Culinary students spend summer cooking on French Riviera

October 11, 2018

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Two Pennsylvania College of Technology culinary arts students added a measure of clarity to their career aspirations during summer internships on the French Riviera.

“It really changed my perspective on things, on how I want to do things when I own my own restaurant,” said Amaris T. Smith, of Williamsport.

Smith and Dylan H. Therrien, of Reading, spent two months in the kitchens of Le Mas Candille, a luxury hotel and spa in Moujins, France, a picturesque village near Cannes. Both are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in culinary arts and systems. The resort featured two gourmet restaurants: a poolside restaurant called La Pergola, and the Michelin-rated Le Candille, an intimate boutique restaurant.

An image of France, with two chairs set up at a cafe table.

A photo taken by Pennsylvania College of Technology culinary arts and systems student Dylan H. Therrien, of Reading, shows the view from one of the two gourmet restaurants in which he and classmate Amaris T. Smith, of Williamsport, worked during summer internships in Moujins, France, near Cannes.

IMAGE: Dylan H. Therrien

Under the guidance of the chefs of La Pergola, Smith and Therrien were taught to refine their skills.

“I’m glad, because they are skills we will need,” Therrien said.

“We had fun in the kitchen, but when service started, we put our serious face on,” Smith said. “The customers are paying so many euros, you take pride and dedication in your work.”

Between lunch service and dinner, Smith spent the late-afternoon portion of her shift alone in the kitchen, fulfilling “snack time” orders, cutting vegetables and doing other prep for dinner, and tidying the workspace.

“From 3 to 6 p.m., I could see how I wanted to run my kitchen,” she said. “I could do everything myself. … I could be who I could be in the kitchen. It also taught me about speed. … All of these things taught me to be fast and do the hardest thing first. It taught me how to maneuver.”

Therrien spent the final two weeks of the two-month internship in the resort’s Le Candille, where he was blown away by the time and precision applied to each “artistic gastronomy” dish.

“During dinner service, right before service, you could hear a pin drop. Nothing was said. That spoke volumes to me,” Therrien said. “That showed me how I want to run a restaurant.”

He learned that if food was not plated exactly as instructed, it would not be given to customers.

“At a Michelin-star restaurant, they don’t just put food on the plate,” Therrien said. “They put food on the plate in a certain way – everything has a purpose. … A restaurant can gain or lose a star based on one person’s review.”

It makes Therrien crave more of that intensity, as he hopes to find future work in a Michelin-rated restaurant after graduation.

Both students said their initial experience was “rocky.”

“You have to have a reality check,” Smith said. “And then, when you become yourself in the kitchen, your plates represent who you are. … It really has changed me as a young female on my own, a foreigner in someone else’s home. … My mindset is on a different level than it was before.”

As she left the resort, she found she’d established a second family.

“We built an incredible bond,” she said.

Smith is eyeing the possibility of a six-month internship outside the U.S. after her graduation in May. Therrien, who plans to graduate in December, would like to return to France and hopes to someday work in the kitchens of Japan.

“It’s a tough experience, and you either love it or hate it,” said Therrien, who indicated he also had a lot of fun: canyoneering, rappelling down waterfalls and snorkeling in the Mediterranean. “You either love experiencing another culture and another food, or you don’t. It opened my eyes.”

Penn College offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in culinary arts, and an associate degree in baking and pastry arts. To learn more, call 570-327-4505 or visit www.pct.edu/culinary.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Last Updated October 11, 2018