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.
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. ”
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.
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.