Lauren Dinley is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in Campbell, California. After receiving her diploma in Professional Culinary Arts, alumni Lauren Dinley took on a very sweet position with B. Toffee. Learn her story below on following your passion and setting realistic expectations for yourself to achieve goals.
In what capacity do you work for B. toffee? What does your job entail in a broad sense as well as day-to-day?
B. toffee, although is growing rapidly, is still a small company with a reasonably small team. When I started working for B. toffee, my main job description was toffee production and packaging. In the last year, I’ve worked with the owner, Betsy, in the office, in an attempt to see the business side of things more. Prior to this holiday season, we added a few new people to our team, giving us time to train them in production. Because of this added help, I was in charge of all of our web orders, getting them packaged, labeled, and shipped. On a day-to-day basis, I’ll arrive early in the day and either start toffee production or packaging of the toffee. Some days we have more orders going out, so I help ship them before getting started in the kitchen.
How did you get involved with the company?
In Fall 2012, pre-ICC, I took a semester at Orange Coast College in their Culinary Arts program. Periodically, restaurants or other companies in the industry would contact the director of the program seeking interns or students looking for employment. Betsy had emailed our director and upon reading the job posting I applied, this was either November or December of 2012. I actually didn’t get hired until February 2013 because Betsy was so busy with the holiday season!
What inspired you to enroll in culinary school? Were there certain steps/thoughts that lead you to the decision?
Cooking has always been something I’ve enjoyed. When I was 16, I was going through a major chef wannabe phase and I began researching culinary schools. Shortly into my research I came across The French Culinary Institute (Pre-ICC days!) and realized that’s where I wanted to learn. I continued my research once I graduated from high school, but started taking courses at Orange Coast College until I knew for sure what I wanted to do. At that point ICC opened a California campus, I emailed the school to set up a meeting/tour. I also reached out to CIA in Napa, why not check it out if I was to be that close? I knew instantly upon arriving that that was the school for me; the tour was amazing, every chef I encountered was great, and the students were both friendly and informative. The school (ICC) was warm and friendly. After my visit, I went back to Southern California where I completed a few more semesters at OCC. This included the one culinary semester. I spent an entire summer saving money and by December 2013 I was officially attending ICC!
What were your greatest challenges at school? And how were you to overcome them?
Honestly, being away from home was the hardest. At that point, it was the first time I’d be out of my family home, and it was exciting and fun, but difficult at times. Luckily, my roommates and classmates became my new little family away from home, and we’re still close friends. School itself came easy to me, I think that’s because I found my niche. I felt comfortable at school, even on challenging days I was calm and ready for whatever was to be thrown our way. Every chef instructor was incredible, they all had a great sense of humor and were so knowledgeable.
If someone was hesitant to pursue and education in the culinary arts, what would you say to encourage them?
I’d tell them to first get a job in the industry. I think a lot of people have this fantasy of what its like to work in the industry based off of cooking shows, celebrity chefs, and even food bloggers. I think a lot of people don’t realize how hard the work is, and that chances are you aren’t always going to be recognized right away. You have to, in most cases, put in the hard work, challenge yourself. You have to be willing to work under great chefs, who at one point in their lives were in the same place as you. I think another important thing for people considering going to culinary school is that the possibilities in the food industry are endless; you don’t have to only pursue a career in restaurants. I think it’s important to get experience in as many different areas within the industry as possible. I knew going into school that long term, restaurants was not where I wanted to end up, but getting some experience from them is so beneficial.”