Tag Archives: culinary institute of america

Ending One Chapter, Starting Another

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Recently (finally), I graduated from culinary school.  It’s amazing! My love of cooking has definitely taken me down a path I could not have predicted.  Of course the obvious (and often asked) question is: “what’s next?”

In short, to cook. As much as possible and as for as many people as possible.  I’m not a simple girl by any means, but my desires are pretty straightforward.

“So how was culinary school?” Well, that’s the question I get second–most often, tied with “what do you like to cook?” Just to get the latter out of the way, I like to cook anything and everything.  Explaining school is a little more lengthy of an answer.

my first day of culinary school

The first year seemed long, with classes covering the basics and lots of academic classes.  Everyone was feeling each other out and sizing up the competition; cooking will always be known as a competitive field, but some are comparing themselves to others while others only compete with themselves.  It can be an interesting mental game; definitely easy to get caught up in everything or anything that is going on around you.  It was here I learned my first lesson: the only person I should be worrying about doing better than is the person I was yesterday.  Cooking is self improvement; there is nothing more satisfying than creating something beautiful that you can eat.  I learned that it is so important not to lose sight of why I cook: to bring others joy, and hopefully (in the words of Daenerys Targaryen) “to leave the world better than when we found it. ”

I’m with her.

Things really changed for me during my summer externship. I was working in fine dining, and really learning how far I could push myself.  I learned how to taste for specific flavors and find balance in food; I was also exposed to new restaurants and the lifestyle of a cook in the big city. I learned my second lesson during this time: No cook was made in a day. Every day I tried to perfect my knife cuts, to work faster, season better, to anticipate what was needed of me. I couldn’t see much change on the day-to-day basis, but when it was all over, I couldn’t believe how much I had learned and grew in such a short period.  While I was exhausted at the end of it, I was more dedicated than ever to learning as much as I could about my craft.

Then our second year started, and I swear, I blinked my eyes and graduation time was almost upon me. Classes changed every three weeks, the academic classes dried up, and all of a sudden it was game time: cooking every day, cooking in the restaurants on campus for the public, and learning the more advanced principals the school had to offer.  I was working two jobs, going to school, and visiting my friends almost every weekend in Boston.  It all moved by so quickly, and I wish I could have paused it, especially at certain moments, to examine each second of my life with more understanding.  But that’s impossible, so I still had to learn the hardest lesson of all; one I am still struggling with  and I think most people do: Life moves by fast.  Focus on what is important to you and try not to let the rest enter your mind.  Stress is the most common emotion that eats at  me, and I had a lot of it during school.  It wasn’t always pretty, but I got through it all, with jobs intact, all my fingers, and friends that would still talk to me.  Best of all I got another diploma to hang on my wall, a psyical product of my achievement, to give me strength when mine own is faltering.

Graduation day- feeling very accompllished

Graduation day- feeling very accomplished

I left my life in Boston to come home to New York and pursue a dream of mine– a hobby that developed into a passion with became my life’s work, and I never looked back.  I was inspired along the way– by friends and family who supported me, my teachers and chefs who guided me, my fellow culinary students that worked with me, fought with me, and ultimately made me stronger– thank you all. My future scares me, but in a good way.  I hope those around me are hungry– I know I sure am.

-L

 

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End of Semester Round Up

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Somehow, the end of my first semester at Culinary School is upon me, and I don’t even know how it happened so quickly. I’ve gone from just understanding consomme to pulling together more composed dishes:

chicken

My life, similarly, has become more composed as well.  I’ve somehow learned to balance school, three jobs, and a (somewhat sad or somewhat very exclusive, depending on how you look at it) social and familial life. You know what? It’s not bad. Sure, busy doesn’t come close to describing my life on some weeks, but I’ve learned to at least give myself a day off a week, allowing myself to recharge from what can be a very demanding schedule.

So what’s next? More school, of course.  I start my second semester next month, and with it, I get to learn fish and meat butchery, courses I have been very excited to learn. Then I start to work in production kitchens, which I’m sure will feel like home to me.  I cannot wait to be back in a kitchen setting this summer, where I will go on externship and have a chance to gain some more experience and save a little cash.

