It’s a Friday morning at NECAT and twenty-one students who began their training four weeks earlier have just received their uniforms.
Chef Bob Krawjeski beams at them proudly.
“When we put on our uniform, we begin to look at ourselves with new eyes. We begin to think of ourselves in a professional sense. The uniform creates an expectation of professionalism.”
His students are listening carefully.
“When we use the word ‘chef,’ not only are we asking someone to show the respect that the title deserves, but we’re giving them an expectation of how we are and how we will act as a professional. Uphold that expectation.” In their fresh new uniforms, several students can be seen looking down, adjusting their cuffs and collars and standing just a little bit taller.
“Alright! Happy Friday! Let’s make it a good one!” he booms and leads his class into the auditorium.
Chef Bob, and his infectious energy, has been at NECAT since October of 2017, just after he made the decision to make a slight career shift. His work in the culinary industry goes back to his days of middle school, when he was asked by a neighbor if he wanted to help out afterschool in her bakery. He began – as does the career of so many chefs – washing dishes. With this exposure to the fast-paced and creative scene inside the bakery, his passion took off.
He found his way to Johnson & Wales where he received a Bachelor’s in Culinary Management and went on to launch a successful career working across Boston and New England in roles such as Chef de Cuisine, Executive Chef and even Chef/Owner of a French Bistro in Rockland, Maine.
And then it was time for a change. “The restaurant industry can be terribly hollow… it’s selfish and there can be little thought about the wider community. For a long time, I felt a conflict between doing what I wanted to do, but also figuring out how to give my time and give back.”
So when he came across the role for Chef Instructor at NECAT, it was “the perfect opportunity to be a force for effective change and still be within the world I love – culinary.”
Chef Bob brings this love into his classroom – where students spend the first eight of their 16 weeks at NECAT – on a daily basis. His students not only learn the essentials needed to succeed in the industry, like cooking techniques, mother sauces, and getting ServSafe certified, but they also get exposed to culinary history and the numerous topics that Chef Bob gets animated about. These range from his encyclopedic knowledge of The Simpsons, to the importance of prioritizing “wholesome” versus organic when it comes to healthy eating.
Chef Bob leaves a lasting and often profound impression on his students. It is visible when graduates come back for a visit, immediately finding Bob for a bear hug and to boast about their accomplishments in their new jobs.
“Chef Bob is not just a good teacher, but he cares about you, too” says one student fondly.