A Summer Spent Working in the Food Industry

A big part of college is landing the perfect internship. This past summer, many students stayed in New York City to intern full time, or went home and got internships there.

However, there are many other ways to gain valuable experience. Instead of internships, some students work full time jobs, several part time jobs, study abroad or do research.

When that dream internship just does not work out or the $0/hr wage is not formidable to life in New York City, students find other means of making the most of their summer, while adding important experience to their resumes.

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Photo Courtesy of Abi Kloosterman.

My summer job began with a networking connection. A second cousin, actually. A good friend of his needed an assistant for the upcoming summer months. I interviewed for the job in early February, thinking that I am most definitely unqualified as a soon-to-be junior with no New York work experience at the young age of 19.

Somehow, I got the job: the job being a personal assistant to a brilliant chef, restaurant and catering company owner.

As I correctly assumed beforehand, I knew nothing about the food industry and any superficial knowledge I had was attributed to my obsession with Anthony Bourdain.

The summer began cool and rainy. My hour-and-a-half commute to Brooklyn each day was a calming time to read, pop in headphones and think of funny one-liners about how awful the NYC Subway is for Twitter, if only I could be paid for that.

Essentially, all was calm, the job was going smoothly and the NYC summer was mild – until my boss asked me if I drove.

Photo Courtesy of Abi Kloosterman.

As a personal or administrative assistant, your job includes running errands, sending emails and doing general organizational tasks.

And sometimes your job includes driving a catering van and delivering food to events throughout the busiest city in the United States.

While the traffic, small streets and the casual broken side mirror may seem daunting, driving in NYC was a task I never thought I would have to – or be able to – do. I delivered to Microsoft in Times Square, Yves Saint Laurent on 5th Ave, Canali Shoes in Meatpacking and to the filming set of the show “Blue Bloods.” Pretty cool, if you ask me.

My job not only included deliveries, but also shopping – a lot of shopping. I purchased endless bags of pita bread, this vegetable/root thing called “Daikon” and enough bamboo skewers to serve appetizers to the entire island of Manhattan. During these trips I realized grocery store owners are undoubtedly some of the best people in this city.

The deliveries, 10-hour days and constant interaction with purveyors of all kinds, increased my communication skills, assertiveness and relationships with people. People who will help you out when you need 80 gluten free cupcakes in less than 12 hours. Relationships are everything.

Photo Courtesy of Abi Kloosterman.

My summer experience went a lot differently than I had planned. I dreamt of an internship at Hearst, a larger communications company or a well-known fashion house. I applied to internships everywhere and often. The response from the majority: silence.

Doors were not slammed in my face, they frankly, did not even open up. Until that one email inquiring about my interest in some personal assistant work in the fickle, unforgiving and absolutely amazing food industry.

Hands down, my job this summer taught me more about myself and what I want to do with my life than any internship could. There is no quality that replaces hard work and a willingness to learn, observe and above all, say “yes.”

Sometimes going against the current and taking a different path, one different than the corporate internship one, pays off in big and unexpected ways. It all starts with a simple and enthusiastic, “yes.”