Cooking up career success
Former chairman of the College's Board of Trustees Jim Berrien '74, Jane Thompson '11 and Danny Meyer.
With a lot of determination — and a little bit of help from the Connecticut College alumni network — Jane Thompson '11 recently landed a job at New York City’s storied Gramercy Tavern.
Thompson came to Connecticut College intent on making the most of her education. Over the course of four years she took full advantage of the wide range of opportunities available at the College, but it was her studies with the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) that turned out to be the impetus behind her future career.
Just days before graduation, Thompson found herself at a CISLA reception seated next to Jim Berrien '74, former chairman of the College’s Board of Trustees.
“We talked about my honors thesis, experience with CISLA and my culinary interests. Shortly thereafter, Jim put me in touch with someone he knew at Union Square Hospitality Group in New York,” said Thompson, referring to acclaimed restaurateur Danny Meyer’s restaurant group. The rest, as they say, is history.
She began working at Gramercy Tavern last year and is now maître d’ — one of the leaders of a restaurant’s dining room staff known for the ability to skillfully “stage manage” an evening’s dinner service. The position draws directly on her liberal arts education.
Thompson studied European history and French, parlaying her passions into an honors thesis focused on the emergence of a bourgeois sense of taste in 19th century France. She also was on the swim team, served as a peer tutor and worked as an admissions fellow.
She is grateful for the opportunity Berrien provided that helped open the door to her career.
“Had Connecticut College not created an environment that inspired its students to be intellectually curious, I would never have felt motivated to apply to CISLA,” she said. “And had I not been a part of the CISLA program, I never would have had the chance to network with an alumnus who helped me turn my passions into an incredible start to a career.”
Thompson’s involvement with CISLA also helped shaped her approach to her current position. As part of the program, she spent a semester in Paris working at the culinary bookstore Librairie Gourmande. It was there that she gained frontline experience in the food industry — and improved her language skills tenfold.
“I am indebted to the CISLA program for giving me such valuable experience interacting with a range of clientele,” said Thompson. “In many ways, taking care of guests at the Gramercy Tavern is similar to my internship at the bookstore. My job is about creating memorable experiences that give people reasons to rave and return.”