King Estate dishes up learning lessons with Lane

Al King (left) presents Employer of the Year Award to Ben Nadolny.

EUGENE, Ore.—A kitchen may not be your typical classroom, but students participating in Lane's Cooperative Education (Co-op) Program find lessons served hot inside local restaurants.

King Estate Winery has partnered with Lane for the last five years to help students learn the culinary ropes and what it takes to work in a fast-paced environment where success is measured by each dish and customer.

"Every year we expand on ideas and opportunities of where we can use students," said King Estate Executive Chef Ben Nadolny.

Nadolny said the experience of watching students grow in their chosen field is a rewarding part of the collaboration with Lane. And Nadolny makes sure students get put to the "test".

"We expect them to work fast, we expect them to work hard," Nadolny said. "We make sure they're on a path to measurable success."

Mariah Lussi, a 2012 Lane Culinary Arts graduate intended to be a baker. However, while working at King Estate and participating in the Co-op program, she began evaluating her future.  

"Going out there and seeing what they do was just eye opening," said Lussi.

Lussi recalls her first days working a "slammed" weekend.

"Some people can't handle it," she said. "We've had a few people who are like 'this is too much.'"

Learning whether something is a good fit is one benefit of the Co-op program. More importantly, students gain skills and are exposed to other ways of doing things, which prepares them for employment when they graduate. It's the real-world connection to what students learn on campus.

The Co-op program enhances student learning while providing skilled workers to business, industry, government, and non-profit organizations. About 800 local businesses participate annually in the Co-op program.

Lane has been offering Co-op internship experiences to students in most areas of study for more than 40 years and is the largest Co-op program of all two-year colleges west of the Mississippi. More than 2,000 Lane students participate in Co-op internships each year.

Nadolny hopes to see more local restaurants get involved with Lane as he sees more and more Lane graduates pop up in local kitchens.

"I hope other chefs in town are taking advantage of this opportunity," he said.

To learn more about the program and read about other successful partnerships, visit http://www.lanecc.edu/cooped