Last year, Sunriver Resort launched a new chef apprenticeship program in collaboration with the American Culinary Federation. The four-year program trains chefs on the job, ultimately graduating twelve per year with hopes that these highly trained professionals remain in the Central Oregon restaurant industry. Executive Chef Joshua Hedrick explained to Bend Magazine the origins and hopes for this innovative approach to growing local chefs.
Tell us how this program came to be.
The apprenticeship program started as a conversation with key stakeholders here at Sunriver Resort about finding the right people to join our culinary staff—those interested in building a career. After spending virtually my entire professional life in this industry, I feel an obligation to pay forward what I’ve learned and inspire the next generation of chefs in a supportive learning work environment. This program became a personal passion project of mine, and with the backing of the team here at Sunriver Resort, I believe we have created something very special to offer someone looking to build a culinary career with clearly defined growth opportunities.
How does the program work and what are its goals?
Our collaboration with the American Culinary Federation, the oldest and largest certification body in the United States, means the education has a proven track record dating back to the 1970s. Every student is a full-time, year-round associate here at the resort and has access to all of the perks that come along with working for a top-tier employer, including a very good starting wage with yearly increases and promotions built right into the education. A student comes to work like a normal employee and works a normal week in the kitchen learning the trade; then we have online training through the ACF and class time every Wednesday.
The program is set up in three building blocks of education and experience levels starting at the absolute fundamentals of what being a chef is, i.e., knife skills and safety training. Over the course of four years, the training progresses to a very proficient line cook with the skill set in costing and menu development to be ready for a sous chef level position. We take advantage of how many kitchen and service types the resort has to offer, so over time students will gain experience in a fine dining setting with à la carte service, banquets and weddings, as well as fast casual and café settings. The certification level available through the program here at Sunriver Resort is higher than if you graduated culinary school.
How are apprentices selected?
Anyone can apply, and those with an interest in food and passion for hospitality should. There are no minimum experience requirements and no cost to the students. This really is the best of everything for the apprentices—a true get-paid-to-learn situation!
What results have you seen so far?
Our first class is getting ready for their first testing and promotion. It is amazing to be a part of the students’ growth and see their confidence build through the experience. We are working to expand the campus-feel of this program and in the next few months will start to offer classes with outside professionals and chefs in things like butchery, pasta making and business finance.
How are you engaging with the community?
Being a key contributor to the local community is something that is important to us. We hope that working here inspires our apprentices to feel a sense of connection to the local community. While the program is relatively new, we are starting to make headway on raising awareness throughout the broader community. We plan to create real opportunities for our graduating students by hosting job fairs and encouraging local restaurants and resorts to attend. This is a unique program that we are very proud of, something that adds to what makes Sunriver Resort special—for both our guests and our associates. That spirit and passion shines through in the quality of our dishes and presentation, all while contributing to something bigger career-wise for our chef apprentices as well; a true win-win.