By Becky Marmorato
After working for 10 years at General Motors, and with a wife and
five children to support, Ryan Hawkinberry decided it was time
to make a drastic life change and pursue his dream of becoming
a chef. Since apprentices enrolled in the American Culinary
Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF) Apprenticeship
Program earn money while they work in the culinary field and
attend school, Hawkinberry realized that his dream was within
reach. Today he is an apprentice through the ACF Columbus
Chapter at Columbus State Community College, Columbus,
Ohio, and works at Martini Modern Italian, a Cameron Mitchell
Restaurant in Columbus. Here, he talks about his first year as
an apprentice, his interests and goals, and his advice for others
considering a career change.
What circumstances led to your interest in becoming
I used to work for General Motors, but when they started talking
about closing plants and layoffs, I figured it was time for a career
change. I was enrolled in the accounting program at the University
of Phoenix, but transferred to Columbus State Community College
(CSCC), Columbus, Ohio, to start its culinary program, because
that is what I really wanted to do with my life.
After talking everything over with my wife and James Taylor, MBA,
CEC, AAC, associate professor at CSCC, I decided that the school’s
apprenticeship program was exactly what I needed to succeed on
my career path.
Have you always been interested in the culinary field? Why
did you decide to make it your profession?
Ever since I was 7 or 8 years old, I wanted to be a chef. I have always
loved to cook and I feel at home in the kitchen. When I found out
that I would be able to support my family while attending classes, I
knew that it was exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
Has your family been supportive?
I could not ask for a better support group than I have with my
family. With all these people in my corner pushing me to strive to
be better, there is nothing I won’t be able to accomplish.
Who are your mentors while going through the ACFEF
I have had many mentors: Taylor, Dean Cobler, Mokie Steiskal,
Ph.D., Karen Krimmer, CWPC, CC, CPC, Wayne Shoemaker and
Peter Chapman. Each one of them has made me strive to better
myself and further my education. There has not been a time when
I could not contact one of them to get the needed help (or push)
to get where I need to be.
Which station have you found most interesting while
working at Martini Modern Italian?
I have to say that the two that look the most challenging would
be the pasta and sauté stations. I have watched the people who
run those stations juggle many different dishes and not lose their
composure. I hope that when I am working those stations, I will be
able to follow in their footsteps.
Do you think your logbook will be useful in the future?
Oh, yes, my logbook will be a tool that I will use throughout my
entire career. It holds recipes and techniques I will use, as well as
names of chefs I have worked under. The recipes and formulas
I am learning in class will be an invaluable tool later in the
What are some of your goals?
When I graduate, I would like to work on the catering side of the
culinary field. I have talked with Charles Klein of Cameron Mitchell
Catering, Columbus, and will start working at some events soon.
What advice do you have for new apprentices?
Learn to communicate your thoughts and ideas. As you learn the
practical skills, pay attention to detail. If there is something you
do not know, it is your fault if you leave the program not knowing.
There are all types of help that can be obtained by just asking
questions. The reason we are in school is because we do not know
the skills to succeed. The only way to get those skills is to listen,
learn and practice.