Two students enrolled in the Queen Anne County culinary apprenticeship program say that — in addition to helping them build their capability in the kitchen — their participation has given them skills they will employ throughout their lives.
Students Amy Ludden, a recent Kent Island High School graduate, and current Kent Island senior James Smith enrolled in the apprenticeship program during their junior years of high school. Amy completed the program, and James is currently completing the working portion. Whereas students in internships work at their appointed business for 7.5 hours a week per credit, those in the apprenticeship program must work 450 total hours across their Junior and Senior years, and receive 141 hours of related instruction.
Amy was one of the first students to complete the culinary apprenticeship. She and three others in the class of 2023 participated and completed the program.
“I was interested in the culinary program because I was looking for a job at the time, and this offered me a different opportunity than what is typically available for people my age,” Amy says. “I also liked that it offered high school class credit and ServSafe certification and was much more interactive than a normal class, which makes it more fun.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, James discovered a passion for cooking and baking when he began helping his parents out in the kitchen at home.
“I just found it so interesting,” James recalls. “When I discovered the dual enrollment opportunity during my junior year, I thought, ‘Wow, I should sign up for that.’ I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn new culinary skills.”
For the apprenticeship program, participating students leave their high school twice weekly for a four-hour class at Chesapeake College. There, they learn the basics of food safety and preparation in the classroom, while also working in the kitchen at a local culinary business. For the work portion, students apply for jobs at participating culinary businesses and interview for the youth apprenticeship position. The classroom portion and the culinary job experience begin during the same semester, and the locations for the work experience portion of the program must be pre-approved.
“I interviewed at a few places before I picked Fisherman’s Inn,” Amy says. “I knew a few Kent Island classmates who worked there, so I felt comfortable with the people and liked the environment. I felt that I connected with them quickly and that it would offer me the most opportunities.”
James is employed at the Acts Retirement Bayleigh Chase community in Easton, working full-time throughout the summer. While he had previously worked in the kitchen of a summer camp serving about 120 campers, they were preparing fundamental, mostly frozen foods. While that experience had taught him the importance of being mindful of diners’ allergies,
James said his kitchen experience during the apprenticeship program has helped him expand his knowledge even more. At Bayleigh Chase, he primarily works as a prep cook, helping to prepare ingredients ahead of time to allow service to flow smoothly throughout the day. He’s also worked the salad station, been in charge of serving residents their orders, and worked the fryer.
“My previous experience served me well as I cook for the residents,” says James. “I’ve been working at Bayleigh Chase since the week before Christmas and learned a lot. I like that it’s a laid-back kitchen. They treat their employees very well, and I feel like I’m a big part of the kitchen here. I get a lot of support.”
Amy worked at Fisherman’s Inn from March 2022 through January 2023, working part-time during the school year and longer hours during the summer. Amy started as a prep cook in the kitchen before moving on to the line. She also worked on the salad bar and the fryer; however, she most enjoyed the preparation work.
Despite working four or five days a week while school was in session, Amy says the apprenticeship didn’t impact her classwork or her spot on the school’s field hockey team. Preparing in the classroom for her experiences at her culinary job was also helpful.
“The classroom portion prepared me for most aspects of working in the kitchen,” Amy says. “I already knew how to scan recipes, and it also taught me valuable interpersonal skills when things would get hectic in the kitchen. I could also safely cut and prepare food, rather than learning those skills completely on the job.”
Amy was also given the opportunity to present about the apprenticeship to her fellow students in March at her high school. Despite a lack of experience with public speaking, she was excited to share how much she got out of the program with those in attendance.
“I enjoyed talking about it because it’s awesome to have these opportunities,” says Amy. “It gives you a strong foundational background for your resumé and puts you ahead of your peers in terms of experience. I got a lot of amazing feedback from the parents and students in attendance, telling me that I either convinced them to participate or made them think about something they hadn’t considered before. It was rewarding, and it made me very happy.”
In addition to the cooking, James says he values the improved communication skills he’s gained during his culinary apprenticeship.
“As I’ve gone along, I’ve learned a lot of the language in the kitchen, and it’s helped me adapt,” says James. “I’ve learned to work better under pressure, and even in this short time, I’ve seen my work improve, and it’s helped me strive to be better.”
James says his apprenticeship experience has laid a solid foundation for his future career, culinary or otherwise.
“I’m really enjoying my time at Bayleigh Chase, but I’m also very excited about what’s in store for me,” James says. “I’d like to explore other kitchen settings, which has prepared me for whatever I do next. I’m very grateful for my experience. Even if you’re not planning a culinary career, I encourage other students to participate. In addition to learning to cook, you learn so much that can help you, and it opens up many other opportunities.”
While Amy doesn’t plan to pursue a full-time career as a chef — she is starting as a student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in the fall, studying neuroscience, psychology, and Spanish — she feels the skills she learned during her apprenticeship have prepared her well for her next steps.
“This will help me find a job while I’m in college, so it can help pay some of my expenses,” Amy says. “The program emphasizes communication and interpersonal skills, which will serve you well anywhere. I also learned how to stay cool under pressure in a fast-paced environment. I feel more confident and can work and contribute more efficiently in a group setting.”
Queen Anne’s County Public Schools offer a multitude of apprenticeship programs, including the culinary apprenticeship program, to high school students. To learn more about the apprenticeship program and other youth opportunities, visit our website.
Categories: Youth Career Development