Seasons

August 21, 2018

Casey poses in front of a quote from Maslow
Casey, a 2018 Foodservice Apprenticeship Program graduate, shares how her experience at FareStart helped change the direction of her life. Support other apprentices like Casey here.

Sometimes a challenge presents itself, and you just go for it. Even if you’re not sure you’re ready.

That’s exactly what I’ve done in FareStart’s Foodservice Apprenticeship Program, where I got the chance to collaborate on a dish with renowned Chef Thierry Rautureau. My task: to make a tapenade and harissa to pair with a lemon duck confit he’d created for a special community event.

Both spreads can be tricky to pull off. I tested batch after batch, determined to get it just right. I won’t lie. There were moments when I felt so intimidated I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. I stuck to it, though. Chef Thierry gave me great feedback on what worked well and what I could do to make it even better the next time. He said, “You know, this is just cooking. This is just having fun.”

What an amazing opportunity. It’s the kind you only get at a place like FareStart, where everyone shares a passion for food and the power of second chances.

My second chance started in prison. After struggling with addiction for most of my life, I finally sought treatment and got counseling. I dug down deep and dealt with the root causes of the wreck my life had become.

I’d felt lost for so long, stuck on this dark road. Then FareStart showed up, and I finally saw the light at the end of my tunnel. I heard stories of people like me who had turned their lives around through culinary training. It gave me hope that someday, I could look in the mirror and not see a decay to society, a deadbeat mother, a constant disappointment to my friends and my family.

I enrolled in the Adult Culinary Program as soon as I got out, gained the solid foundation of skills I needed to get my first job as a line cook. I worked hard and did so well, a colleague hired me to open a new restaurant with her. I applied for FareStart’s Apprenticeship Program as soon as I heard about it.

It’s been amazing to work with phenomenal chefs who are generous with their time, and so encouraging when they teach us their techniques. I write down all these questions ahead of time: Why do these flavors infuse this way? What are you looking for in an employee? How can I stand out in a competitive job market?

Chef Joe Ritchie from Goldfinch Tavern at the Four Seasons gave me this advice: If you’re willing to show up every day, eager to do a good job and learn, you’re ahead of the game.

I’m so grateful that FareStart took a chance on me. The road ahead won’t be easy. I know I have to keep working hard — not just to advance my career, but also to repair the relationships in my life.

There’s a saying I’ve thought about a lot these last few years. It’s kept me going through tough times, and will keep me grounded as I start my first dream job: in Chef Joe’s kitchen at Goldfinch Tavern at Four Seasons.

“Your past doesn’t determine where you can go. It only determines where you start.”

Casey, 2018 FareStart’s Foodservice Apprentice Program graduate