From Apprentice to Sous Chef


When Tony Chibaro was 15 his stepmother enrolled him in a culinary arts apprenticeship program run through his school district – without telling him.

When Tony Chibaro was 15, his stepmother enrolled him in a culinary arts apprenticeship program run through his school district – without telling him.

Fast forward 10 years, Chibaro is now a sous chef, food safety manager, and catering director with the Compass Group, a multi-national food service company.

Chibaro was back at the Hunterdon County Polytech Career Academy in Flemington, recalling how his career was launched without him knowing it, and assuring current culinary apprentices that their “sacrifice, commitment, and passion” will pay off, leading to fulfilling careers.

Chibaro, 25, joined New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo, Hunterdon County Vocational School District staff, local employers, and 21 current culinary students at the school to cap off National Apprenticeship Week, a celebration of US Department of Labor (USDOL) Registered Apprenticeship programs, which have seen up to 92% growth in New Jersey since 2018.

Chibaro is now a sous chef, food safety manager, and catering director with the Compass Group

The Hunterdon County Vocational School District has been a valuable partner in ensuring students successfully transition into career paths in in-demand occupations, like culinary arts. The skills students learn here lead to sustainable careers while also helping a hard-hit industry recover from the pandemic,” said Commissioner Asaro-Angelo.

The New Jersey Apprenticeship Network – a workforce development initiative of the Murphy Administration – was launched in 2018, Murphy’s first year in office. NJDOL has to date invested more than $1.5 million in grant funds to vocational schools through the Pre-apprenticeship in Career Education (PACE) and Youth Transitions to Work (YTTW) programs.

Partner school districts include Egg Harbor, and the vocational school districts in Mercer, Middlesex, and Hunterdon counties. These programs are preparing high school-aged students and out-of-school youth with job skills in production technology, computer numerical control (CNC), welding, management accounting, pharmacy technology, logistics, culinary, arts, IT, welding, healthcare, manufacturing, and wastewater treatment.

Additionally, NJDOL has partnered with the state Department of Education to update the state school performance report card to include placements into Registered Apprenticeship programs as a positive student outcome.

New Jersey currently has 8,200 active apprentices in 1,100 programs, an 89 percent increase since the Murphy Administration began. Apprentices are active in diverse fields from nursing, and yacht building to fusion energy.

At the Hunterdon County Vocational School District, a repeat grantee, 15 participants have been placed into culinary and hospitality apprenticeship programs (think future pastry chefs, food safety managers, and banquet hall directors, to name a few), with 6 more students in the process of being placed on-site in a commercial kitchen, and five having earned their certificate of completion.

Refreshments at the event. Yummy!

For Michael Weisshaupt, the executive chef and food and beverage director at Fiddler’s Elbow, a private country club in Bedminster, mentoring an apprentice simply completes the circle – at 15, he started his first apprenticeship in his native Germany, and his son recently completed the Hunterdon Polytech program and is now employed in the industry.

Asked why he’s such a big believer in apprenticeship, Weisshaupt said, “It’s important to bring people into the Hospitality Industry. It’s a great trade.”

Hunterdon Polytech also offers apprenticeship programs in the electrical and plumbing and heavy equipment trades.

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