From dining co-ops to professional kitchens, Victor Lau ’17 applies the skills that he learned at Oberlin to an unexpected, yet exciting new career path.
Victor Lau ’17 works as a kitchen administrator for Great Performances, a catering company that helps conduct both intimate and large-scale dining events. Upon graduating, he spent some time traveling around Europe, and he eventually ended up in New York City, where he decided to explore various career options. After a rigorous process of sifting through job boards and classifieds, Lau happened upon an opening for his current position and decided to apply.
Lau’s job requires a good amount of logistical analysis and highly quantitative work, paired with a familiarity in handling food. “My position is the liaison between sales and the kitchen,” says Lau.
“The entire process starts when the sales team offers our menu items to the client. It is then up to my department to make sure that the kitchen cooks enough food, that it’s cooked in the right manner, and that it is priced correctly. We carry out the process of accepting, adjusting, and pricing menus for roughly 20 events a day.’’
Lau handles his job deftly and efficiently, and he attributes this to the skills he developed at Oberlin. “I had never really worked in a professional kitchen before, but I was really involved with the dining co-ops at Oberlin,” he says. “I was able to leverage the quantitative and analytical skills that I learned in my studies and combine it with the food knowledge that I gained in the co-ops.”
Lau majored in biology and environmental studies. His research focused on the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle species, and its relation to ash tree populations since its accidental introduction to the United States in the 1990s. Lau says that his advisors, Associate Professor of Biology and David Orr Professor of Environmental Studies Roger Laushman and Professor and Chair of Biology Keith Tarvin, were incredibly supportive during his studies and after graduation.
“They constantly made time for me when I was panicking during registration weeks, talking about major paths, career paths, or just talking about life,” says Lau. “Even when I caught up with them after graduation, they were supportive of my decision to leave the ecology field (for now) and pursue other interests.”
While his current job does not relate directly to what he studied, Lau is glad to be exploring a new field of work.
“With this job, I learned what I wanted in a career that my research lacked,” he says. “I wanted to have an anthropological aspect to my career, and I wanted to be in an urban area. I also like having a healthy balance between active work (being on my feet and moving around) and desk work (spending time reading and writing).”
Lau still enjoys reading literature on anything environmentally related. He hopes to spend more time learning about nutrition, dieting, and public health.