I’m the kind of person who keeps news to herself until such time that she feels it’s either necessary or safe to share the information. So I have some news that I’ve shared with very few people since it happened in November, but I’m ready to go public. In 2½ weeks, I start culinary school.
I’ve published a cookbook, been a freelance food writer and restaurant reviewer, and have had my own personal chef service. Now, as Emeril Lagasse says, I’m cranking it up a notch. I’m going for the degree.
Some might say that I’ve done this backwards, that I should have gone to culinary school first, then written a cookbook, started a food blog, etc., etc. But, then, I’ve never done anything the logical way. And when I have, for whatever reason, it never really worked out the way I anticipated.
So here I am, not quite 21 years old anymore, going back to school. I haven’t been in school in many years (I graduated high school when I was 6, you know), so it’s been a little bit of a weird process for me. I’ve totally forgotten how the process works and it’s as if I’m doing it for the first time.
The roughest part has been the money. It’s been an unpleasant task working out the financial part, but the worst—or the dumbest—aspect of it is that it never occurred to me to look into scholarships and grants. I checked out loan possibilities, but not scholarships. What a dolt I am! Then I starting wondering why the thought never occurred to me, and someone said that it was probably because of my age. We think of students obtaining scholarships and grants as being fresh-faced and right out of high school. Or, at least, embarking on the path to a Master’s degree. But someone like me? Someone who has not attended school in ??? years, who has already had a career and is looking to start a new one? The word “scholarship” didn’t enter my head until I was talking to my cousin’s son at Christmas. Ironically, he is also starting culinary school. He’s going to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which is akin to West Point for the military set. Once he graduates from there, he’ll have it made.
My education is going to be a bit on the modest side. I’m going to the Natural Gourmet Institute, which offers a full chef training program but focuses on whole-food, organic, well-being cooking, and is mostly plant-based, although they do use some poultry and seafood. That’s just fine with me. This philosophy is right up my alley. I’ve taken courses at NGI and thoroughly enjoyed them. It’s a small school with a maximum of 16 students per class. I don’t know how many students are in a typical class at the CIA, but I imagine that it’s quite larger. I think smaller is better because you have access to more one-on-one instruction with your teachers.
Despite the weirdness, though, going to culinary school seems quite natural for me. I have no qualms about entering the culinary classroom. I’m ready to pick up that chef’s knife and start chopping away. I’m ready to tie on that apron, slip into those clogs, and fire up that stove. The part of all this that making me lose sleep at night is the money I’m spending. The question that plagues me, that settles into my stomach to roil and churn, is: What if after I spend all that money to go to school, I can’t find a job that utilizes my skills? And more to the point, what if I still can’t find the job that I want?
In these economic times, is it realistic for me to find “a job that I want?” Is it selfish? You have to understand that I’ve been in pursuit of the job that “feeds my soul” for the last 20 years. Like a white tiger, it is elusive and ferociously hunted by better marksmen than me. That’s why I decided to go to culinary school—to arm myself better, to have something that will align me a little more with the competition. Will it work out the way I want? I don’t know. Nothing is guaranteed, especially in today’s economy. At this point, I’m lucky to have a job at all. Will I be fortunate enough to move off the road I’ve been on and onto the road I want to be on? I seem to keep missing the on-ramp. But it’s in my sight now, and I’m aiming for it. It’s going to be an interesting journey. I’ll be keeping notes here about how it’s going, but I’ll keep doing the usual as well. Wish me luck.
In the meantime, enjoy your 3-day weekend (if you get one) and stay safe in this absurdly kooky weather.