In the May issue, Young Yun, executive director of the ment’or BKB Foundation, discussed the foundation’s mission and its grant program, which provides educational opportunities and resources to enable young chefs in the U.S. to stagier around the world. This month, she explains the application process and how young chefs can become involved.  

What ages are applicants and what characteristics should they have?  

Young chefs applying for the grant program range from 23 to early 30s, and in terms of experience we see all levels. However, we have a minimum requirement of three years of work experience. We’re looking for young chefs who are committed to their work and serious about furthering their career growth. 

The award grantees have very specific thoughts and ideas about their desired stage and what they hope to learn. This comes through in the essays they write as well as in the recommendations we receive from their current and past employers. Recommendations are great indications of the applicant’s potential and their dedication to growing. 

How do they become engaged in the application process?

Many young chefs learn about the grant program through our culinary council, which includes more than 40 chefs across the U.S. We promote everything through social media, and even though we are only entering our third year of taking applications and hosting the grant program, many applicants have met someone who was part of the program in the first or second year, so we’ve seen some growth just from word of mouth. We also do an outreach to culinary schools to help build awareness about this program to their alumni network.  While the grant program isn’t really available to their current students, our hope is that these students realize they have resources available to them once they become working professionals.

When young chefs apply, do they choose whom they work with?

We have a list of restaurants based on our culinary council that they can select from, and we ask them to prioritize locations they are interested in. If there is a place outside of that list where they want to go, they can write a suggested option. The places they identify—coupled with what they are trying to gain from the stagier experience—are how we determine what will work for them. 

When an applicant is accepted into the grant program, then there’s a series of conversations about timing and location.  

Where do young chefs typically want to go?

We’ve had an increase in requests for international stagiers this year, and the great thing about the international stagiers is that chefs experience the culture and life in a different setting. However, what I’m really excited about is how the culinary profession in the U.S. has grown—over the last 30 years American cuisine has transformed. There are endless opportunities with various types of cuisine and a growing network of great chefs, so now young chefs no longer have to go internationally for an amazing experience.

How many grants do you anticipate awarding this year?

The first year we had 29, this past December we awarded 24, and our hope is to keep growing this program each year.  

Chef Profiles, Feature, Leader Insights