Scott Whittle

Young Yun, ment’or executive director, discusses the foundation’s grant program that enables young chefs to stagier around the world.

All the World’s A Stagier

A grant program gives young chefs resources to stagier.

The ment’or BKB Foundation is a community of culinary professionals who are dedicated to elevating American cuisine and making the careers of young chefs more successful. A grant program, now in its second year, provides educational opportunities and resources to enable young chefs to stagier with leading restaurants and chefs around the world.

In the first of a two-part series, Young Yun, executive director of the foundation, discusses the grant program. The second installment, coming in the June issue, will address the application process and how young chefs can become involved.

How has the foundation evolved?

When I started in April 2013, it was called the Bocuse d’Or Foundation and the primary focus was around recruiting and supporting Team USA, and providing the structure, organization, and resources the team needed to compete at the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France. But the ment’or Foundation Chefs wanted to do more. They are so committed to this profession, and they wanted to expand upon what they had built with Team USA and develop a way to keep educating and inspiring the next generation of great American chefs—to have that as an ongoing legacy. We realized at the heart of everything is this whole notion of mentorship, so we rebranded as the ment’or BKB Foundation. [BKB for Chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jérôme Bocuse.] Providing grants and recognizing young chefs were key components that the founding chefs wanted to focus on.

What does the program entail?

The grant program is designed to give people the opportunity to have these stagier experiences and to be all-inclusive: It covers the young chef’s salary, their transportation, their accommodations, and a small daily stipend. We made it all-inclusive because we wanted the experience to be less stressful and focused on providing the necessary education in the kitchen that they are seeking so they can grow their career.

How long does a typical stagier last?

The average length of a stagier has been around two months, but sometimes it’s one month and, in one rare instance, the person did it for six months.

When did the grant program start?

We launched it in November of 2014. That was when we first accepted applications and the next month we announced who were awarded grants. That first year, 29 individuals were awarded grants, totaling an amount of approximately $400,000. We were very fortunate to have an anonymous private donor who felt very passionate and committed to this particular initiative and who donated a generous amount of money. We repeated the timing in 2015 and awarded 24 grants in December.

Why is this program important?

Chefs tell me they just want to keep teaching and keep the young chefs motivated. And, chefs often say that all of their experiences from different restaurants and mentors is what has helped shape them to be the chef they are today.

What does the learning entail?

In many cases young chefs are learning specific technical skills, but often they are also learning about different kitchen cultures and leadership skills. There is so much these young chefs are learning, it’s not just about acquiring new skills or techniques, but also how to work in a [high-end] restaurant environment and understanding the type of leadership that must be displayed to work in such a kitchen.

The non-profit ment’or BKB Foundation, created by chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jérôme Bocuse (son of Chef Paul Bocuse), seeks to inspire culinary excellence in young professionals and preserve the traditions and quality of classic cuisine in America. It provides unique educational opportunities, as well as access to a Culinary Council of renowned chefs who serve as mentors, and also sponsors the Bocuse d’Or Team USA.