Burke Fellows Thriving Under Tutelage of Celebrity Chef and Team

Chef and restaurateur David Burke recently partnered with JWU Charlotte to create paid internships for recent graduates with associate or bachelor’s degrees. Alums like Sean Murphy '21 and Kirstin Stowe '21 applied to be Burke Fellows because they knew it would help them supercharge their existing skills – in addition to offering countless networking opportunities.

Sean Murphy '21 preparing to serve Red Salt’s signature clothesline bacon.

David Hynes, president of David Burke Hospitality Management, agrees: “The students are learning practical applications of each discipline they studied at Johnson & Wales,” he explains. “Our chairman, Chef David Burke, believes the single most important gift you can bestow on a person is quality mentorship. He believes mentorship will give students the confidence necessary to fine-tune their skill set allowing them to immediately make a positive contribution to their new employers.”

Gaining a Wealth of Experience

Sean Murphy served as a Burke Fellow at Red Salt and Cloud Bar, two Burke properties located in the Le Meridien Hotel Charlotte.

Applying for the Fellowship just made sense to Sean. “I fell in love with baking from spending days with my family getting ready for the holidays in the kitchen. It just so happened that each event had wine around it. However, everyone just stuck with what they knew both food- and wine-wise. I decided I wanted to go to culinary school and study the food I grew up making and learn new ideas.”

Drawing on his sommelier management minor from JWU, Murphy started to develop a strategic plan to make wine selections — and therefore, the restaurant — run more efficiently. “It was kind of making me crazy,” Murphy explain. “The wines, where they are now, make more sense. When I started, the wine was separated only by the glass and by the bottle selections. I simply started by sorting the reds and whites in each cooler. Then alphabetized by varietal and then by producer. I worked with the general manager, who is also a sommelier, on moving our most used bottles to the coolers and our lesser ones in storage to make service easier on the staff.”

“JWU created a foundation for my knowledge in this industry. Now I’m just perfecting it.”

For Kirstin Stowe, who earned a food & beverage industry management degree at JWU Charlotte, every day on the job reminds her of her studies. “JWU created a foundation for my knowledge in this industry. Now I’m just perfecting it,” she says. “I have had the chance to use communication, organization and leadership skills, as well as time management during this fellowship. I get to serve, bartend, manage the floor, and so many other things. I am also getting experience in the behind the scene operations like inventory, deposits, end of night closing paperwork, payroll, and a ton of other things! The fellowship at Red Salt has allowed me to get my feet wet in the industry and allow me to network with those that have been in the industry for years.”

Chef David Burke with Burke Fellow Kirstin Stowe '21.

Murphy and Stowe enjoy using their JWU knowledge as they interact with employees and guests from all over the world. “I think about my classes a lot, absolutely,” Murphy says. “Guests always ask what wines I would recommend. Studying wine and earning my Sommelier Management minor, everything changed for me. I’d like to open my own dessert bar and actually make my own wine. Oh, and I learned Excel at JWU. I have quite a few Excel spreadsheets going right now!” Stowe adds, “When taking classes at JWU, I constantly wondered if I would be using all the information that we were learning in each class. We learned a huge range of things and I can honestly say that I have already used a lot of those skills since working at Red Salt. It’s the little things that I am now having to perfect to be able to give my customers the best experience I can possible give them.”

Major Opportunity for Students

Grads like Murphy and Stowe are hand-selected by faculty and work as interns for three months. Then, if asked, they have the option to work another three months. After six months, Fellows have the potential to be asked to join the team at a Burke restaurant in Charlotte, New York, Washington, D.C., or overseas. JWU Charlotte President Cheryl Richards says, “This is creating an opportunity for our students to align with some of the best and the brightest and lay the foundation for us to do this with other organizations and other celebrities.”

Burke Fellows Kirstin Stowe + Sean Murphy at Cloud Bar, Chef David Burke’s rooftop spot at Le Meridien Charlotte.