Hopefully I’ll have some time this summer to still do some exploring between school and work, as I plan on hitting a festival or two and traveling to some new states (looking at you, Colorado…).  Then it’s back to school to finish up before graduation.

After all that? Who knows. The sky is the limit after I graduate, though I expect I will want to move out of New York as soon as I can. Or at least that’s the plan for now.  My life is so fluid, I might end up staying in New York for a little.  All I know is, I would like to live out west for at least a little part of my life.  Colorado or California, maybe Arizona or even Oregon if the conditions are right.  I don’t plan on spending my whole life in one place. There are so many exciting things happening in food nowadays I don’t have to limit myself to a specific region.  People gotta eat.

All those are just dreams though.  I have no idea where my life is going to take me, and if I’ve learned anything in the past year, it is the life has it’s own plan, and sometimes, there is no use fighting it.  So I just plan the day to day, at least til I have the time to figure out the rest.  Luckily, I’ll always have my friends and family to guide me through the somewhat treacherous seas of life, those who support me and who put up with me when I’m not on my best behavior; it’s those people who I owe a great deal of thanks.

So what have I learned in my first semester at school? That, when put to the test, I still want to live my life with food.  School has tested my resolve, and I think it’s only made me want to push harder.  Having people to watch your back definitely instils a greater sense of confidence; I know I can take the dive cause I have a good net to catch me just in case I miss.  There’s no point in not going for my goals.

-L

Life in the Land of Consommé

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The past few weeks have been such a whirlwind. Being back in school, and a technical school at that, is overwhelming and fun and scary and inspiring all at once. Does that even make sense?
So I started culinary school at the CIA. What can I even say? It’s awesome.
First of all, my lunches look something like this :

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All students are required to have a meal plan, which I complained about at first but now am realizing that it is a gift to have two meals a day at school and one at home. I’m a happy (and probably soon to be chubby) girl, even more so because I get to dress like this every day:

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Probably one of the more comfortable outfits I’ve ever had to wear. While it’s not incredibly flattering, I wasn’t really going for prom queen anyways.

Classes are pretty fascinating as well. At least, it’s nice to take classes that are all giving me skills I will need to use if I ever take the plunge and own my own business one day (fingers crossed). My math class, for example, teaches students to understand how to calculate how much product is being used and wasted, and how to cost dishes so the business can turn a profit. The class on food safety helps students get ServSafe certified at the end of the course.
Now I’m not going to say that these classes have me on the edge of my seat or anything, but I am still pretty eager to go to class. Each different class is like a cog in a machine, a building block to get to my ultimate goal of working for myself one day.

All that is an appetizer, though. The real meat of culinary school isn’t the class time, it’s the time in the kitchens. That is everyone’s favorite time, of course, and I am no different.
I have a class that teaches the fundamentals of Classic French cooking in a kitchen lab twice a week from 6:30 in the morning til about 1:30 in the afternoon or so. While the class starts at an ungodly hour, especially considering I live about 30 minutes away from school, I’m actually getting used to waking up before the sun. It’s doing nothing for my social life, but who am I kidding, I wasn’t going to be a social butterfly anyways. I gave up a lot to come to the CIA, and I don’t plan on wasting the experience by partying when I should be studying.
…when did I start sounding like my mother?
.

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Ahem, about this class…it’s exactly what I came to school for.
We are leaning how to cut uniformly and consistently, and the basics of French cooking. I wanted to come to school to learn skills I can build upon, and I this class cements that I am doing just that.
So far, I’ve learned how to make French onion soup (the tomato at the top left is filled with a mushroom-shallot mixture called a duxelle and topped with breadcrumbs):

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I’ve also made beef and vegetable soup:

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What I have been most excited to learn was consommé. We made it last week, and I was so happy when my broth was free of impurities and totally clear, but still managed to have flavor.

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I have plans to share the recipe I’ve learned soon, however I don’t want to blab for too long.
For now, I am a very happy albeit exhausted individual. I have to be up in a few hours to start my day with cutting potatoes and garlic, and I couldn’t be more excited.
-L