I submitted this article to be published in La Papillote, the Culinary Institute of America newspaper. It made the cut. Unfortunately, they didn’t publish it right away, so some of the information is outdated, but majority of the article is still timely.
Confused, dumbfounded, surprised – and that’s the nice way of describing how people reacted when I told them that I’d be going to Des Moines, Iowa for my externship. I got raised eyebrows, rolled eyes, and more often than not “you are going where?” When I patiently repeated myself that yes, in fact, I would soon be driving to Des Moines, every other person was more than happy to inform me that I would be spending five months in the middle of a corn field, as a crazy person. After all, who in their right mind would choose to go to Iowa when there were so many externships in more desirable culinary locations such as New York, Miami, or Los Angeles?
I’ll admit that Des Moines was not on the top of my list when I began my externship search. In fact, it wasn’t even on my radar. I focused my search on the experience that the externship would offer, which to me outweighed the location or the big name attached to the site. From the time I decided to attend culinary school, I knew that ultimately, I wanted to be on the “other side of the industry.” Spending seven months at school only reinforced my decision, and as a result, I focused my externship search on publishing and research and development establishments. I was not too surprised to see that the list was rather short – the majority of sites were for traditional restaurant and hotel externships.
Being realistic and fiscally responsible, I eliminated non-paying externships. As tough as it was to say “good-bye” to well-known publications in New York and Los Angeles, I didn’t see myself happily living in these expensive cities without an income. Instead, I selected my top six paying externships and sent out resumes and cover letters. Several sites fell through pretty quickly because of the time schedule conflict; another one played hard-to get and never returned my phone calls. I began to feel stressed out and worried – the externship was just a few months away, and I had no potential locations secured. That’s when I went back to my original list and took a closer look.
Des Moines, Iowa – I had to consult a map. Hmm…I’d be cold and isolated in a new place, but I remembered that I was searching for an externship, not a vacation spot, and persevered. The externship would be at Cuisine at home magazine, part of August Home Publishing. After some on-line research, I sent out my resume and cover letter and was soon contacted by the magazine’s editor. With the first interview out of the way, I waited to receive copies of the magazine in the mail to help me decide if it would be the right fit. And it was! I loved the content and format of the magazine, as well as the educational emphasis and focus for the home cook. I happily accepted the externship offer and was ready for my drive to Des Moines.
What I have discovered over the last few months as an extern is how fortunate I am to have chosen this particular site. As an editorial intern at Cuisine, I have developed and tested recipes for the magazine, written copy, assisted with photo shoots, and participated in peer editing. One of the benefits of working at a smaller company is the ability to be involved in every aspect of the daily routine. With direct access to both the editorial and art teams at the magazine, I have learned about the magazine business beyond my expectations.
There are plenty of job perks as well. The work environment at Cuisine is similar to a corporate one and offers regular weekly hours with weekends and holidays off. Furthermore, with constant recipe development in our test kitchens, there is always plenty of food for breakfast, lunch, and even to take home for dinner. With close ties to the community, members of the magazine often use their culinary expertise for a good cause. Most recently, several of the editors and I served as judges for the Apple Pie contest for a fundraiser at a local retirement home.
At this point, I am half way through my externship and have enjoyed every bit of it. And what about Des Moines? I am happy to report that the city has exceeded my expectations in a positive way. A few weeks ago, New York Times published “In the Spotlight, Ready for Its Close-Up” naming Des Moines a traveling destination for arts and culture. With the presidential campaign in high gear and the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, Des Moines has been a major player in the news lately, drawing much attention and deservingly so. On a regular Sunday afternoon I found myself eating brunch just inches away from Hillary Clinton, and what can beat that?