Apprentice name: Alex Cramm
Town: Pelham, NH
Place of employment: Omni Mount Washington
Community college name: White Mountains Community College
What made you decide to join the ApprenticeshipNH program?
Both of my parents spent most of their careers in the hospitality industry which exposed me to the industry at a very young age and my passion for it started to build from there.
One day while in Job Corps, a fellow classmate as well as Chef Zingales – the culinary instructor at NH Job Corps – mentioned the ApprenticeshipNH program – he had really great things to say about it and it caught my attention. At the same time, I met Chef Joe Madsia (from Omni Mount Washington), we hit it off and he shared that he was working on putting a team together for the ApprenticeshipNH program and that if I were interested, to go ahead and build a menu as a test. Growing up in New Hampshire, Omni Mount Washington was seen as the best of the best so of course, I decided to go for it. My menu included fresh pasta, fresh sourdough bread and fresh chicken parmesan. The next thing I knew, I was in! I was excited about starting the ApprenticeshipNH program because I knew it would give me a leg up. I would have over 6,000 hours of experience right out of the gate, and I’d have Omni Mount Washington on my resume.
What did you find to be most helpful during your apprenticeship experience?
I started in May of 2018 and what’s been most helpful is the support and openness of our instructors and chefs. I can go right up to the executive chef at the hotel and that is pretty powerful. I am able to have a good working relationship with him and when he sees me very willing to learn, he gets excited about teaching me more. We have a strong support system, and this makes the program even more meaningful.
Is there anything in particular that stands out/ a favorite moment?
Last fall, Chef Joe surprised us with a massive day-long field trip that included a visit to Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. We received tours of the cheese cellars (there are seven large vaults in the ground for aging cheeses), learned about the cheese-making process and met the staff. We also went up to this beautiful room that overlooks the cellars and ended the tour sampling cheeses in the tasting room. It was incredible. We later headed to Ben and Jerry’s and also stopped over at the Cabot Creamery. We ended our day in Saint Johnsbury with dinner at Pica-Pica.
What kinds of qualities do you think it takes to be successful in the ApprenticeshipNH program?
It all comes down to drive and wanting to be successful – a commitment to not want to give up, or back down. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, you need to get out of the kitchen! You need to be mentally tough.
Everyone needs something to keep them going. What keeps me going is my passion and love for the industry, and of course my love of food.
Why did you choose this career path? What inspired you?
My family was my biggest inspiration. From a very early age, my passion for food was awakened and as I grew up it continued to grow and flourish. Both of my parents introduced me to their hospitality colleagues, and chefs from around New England and these chefs too made an impact on me. Beyond this, what inspired me is my love for food and experimentation.
What have you learned about yourself as part of this program and what advice would you give to others?
I learned that I have leadership potential. Actually, Chef Joe noticed first and brought it to my attention. I also learned that although I’ve been exposed to this industry my entire life and have learned a ton, I still have work to do, including sharpening my leadership skills and delegating when appropriate as well.
My advice to others would be if you are having a bad day, tomorrow will most likely be better. Keep your head up, find what motivates you in the kitchen (or what applies to you) and work on keeping that in focus.
If you could describe your experience in the ApprenticeshipNH program in one word, what would it be?
Inspiring. These two years have been the most inspiring and valuable in terms of the amount of information I have learned.
What’s the next career step for you upon completing the program?
I plan on completing the ApprenticeshipNH program in May 2021 and from there I’d like to further my education by working on becoming a Certified Dietary Manager (CDM). The CDM exam is given to evaluate a candidate’s ability to successfully perform the responsibilities of a dietary manager. CDMs are skilled at managing foodservice operations and ensuring food safety.
I’d also like to work on becoming a Certified Executive Chef, and later on, I would like to get certified as a Master Chef. Beyond furthering my education, I plan on staying with Omni Mount Washington for quite a while and perhaps, later on, transitioning into healthcare dining.
Finally, we are dying to know – what’s your favorite food?
I love pasta! I have made my very own pasta and my own ramen as well. As far as cuisine food, I would say, Asian fusion is my favorite. My all-time favorite dessert is panna cotta, and then any kind of custard.