Sunday, January 2, 2011

First Quarter

       My first day in culinary school felt wierd, I hadn't been in a classroom setting in a long time, I looked at the faces as I walked to an empty seat I'd spotted in the back of the room.  I think I was looking to see if I was the oldest student to attend, I think it would have been uncomfortable to me to sit around all young students.  To my relief there were a few other older people, I befriended a woman from Columbia she was forty five there was even someone in his sixties!  I felt so much better, plus the instructor was in his sixties as well, so I was going to be fine.

       My first endeavor was to learn to fold my neckerchief it was a mess and the instructor insisted I ask one of my peers, I couldn't get myself to, so I practiced and practiced until I finally got it, no more neckerchief issues I promise you that.  The initial time spent in the classroom writing was torture for me, I wanted to cook, I wanted to be a chef, not sit in a classroom writing about it.  But it was necessary, there were things we needed to understand and rules we needed to follow in order to work in a kitchen, such as: sanitation, emergency procedures and yes MATH!  I dreaded math, however, it wasn't difficult, simple measurements cups, ounces, pounds, tablespoons, teaspoons and so on, we had to know how to convert one to another or substitute one for another.

       Once we actually got to start cooking, I was very excited, however, I found myself lost and unable to keep up with the instructor, taking notes became my best defense and helped immensely.  We were put into groups of four and I was nervous about letting my group members down by poorly executing a dish/recipe.  A couple of the people in my group were highly competitive, I wondered if whether I was in culianry school or "Top Chef".  They made me nervous and I allowed them to make me feel stupid (temporarily),  because that's the thing about feeling stupid, if you allow someone to make you feel that way it's awful, but if you understand they do it so they could feel good, you stop allowing it and ignore as did I.   Our instructor assigned one member of each group every lab session (that's what the kitchen time is called) to head the group and when it was my turn, what an uproar, the two fellow students mentioned above began to plan without me, I believe they had had prior cooking classes together and thought they could do a better job than I could.  I let them chat amongst themselves feeling a bit left out, then gathered stregnth and acted as a leader. 

       The next day during lab, again my peers acted without me and honestly I just wanted to cry, all I could think was what's their problem.  Instead of crying I toughened up and asked them if they felt they couldn't speak to me for some reason, they all apologized and we gathered and made a plan, I let them know I had time issues so we had to be careful with our time as the Chef had given us a time frame in which everything should be done.  The menu was mashed potatoes from scratch, glazed carrots, sauteed brussel sprouts,\sweet potatoes and green beans to be arraniged elegantly on a plate. 
It was the first day I learned about confidence in culinary school and what boosted me even more was that the two pompous classmates executed poorly, but I however, excelled that evening.  No I am not happy that one had cutting issues and the other flambeed our brussel sprouts, but I did hope it taught them a lesson in humility.  After we presented the dish to the Chef, I told them all they did a great job and the evening ended quite well, I 'd like to say we became close friends, but no, that's not the case.

     It was during this particular lab where I realized being a chef is not for sissies and I had better buck up or they'd step all over me.  If you take a closer look at all chefs they are not sissies, they have to know how to lead and they have to be strong and know when to put their foot down, they have to be swift but mostly they have to be confidnent.  That night I learned so much more than timing and cooking, I learned, well.....I learned I have a lot to learn about what it takes to be a chef.  Thank you for reading, have a good evening and I will post again tomorrow.
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