2012 alumnus is looking to land his culinary career at an organization focused on sustainability.
Andrew Lauer, a 2012 graduate of Notre Dame Prep, is hoping to land his culinary career as a chef at a restaurant or organization focused on sustainability. And he’s currently studying toward that end in a master’s degree program just after earning a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts in only three years from Johnson & Wales University.
But his intense interest in what goes on in the kitchen predates not only his college career, but it goes way before even his high school years at Notre Dame.
“I have been interested in the culinary arts ever since I was a kid who could barely reach the kitchen counter,” said Lauer. “So when eventually it came time to search for colleges, I already knew what I really wanted from my education and career.”
He wanted to cook—that was not in dispute—but he also knew that he didn't want to be just cooking on the line every day of the week for the rest of his life.
“I chose Johnson & Wales (Rhode Island) because it offered a bachelor's degree in culinary arts and food service management, which gave me a well-balanced program that would prepare me for a job in the kitchen as well as in management.”
And while he didn’t manage the place, Lauer said even his experience working at the Silver Spoon Italiano Ristorante in Rochester Hills as a junior at Notre Dame was invaluable. “And I have worked in kitchens ever since,” he said.
Farm to table
Lauer believes that today’s successful chefs need to be heavily invested in sustainability along with a direct knowledge of how the food they prepare and serve is grown or raised, harvested, processed and eventually consumed by customers.
“In the summer of 2014, I was fortunate enough to intern at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, which is the largest privately owned estate in the United States and a leader in fantastic farm-to-table restaurants and catering,” he said. “They have their own farm on the property that grows most of the fruit and vegetables for all its restaurants.”
During his junior year in college, Lauer said he focused his studies even more on wellness and sustainability and he quickly developed an understanding of the roll of a modern-day chef in the many communities in the U.S. and around the world.
“I learned about soil health, crop rotation, composting, integrated-farming practices, sustainable fishing practices, hydro/aquaponics, plant-based cuisine and whole-animal utilization—all things that today’s chef or restaurant manager needs to know. This is in stark contrast to an old model of doing what you can with whatever food your supplier brings to your doorstep and not caring beyond or before.”
Prepared for college and career
Lauer said he wouldn’t be anywhere near where he is today if it wasn’t for the time he spent at Notre Dame Prep.
“I feel that NDP prepared me incredibly well for my college experience and chosen career path,” he said. “Even in such a nontraditional line of work such as mine, the same concepts that my fellow classmates and I learned at Prep prepared me very well. Our dense school day at ND, which meant taking eight classes a day and playing a sport every season, helped me to be able to balance a multitude of things at once.”
He said managing multiple deadlines and diverse activities in high school all while expecting of himself a high-quality level of work became second nature to him. “That discipline enabled me to participate in a program at Johnson & Wales that allowed me to take one extra class per trimester, all while maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Being accustomed to such an advanced educational environment in combination with the AP credits I gained at Notre Dame made it possible for me to graduate from Johnson & Wales with my bachelor’s a year early.”
Yet he somehow still found time in college to study abroad in Peru in a month-long food and culture immersion at Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola in Lima. “I even was able to squeeze in tours of many monuments, ruins and, of course, the restaurants across Peru.”
Lauer said he has many great memories from Notre Dame, “all of which I'm grateful for because of the friends I shared them with.” He said Irish Week was always an especially favorite and fun time for him. “Those weeks are irreplaceable,” he said. “And I really think our class would have won more than one Irish Games if the scores weren't always ‘helped along’ every year in the seniors favor.”
While acknowledging that there were many great teachers at Notre Dame, Lauer said two very special ones always come to mind first. “One of my very favorites was my twin, Mr. Devine,” he said. “We were even each other for Halloween one year. And another is Ms. Hall, who was both fun and stern with us, which to me is the best combination because thanks to her I will never have trouble writing a research paper again.”
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.