From Culinary Graduate to Ritz-Carlton Banquets Lead: Caitlyn Halcomb’s Inspiring Journey
Just before students at The Culinary School of Fort Worth graduate – about two months out, to be exact – they are presented with opportunities to gain real-world food industry experience through the school’s acclaimed externship program.
For alumna Caitlyn Halcomb, a Joshua native who graduated in July 2022, that meant becoming a part of the renowned Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts. Halcomb, along with fellow alumna Jessica Schell, were both selected by The Culinary School of Fort Worth instructors to consider the high-end property for their externship – and as a potential future employer.
“The instructors send you out on an externship to see if you will enjoy the culinary field,” says Halcomb. “They give you opinions on where they think you’d be a good fit.
The luxe resort, which is located in Las Colinas and is set to transition into a Ritz-Carlton property later this year, was indeed a fit, says Halcomb. Both she and Schell not only acquired full-time jobs at the resort right after graduation, but also gained once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience at two of the resort’s sister properties.
“I was working in banquets at the Four Seasons right after graduation, and then Jessica and I were sent to the Four Seasons Hotel Boston soon after for about three weeks as part of the Four Seasons task force,” says Halcomb.
“While there, I was able to receive my first experience on the line,” says Halcomb. “It was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time.”
Halcomb observed how the hotel’s banquet department operated with all new flavors and dishes during a new menu launch. She also learned how to fabricate fresh lobster daily for the hotel’s famed lobster rolls. She and Schell even received time off to sightsee and experience the historic city.
“The people and the environment were entirely different from anything I’d ever been around,” Halcomb says. “I came back with new skills and the urge to dive more into my career.”
Just five months later, Halcomb and Schell were chosen for yet another task force trip – this time spanning more than a month at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.
“Again, they put you wherever you are needed, so I was back on the line in their wonderful restaurant, Manzanita,” says Halcomb. “This time, I was cooking directly in front of guests and even running their in-room dining department by myself some nights.”
Other days Halcomb oversaw garde manger on the line, where her creativity was put to the test, she says. Every dinner shift required a new amuse bouche, and Halcomb says she was proud of the picturesque dishes she created in a short amount of time.
“There were many challenges we ran into, but nothing that we all couldn’t face head on and overcome,” she says.
Just like in Boston, Halcomb was given time to explore Lake Tahoe’s beautiful mountain scenery. (Bonus that she ended up getting engaged while there.) She says skills she learned during her time at the Culinary School of Fort Worth helped prepare her to face real-world obstacles in the culinary industry, which led to her being chosen by her employer for the task force trips.
“I was originally a nursing student before going to The Culinary School of Fort Worth,” says Halcomb. “I had been studying health science since I was a freshman in high school. My passion is in helping others, but two hospital jobs during two years of COVID-19 had me questioning everything. I decided to take a break from nursing and try out my passion for cooking. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I found my true calling.”
Halcomb now works as a lead in banquets as the Las Colinas Resort undergoes its transformation into the Ritz. She was recently recognized as a “five-star employee” in the first quarter for her department, and says she looks forward to participating in the company’s next task force destination project.
“I have proven to my peers and leaders that I have what it takes to represent our brand with the upmost integrity and respect,” says Halcomb. “These experiences are exactly what I needed to prove to myself that I am right where I need to be.”
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THE CULINARY SCHOOL OF FORT WORTH
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