A Day in the Life of a CulinaryLab Student


As a mother of 3 children, this passionate home cook thought it was too late to go back to school and pursue her culinary dreams… until she discovered CulinaryLab Cooking School. Meet Joana, a student from our inaugural class. Joana attends school two days a week, and works at Haven Gastropub two days a week as part of her apprenticeship.

Why did you decide to go to culinary school, and why did you choose CulinaryLab?
It’s something I had been thinking of doing for the past several years, as I truly love cooking. Being a mom of 3, I thought it was too late to start school and follow my dreams. I checked out a couple other schools a few years ago, but they didn’t seem right. I stumbled upon CulinaryLab last summer and was instantly drawn to their program. They teach modern cooking techniques.

Is culinary school everything you thought it would be?
It’s nothing I thought it would be, but in a good way. It’s very hands on, fast-paced and challenging. I love it!

Tell us about your apprenticeship at Haven Gastropub in Orange.
Haven Gastropub is a great place to just hang out and have some gourmet food without the stuffiness. I chose Haven as my apprenticeship site for that reason, I wanted to work in a restaurant that produces high quality meals in a relaxed and comfortable setting. I’m currently being mentored by Chef Craig Brady, Chef de Cuisine. It’s an awesome experience and I’m learning from the best. I’m fortunate that the school arranged this apprenticeship for me and that Chef Greg Daniels, owner & partner, selected me for this opportunity.

What cooking experience did you have prior to starting your apprenticeship?
I was just a home cook, I have a big family and love the opportunity to cook for them. I also started making cakes a few years ago, and it’s something I still like to do on the weekends.

How has your apprenticeship experience helped with your growth?
I’m taken out of my comfort zone every time I’m there. It has helped me challenge myself and be more open-minded when it comes to ingredients and techniques.

What are some new techniques and dishes you’ve learned by working as an apprentice at Haven?
I’ve learned so much! My newest technique is rolling out pretzels, I know it sounds easy, but it’s way harder than you’d think. I’ve also learned how to make fresh sausage, bologna and many other cool things.

What is a typical day like?
Busy! If the Chef doesn’t give me something to do right away, I ask who needs help and the day goes from there. As soon as I’m done with a task there is always something else to be done. The time just flies by.

Is there anything that you didn’t expect to encounter at your apprenticeship?
Yes. I didn’t realize how many people it takes to run a successful restaurant and how much work goes into making quality food.

What’s it like working in the kitchen with other staff and what kind of kitchen etiquette have you learned?
It’s great! There’s definitely a lot going on at once, but overall everyone knows the rhythm. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s always important to communicate… “behind”, “hot”, etc. Also, if the Chef says something is there and you can’t find it, keep looking… it’s there!

How does your apprenticeship and your education at school complement each other?
I think it has really helped me learn faster. There are a lot of things I pick up at the restaurant before I learn them at school (and vice versa), so I’m more prepared when needed.

What advice do you have for those thinking about attending CulinaryLab?
Go for it! If you’re passionate about cooking, this is an amazing program. I’ve learned so much in just 2 1/2 months and can’t wait to learn more!