Cooking School Secrets: A Whole New World

I'm settling into my new routine. No great surprise, but life in a kitchen is a world or two away from sitting in a cubical on the 4th floor of an office building downtown.

Here's my early take on culinary school:

It's fairly militaristic, at least to an old hippie like me. Our uniforms are inspected daily for cleanliness, nametag and the mandatory neckerchief -- think white bandana tied like a tie. (It was comforting to discover on the first day that everyone looks bad in wide-leg checkered pants, a shapeless coat and a mushroom-shaped hat.)

And every interaction with an instructor requires loud and clear "Yes, Chef," "No, Chef," or "Thank you, Chef."

The chef you're working with is always right. Doesn't matter what the textbook says or what you've done before. Every chef has his or her own way of doing things. The Pollyanna in me realizes that I'm learning lots of techniques to choose from when it's my turn to be right. But I keep getting busted doing something the wrong way - most often the way I learned the week before. Luckily, my skin is thickening.

There's a varied student body. I appreciate the older or re-careering students (25 to mid-60s) with life experience and clarity about why they're here. Not so much the young ones with little or no work ethic who believe what I did when I was 20, that higher education is about partying and hooking up.

I started in a class of 15 students. Almost half aren't of legal drinking age. A handful are from out of state. Several have kitchen or restaurant experience and most are working while attending school. Most are very open with me about their pasts maybe it's because I have that motherly air. Truth be told, I was shocked to find out so far that 2 have been stabbed and 5 have been in jail for at least one night. I must be more sheltered than I thought.

Information comes to us at warp speed. It takes several hours of time outside class each day to come close to keeping up. The good thing about that is I'm a demanding person and I had high expectations for this program...especially at a cost of $200+ per day. Unfortunately, we've got some unnecessary homework that I'm not sure is even read once we've turned it in - one of my fellow students slipped through this definition of forcemeat on his vocab list: "similar to date rape; illegal in all 50 states."

So far, so good.

Ever wanted to know what it's like to go to culinary school? Here's your chance, as one local wanna-be-chef tells tales out of school. Check back soon for the next installment of "Cooking School Secrets."


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