Most people would not expect a chemical company to offer a coveted culinary arts externship program, but Ludwigshaven, Germany-based BASF has provided a memorable experience for selected culinary arts students from the North Miami Campus since JWU began offering the opportunity five years ago.
As part of JWU’s curriculum, students rotate through all restaurant operations, producing food using highly advanced equipment as well as experiencing the BASF culinary team’s unique style. The company’s three major food outlets include a restaurant that’s open to the public and dining centers for its employees and clients. The on-site facilities include a fine-dining restaurant that features a seasonal menu and nightly tasting menu; an event space with a buffet restaurant and seating for 1,300 people; a business hotel with a 200-seat restaurant; and the largest wine cellar in all of Europe.
“Working at BASF was a great experience because I worked with a lot of different ingredients that we don’t use in the states, and prepared food using different techniques than what we’re used to,” said culinary arts junior Michelle Negron, who did her associate degree co-op with the company in spring 2006. Culinary arts junior Dana Beninati’s winter co-op at BASF was so successful that she accepted the company's offer to stay another three months to learn more. Her favorite event was when she worked at a chemical dinner that highlighted the culinary team’s skills with molecular gastronomy. The dining room staff wore chemist’s lab coats and served the 100 guests some of the most interesting food Beninati has ever seen.
“Being at BASF reinforces the strong fundamentals of culinary arts that I’ve learned at JWU,” Beninati said. “The standards of service and quality of ingredients are so high. It’s amazing that they are able to do such high production without ever letting quality or efficiency slip.” Though they were initially experiencing culture shock and homesickness, both Beninati and Negron said the BASF team made them feel welcome. “The team at BASF was so hospitable and always took the extra steps necessary to make sure I was comfortable and successful in my position,” Negron said. “I always felt like I was part of their family, which was nice considering I was so far away from home.”