Fifty Minute Classroom

Aug 17, 2022, 19:37

50-Minute Classroom: Teaching the Value of “Real” Networking

30 April 2013

Says Chef Weiner, who will speak to this topic at the CAFÉ Leadership Conference in Miami in June, there are many benefits of person-to-person interaction that can’t be replicated by social networking.

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

Editor’s Note: CAFÉ asked Chef Weiner to present a seminar at the June 2013 Leadership Conference in Miami next month. His topic: “WHAT GOOD IS SITTING ALONE IN YOUR ROOM: TEACHING YOUR STUDENTS THE WHY AND HOW OF REAL NETWORKING.” For May’s GMC he decided to write a brief summary of some of the points of his presentation. If you haven’t yet enrolled for the conference, visit to register.           

So far this year, my focus has been on teaching various cooking techniques. Let’s take a break for a month and talk about one of today’s hottest buzzwords: networking. Don’t worry, this isn’t another article about social networking. This is a brief introduction on how to educate and influence the Facebook and Twitter generation on why and how to perform the dance of real networking.

Social networking is fine. I have nothing against it. In fact, Facebook is a major supporter of my program, and I have nearly 20 graduates in the kitchens at Facebook. My program is even covered at and

Real networking, however, hasn’t been replaced, and there are many benefits of person-to-person interaction that can’t be replicated by social networking. These include:

1. Meeting people and making contacts with people who wouldn’t link up with you on social networks.Last summer I went to a wedding-rehearsal dinner in Lake Tahoe. I sat down at the table and introduced myself to the man across from me. He asked me what I do for a living. I told him I am a culinary instructor in the San Francisco area. He handed me his card—he manages four restaurants in a tourist area of San Francisco and needed staff immediately. He had never heard of me before, and never would have found me via social networking.

2. A handshake is hard to duplicate on a computer. I encourage my students to go out and meet people in the culinary field. I instruct them to give the person a résumé, and ask the person to let the student know if they hear of any jobs in the field. The student shakes hands and thanks the person before leaving. What this does is establish a social contract. The other person now feels a bit of an obligation to help out my student. This bonding doesn’t occur when you “like” someone.

3. A close real friend will almost always surpass a social-network friend.I tell my students that if they don’t believe this, they should go to 20 real friends and family members and say that they need a starter set of knives for a new job and ask each person to please give them five dollars. I then tell them to post the same thing on their social-network site and see how much money they get in comparison.

4. It’s harder for someone to say NO to you when you are looking at his or her face or talking to him or her personally. I ask a lot of people for favors—covering my class when I am gone, helping me coach competition teams, donating money for my program, hiring my students, etc. I try whenever possible to do this in person. (My friends know that if I call and invite myself to their kitchen for a cup of coffee that I am going to hit them up for something.) When you are face to face, it is a lot harder to say NO. To put it in perspective: How easy is it for you to throw out a mail solicitation for a charity versus saying NO to a Girl Scout smiling at you while she is holding a box of cookies?

The “how” of real networking is, of course, harder than the “why.” One of the beauties of social networking is that it is, in reality, not personal, and there is really no work involved on your behalf. Either your computer plasters everyone on your e-mail account to join your page, or other people find you. You don’t really need to put yourself out there for social networking.

1. Teach your students that real networking is not like asking someone on a date.Many students are afraid of being rejected when they try to do real networking. The odds are that the person won’t shut you down, but will respectfully listen to you.

2. Have students get business cards.There are many companies online that produce cards for a nominal shipping fee. It impresses people to be handed a card that says “Amy Young, Culinary Student, Graduation June 22, 2013.”

3. Follow up.It is the job of your student to follow up with contacts. Most students somehow feel it is the other way around.

4. Quality beats quantity.Unless you are a salesperson, the number of other people’s business cards in your folder isn’t really important. What is important is what those people can do for you, and what you can do for them.