Saturday, January 1, 2011

Road to culinary school


      It's just past 1 a.m, January 1, 2011 and I am sitting here writing my first entry for this blog (after attending a new years "send off" with my family), keeping the promise I had made to myself (and a few other people) that I would stop procrastinating and get on with it. My name is Leslie and I live in a state I like to call “the annoying sunshine state” yes, you guessed it Florida (a great place to visit, but I can't live here forever), I have two young children.
    I'd like to begin by telling you how it was I came to live here as I am originally and forever from Brooklyn, NY, wherever I may physically find myself at the time (just wanted to be clear on that), then ease you into the true nature of this blog, which is about my experiences in culinary school and beyond that sometimes.

    I was living in Brooklyns' China Town and had come to enjoy the dollar stores everywhere from which I'd acquire bathroom tissue at three for a dollar or trash bags or a roll of paper towels and so on, wow! Also the smell of Chinese food in the air, especially on the weekends when you could have about six or seven vendors with their little carts selling anything from roasted duck, to mei fun (thin noodles with meat and vegetables or meat or vegetables) to fried rice yum! The seafood and produce markets crowded with Chinese folks in a scurry to get the best produce, fish and meat for the week ahead and myself trying, forever trying to get snow crab legs or lobster at a good price (which I often did). The great thing about the whole experience was that I didn't have to speak Chinese or a Chinese dialect if you will, go figure. In spite of all this wonder I decided to leave Brooklyn, encouraged by the H1N1 scare, also from a strong desire to put distance between myself and my estranged husband whom announced he wanted to try again just when I decided I was leaving and perhaps in a small way for love......

      I had come into some money and with it I hired a moving company (which I will never do again) and had them haul my stuff to Florida where my sister has lived for over twenty years. I moved here solely because I have family here not because I was in love with the place. Before I continue I have to say, I don't want to offend any Floridian when I say I hate it here it simply means I desire something different than what Florida has to offer (Personally, I can only take so much of the Florida sun). Once in Florida it was difficult at first, no car, no ride because everyone I knew worked and couldn't lug me around. But thanks to my family, I found a place to live within a couple of weeks and was on my way (to what exactly? I didn't know).

       I met someone online during one of my late night scrabble games in a sow room, which is the Brittish version of scrabble (he was English of course), while I still lived in Brooklyn, we had tried to get together, but it just seemed impossible at the time. In an attempt to try again, he made his way here to be with me, finally! In a nutshell, it didn't work out, I suppose we disappointed each other and three weeks in, just before Thanksgiving 2009, my love was gone and I...devastated to say the least.  I tried dissecting the whole thing for months, we had made so many plans for the future and the one's I was most looking forward to was the traveling and writing.  I had a longing for years to move abroad and live in different European countries and England. When he left, I felt as though all the plans I had, went with him and that was heartbreaking as well.

      After months of grieving and yes maybe even feeling sorry for myself, I still couldn't figure it out, so I stopped trying, plus my friends and family had had it with my moaning for someone who obviously didn't care. In an attempt to forget the past, I decided I should do something constructive with my life, follow the advice of someone I consider a friend although we haven't spoken in a long time (and probably never will again), he said “focus on yourself Leslie' big words to me “focus on myself”? What? I have never really done that, there always seemed to be something or someone else to focus on, but “focus on myself”? What a revelation! A day or two later I received a call from a recruiter who worked for a culinary school I had taken a tour of in earlier attempts to find peace. I had always loved cooking and felt this would be the thing to do if I still wanted to carry out my travel plans to Europe, I didn't quite know how the two would fit together all I knew for sure was I was tired of mourning and for some reason associated cooking with traveling.

        Initially I found I had to decline her offer to begin classes in April 2010 due to the fact that my work hours coincided with the school hours, therefore I had to call her and cancel adding that “once again I don't get to dictate my future because I have to work”. A few days later, I learned my work hours were cut and I basically had no work, funny huh? All I could think was “what more could go wrong”? Of course I cried, I felt helpless and was terribly tired of feeling that way. As I calmed myself down from one of my crying sessions, the idea of the culinary school re-entered my mind, I still had the recruiters' number and called her immediately, I was informed they still had openings for April, however not the hours I wanted which were the evening hours. “If something opens up for the evening class I will call you” she said and I can't tell you how I held on to that the rest of the day.

     Feeling low as soon as I opened my eyes the next morning, I got the kids to school and returned home to take on the task of looking for work, I would go online and fill out some applications and try to do some foot work as well. In the back of my mind lingered the fact that I was not “let go” from my job, they simply had no case for me as I work for a company that specializes in caring for the developmentally disabled population. “I'm still on the payroll” I thought, I also remembered the human resource person had approached me (after she found out the case I was working on was closed) to offer me another position and I declined it as the pay was not enough to support my family, I was upset that day not thinking any pay would be fine as I had no work. I remember leaving her with a choking feeling in my throat, I wanted to cry. After searching awhile online, I was tired, I was depressed and still hopeless, I laid down in my bed, but tears didn't flow this time, uncertainty did and fear. I laid there staring at my phone as though it were a lifeline and in an instant it rang, I checked the ID to see who it was but didn't recognize the number, I answered it anyway it was the recruiter from culinary school “hi Leslie, someone didn't show up for the evening class yesterday so now there's a spot for you if your still interested” if I'm still interested?(Uuuhhhh yes). After confirming that YES I am still interested, the hypothetical “ball" began rolling, I had to get myself to the school asap to financial aid, enroll, get my uniform, then run out and buy a pair of non-slip shoes cause guess what? I was going to culinary school!

        I started school that very evening, proudly wearing my student chef uniform and neckerchief, I felt great, excited, nervous, after all things were changing in my house, I was now a student and would be working (eventually) and the idea of taking the time I spent with the kids away broke my heart. They were great about it, they encouraged me and were so proud to have a chef mommy, they examined my uniform, cracked jokes and told me not to worry. I knew things were going to be ok.

        The following week as I searched for a potential job in the Palm Beach Post, desperately, my phone rang it was the human resource person from work, I didn't answer the phone this time, I believed she was calling to dismiss me or tell me about little hours I could work in Boca (which I couldn't do as my car was in bad shape) She left a message and I quickly checked it “hi Leslie, there is a position open in the school, it's the hours you wanted, call me”. Oh my gosh! I don't believe I've ever made a faster phone call, I said yes, was interviewed by program supervisor and am now a teacher from 8:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m. I couldn't see it then, but there was definitely someone looking out for me. Now I can say with confidence “I'm on my way”!

        So again, here I sit, carrying out one of my resolutions writing a blog about, well, my life inside and outside of culinary school. I want to wish you all a very happy, healthy new year and years to follow and tomorrow January 2nd 2011 I truly begin taking you on my journey through culinary school and beyond. Take care!

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