5.05.2008

The end of the formal adventure...

The day has come and gone, which means the year has literally come and gone. What seemed at times to be an eternity and something that would never end, or something I didn't want to end, has finally passed. It started with a tiny book on wine, that led to some passionate thoughts, which led me on the adventures of culinary school. Embarking on the adventure led to this blog and the blog has been my canvas to capture my thoughts and experiences through it all. Do I think I'm a full-fledged chef? No. Could I have learned what I learned in culinary school by cooking through recipes found in the mountains of cook books that are neatly arranged on my cherry wood bookshelf? Maybe. Some people ask me if it was worth it to go through culinary school and I believe it was. I think the relationships you build and the camaraderie that develops is something unique. I started in a class of 33 aspiring chefs, and ended with 13. People rotated in and out, and within the six months we went from classmates cooking shoulder to shoulder over hot gas stoves to a bit of a family as we teamed up and finally really appreciated each other and our strengths during our three weeks at Bleu.

So what did I learn? Well, I learned that I could dismantle a squid - and very well I might add. I learned to get adventurous with what foods passed my lips: tripe, headcheese, offal anyone? And I know for a fact that has caused my palate to mature. I know what tastes good now and I'm much more of a discerning food critique because of it. I can tell how things were cooked. I can pick out ingredients like ground ginger, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and hints marjoram in dishes, and to me that is what makes it so fun; to taste it without knowing what went in it, but then being able to dissect it by notes of this or that.
There are two additional things that I learned, though, that stand out the most. Number 1 is Endurance. There were some nights that I didn't think would end and some weeks, too. Night after night, five nights a week, nonstop for months and you just keep going. And it's rough. It's physical. I've never had my back just ache all the time. It is NOT glamorous. It is NOT the high style of the Food Network with perfectly finished finger nails, freshly styled hair and not a drop of sweat on the brow. (No offense to FN; I am a fan as it's usually playing in the background as I work!). It is hard work. It's heat. It's sweat. It's going home from class smelling like the fish you spent hours filleting, and the meat you spent the evening grinding into sausage. It's spilling hot tomato sauce all over yourself and wearing those clothes for the rest of the night. And the dishes. It is stacks and stacks of horrifically soiled pots and pans and dirty water and clogged drains and no one is going anywhere until it is pristine for the morning rotation. It was intense studying with two-to-three tests per week. And you're so tired and it's so quick and there is so much information to absorb, but you just keep going. In all honesty, I think the endurance I learned in culinary school has allowed endurance to fit into other areas of my life. I can spin with the best of them in spin class. I'm running again. You just get in this mind set to keep at it and never stop. And I know it will prove to be an inspiration once again as I embark on the after life of culinary school; becoming a successful freelance food writer. Being self-employed is a dream, but at the same time it is absolutely frightening. Right now I'm currently a freelance pr professional and food writer with no clients and no writing projects in the que. So my days are spent just going and going: networking, pitching those story ideas, reaching out to local boutique pr firms offering to help and racking my brain to come up with that next great idea that all those other food writers (and there are thousands of them) haven't thought of yet. Endurance.

The second, and quite possibly most important thing I learned, was from one of my favorite chefs, Chef Tina. I was sad to learn at graduation that she is no longer with the school, but she did move on to a fabulous position at a culinary school on the Oregon coast. I've recently gotten back in touch with her and I am so glad. She is such an inspiration and SUCH a GREAT chef. And I think I immediately latched on to her as she changed her career and decided to get into the food world at the ripe young age of 32; same age I was when I decided to do this. We were in lecture one day and we had to do a quick review the U.S. Constitution. I think this was a school requirement. Anyway, she was asking us for our opinions about laws and the amendments. I've never been one to speak up. Anyone who's been in a meeting with me knows that. I usually just sit back and let others talk. She asked me a question, my opinion on something. I don't remember exactly what it was, but I started out with, "Um...I don't know...". It was then that she said something along the lines of, ' for all of you 18 or 19-year-olds out there just getting started in the world, you still have a lot to learn. But for those who are older, maybe 25, 30, and above who have had a bit of life experience, it is your job to speak up, to have opinions about things, and to start teaching what you've learned.' And that has stuck with me since. Now I'm not afraid to speak up, and am not afraid if my opinion is not the popular one. I actually quite like when my opinion doesn't coincide with the majority. I've always remembered that class and what she said and I'll never forget it.

So now on to the real stuff of making this new life happen. I had a panic the other week about money and finding work and started applying back to agencies and some corporate jobs even though it made my stomach flip. And then I just realized that I can do this and make this life of being self-employed that I want happen. I just need a little endurance, a lot of confidence, and some good food to keep me going.

Some pics from graduation...


Me and David. David and I were partners throughout just about every class. We first met up at a President's luncheon just before school started. I immediately knew he looked familiar. Turns out we both worked at an old job years ago together! This world is tooooo small.


My chefs from Bleu: Chef Gurr, Chef Jackson, and Chef Luke

And, of course, dear Chef Jackie, my French Chef! "Just add more buerre and a little more cream!"

Onward and upward.

Cheers,
~JF

2 comments:

Jaden said...

good luck on your freelance writing career!

Keith said...

Your Passion and dedication is inspirational. Good Luck!

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