A Conversation with Brett Fife and Brooke Petty, by Jake Fernberg; Photography Courtesy of Taste the Future and Lindey's
On August 11, Lindey’s will be participating for the fifth year running in “Taste the Future”, Columbus State’s fundraiser that doubles as a culinary smorgasbord. Lindey’s relationship with Columbus State goes beyond participating in a fundraiser; Lindey’s is also heavily involved in the college’s Culinary Apprenticeship program, hosting two apprentices from the program in the kitchen at Lindey’s at any given time.
When I spoke with Brett Fife, Lindey’s executive chef who is an alumnus of the Culinary Apprenticeship Program, and Brooke Petty, a current culinary apprentice, the benefits of the 3-year program became clear—it prepares students for a career as a chef by providing invaluable hands-on experience. Read more about what Brett and Brooke have to share about the merits of the program and Taste the Future.—Jake Fernberg
Q: How long has Lindey’s been involved with Taste the Future?
Brett Fife: Lindey’s has had a pretty storied history with Taste the Future, it goes all the way back to some of the original, two or three summers ago when we had Taste the Future, Cameron Mitchell, Hubert Seifert, and Sue Doody [and others] were all honored there for being part of the program kind of from the beginning. There was a time when I think the restaurant fell off and wasn’t having any more apprentices so when I came on in 2010 and started that back up, because I’m a graduate of the program.
I started the program in ‘98 and I got out of it for a few years and then I was jumping around jobs and then finished my degree in 2004. So I have my bachelor’s as well as my culinary [degree].
Q: What are the expectations you have for apprentices within the program?
BF: Pretty high expectations, people that hopefully want to go to culinary school know what they’re getting into and get a job at a restaurant hopefully before or right when they start school so they know what the demands are as far as time and dedication.
It obviously takes up a huge part of your life. It’s a huge time strain. I work 60-65 hours a week without fail. It’s a very arduous industry but it has a lot of rewards. I’m a giving person, I like to do things for people. I like to make food for people, so that’s what I do. Hopefully, I am giving people that experience. But as far as apprentices, I want them to learn what they’re getting into, I want them to learn, I want them to progress.
Q: What are you going to prepare for Taste the Future this year?
BF: It’s still undecided at the moment. The last couple of years, we’ve done the watermelon gazpacho. For a couple of years now I’ve done a crostini with pickled shrimp and a pickled watermelon rind on top as well. We’ve done our crab cakes (the crab cakes at Lindey’s are pretty popular). We usually try to do something along the same lines as what we have at the restaurant but sometimes we also like to go outside of the box and do something totally different.
Q: Brooke, how often are you here as part of the apprenticeship program?
Brooke Petty: I’m usually here five days a week, because I have class two days a week. So the only days I have off are the days I go to school. The hours vary, I have to maintain a minimum of 40 hours a week for the program, but it can vary to above that, depending on what we have going on. Especially with restaurant week coming up I know I’ll be putting in some extra hours. But as far as my shift goes, I work evenings and mornings.
BF: She’s kind of a mixed bag, wherever I need her.
BP: Yeah, there are no guarantees. [I sometimes work] weekends, and holidays.
Q: How’s the apprenticeship going?
BP: I love it! It’s great. The thing about Columbus State’s program that differs from other places is you have to work the whole time, so you go into it working with people from all different restaurants, and you meet a lot of people that you could use to further your career. [There are also opportunities on campus] like the Student Hot Team, a competitive culinary team that I’m doing, and it’s really awesome. You learn a lot and you meet a lot of great people and chefs across the city and state.
Q: Beyond the classroom, what has this experience in the apprenticeship program taught you?
BP: It’s taught me that you have to have a lot of patience. You don’t just become a chef right when you graduate from school, you have to start from the bottom. When I started in the kitchen, I was doing prep work. Just because you go to culinary school, does not mean you are going to be an executive chef. You have to have a passion and drive as well as a commitment to do it. You have to put in the time and effort, like Chef Brett said. It’s not an easy path.
Q: Have you been involved in the Taste The Future process?
BP: I did, last year was my first year with Lindey’s and it was amazing. It opens your eyes to see all these different restaurants and the opportunities that you get to go [to the event] and be a part of it is really fantastic.
Q: Do you have any long-term goals with this apprenticeship program or your life after it?
BP: Long terms goals are to continue working here [at Lindey’s] and working my way up through the kitchen. Of course everyone who graduates from culinary school would say “I want to be a sous-chef and an executive chef, and win chef of the year. But you have to make one hurdle after the other.
BF: It’s always great to be able to help give back to the [apprenticeship] program. Like I said, I was a graduate there and I still know a lot of people there and I’ve seen people that I went to school with that have gone on to work in some high profile restaurants in other cities. Just because it’s a little community college in Columbus Ohio doesn’t mean you can’t do big things.
Taste the Future will be occurring this year on August 11, 2015 from 6-9 p.m. on Columbus State's main campus. If you would like to learn more about the event or purchase a ticket, visit tastethefuture.com.