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York College Hospitality Management student uses real-world experience at The First Post to advance career

October 26, 2016
Aaron Cook
Aaron Cook, Class of 2017 Hospitality Management major

Like many of his peers, Aaron Cook worked in the food industry when he was a 16-year-old high school student. But unlike many others his age, Cook earned more than just a paycheck at the restaurant – he earned valuable experience and a priceless connection that launched his foundation for a bright future in the hospitality field.

And since then, the York College of Pennsylvania Hospitality Management major has parlayed those early skills with his ongoing education to land work with The First Post, a popular York County restaurant.

Cook, now a junior, transferred to York College from a similar program at another Pennsylvania college at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. Originally from York County, the 2013 Dallastown Area High School graduate moved back to his hometown because of the positive reputation and permanence of the York College Hospitality Management program.

“I liked the curriculum, and I know this is a program that is going to be around for a long time,” he says. “Everything in this industry is based on connections; it’s important to be a part of an established program.”

A ‘knack for the industry’

In high school, Cook established his interest in the field when he began working at the Great American Saloon in Red Lion, Pa., serving as a busser, food runner, host, server and seasonal manager over his four years at the restaurant.

Hospitality, Recreation and Leisure Administration and Sport Management degrees at York College ‌During his time at the Great American Saloon, restaurant co-owner Athena Keares and her family began to develop the idea for The First Post, an American-style restaurant that opened in York in August 2015. When Cook moved back to York County in June 2015, Keares knew he would be the perfect fit to help with their opening.

“He had his eyes set on this project since working at the Great American Saloon,” Keares says. “It was evident from the start that he had a special interest and knack for the industry.”

From June to August, Cook helped develop the menu and recipes with the kitchen staff.

Cook also helped interview and whittle a list of 700 applications for open positions at the restaurant to the 80 employees offered positions for the opening. He helped stabilize the staff in the months after the opening, which he says was very rewarding.

“He was a star,” Keares says. “Since the opening, we have put him on the management team, and he has excelled.”

‘Extremely valuable’ college experience

Keares says she knew from his employment as a teenager that Cook had the skills and was interested in pursuing a future in restaurant management.

She encouraged him to enroll in a college program as a way to further his skills and learn more about the ins and outs of management.

“It’s extremely valuable to have someone on our team with that [collegiate] experience,” Keares says. “Aaron has set up a training program for our management, as well as to build our management team, in which he brings in ideas from his classes and studies.”

Because of his college experience, Cook has brought new ideas to the table with a level of professionalism that Keares says isn’t always found in restaurants.

He balances a full load of classes with a full-time management job at The First Post and excels at juggling multiple responsibilities. Cook is the restaurant’s main hiring manager, has implemented a training program, and manages the restaurant’s social media, Keares says.

Looking forward, Cook says he hopes to build his future not only in restaurants but all parts of the hospitality industry.

One of the ideas that has drawn him to the field is the ability to explore multiple facets over the course of an individual’s career.

“There are a lot of different sectors of Hospitality Management that you can go into at any point in your career,” Cook says. “You can try a lot of different things over the course of your career; you can move around and try new things.”

York College is proud to offer one of the best Hospitality Management schools in Pennsylvania, where our Hospitality Management major prepares students for one of the largest and most diverse career fields in the U.S. Where will a Hospitality Management degree take you?

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