Jessica Browne

Jessica Browne didn’t know when she joined a C-CAP classroom at Long Island City High School in 2006 that her life was about to change; the freshman just knew she didn’t want a desk job. Through rigorous training under mentor and culinary arts teacher Terry Matsis, Jessica entered the C-CAP New York Cooking Competition for Scholarships and was awarded a $10,000 C-CAP Education Scholarship. by Joyce Appleman

She attended Johnson & Wales University, graduating in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management and dreams of becoming a personal chef. In her search for employment, Jessica reached out to C-CAP. During the meeting with Christine Lee, C-CAP Career Advisor, Jessica learned of the C-CAP/Natural Gourmet Institute Apprenticeship. “I encourage our alumni to reach out to C-CAP when they are seeking work and contemplating their next career decision. In meeting Jessica, it was evident that NGI Apprenticeship would be the job opportunity to fit her needs and that Jessica’s commitment and work ethics would make her a strong candidate for NGI.” It felt too good to be true: an opportunity to continue expanding her culinary knowledge and balance work with the demands of being a new parent.

Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI) is a leader in health-supportive culinary education. In a new partnership, C-CAP alumni will have the chance to take part in NGI’s 600-hour Culinary Apprentice Program, which offers introductory culinary training, with the support of Union Square Hospitality Group, Telepan, The Cleaver Co., and Marlow & Sons, who in turn will get the first opportunities to hire graduating students and can help shape the curriculum to produce graduates who fit their hiring needs. “The program not only offers culinary education and opportunities to students who may otherwise not have access, it also offers New York City restaurants a pool of skilled entry-level workers There is no doubt that recruiting students from partners Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) and Family Cook Productions strengthens the apprentices’ marketability as they take on their first culinary position in some of New York City’s top kitchens,” says Anthony Fassio, CEO of Natural Gourmet Institute.

During the program, the apprentices also assist in public classes and Friday Night Dinner at NGI as well as gain experience in the stewarding department and at GrowNYC Union Square Greenmarket cooking demos. “We are thrilled that NGI is offering the opportunity to C-CAP students like Jessica to study in a professional environment that emphasizes the importance of health and well being from what you eat and empowers these young people to bring this interdisciplinary approach to their families and communities while promoting a sustainable and affordable food system,” says C-CAP President Susan Robbins.

We sat down with Jessica, who is now 2 months into the program, to ask her about her experience so far.

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How does being an apprentice at NGI help you achieve your career goals?

I want to be a personal chef, and healthy eating is really in right now. I need to know how to make delicious and interesting dishes for all kinds of healthy diets to meet the demands of my future clients. At NGI, I am learning new things about the ingredients I use. I’m learning how to make healthy, inspiring dishes and how to use that knowledge to come up with my own.

What is the best thing about your apprenticeship?

I have a son who is just a few months old. When I became a mom, things changed for me. Your dreams shift. I didn’t want to give up on myself or my goals to be successful in the industry, but I want to be a good mom and to me, that means being there for my son. With the apprenticeship, I have a set schedule, I don’t work late nights, I know I have time in my life for my education and for my son—and I’m still earning a living and moving closer to my goals. It’s like that expression “work smarter, not harder.” It’s the smartest choice for continuing my education. I’m really grateful that this opportunity came along.

What has been most surprising about your time at NGI so far?

One day I went looking for the sugar—and there wasn’t any! They actually do not keep any on-site. That was a shock. Of course they have many healthy natural sweeteners on hand, so I’m learning about all of those.