This past September I read a fabulous blurb in The Georgia Straight and became interested in taking some Serious Foodie cooking classes with Northwest Culinary Academy. Unfortunately, they filled up (always a good sign) so I decided to kick things up times 10 and take their Professional Culinary training course: 15 weeks of condensed, high-intensity industry training followed by lots of homework (including awesome Rouxbe videos), studying, and knife skill practice at home. I think that Anthony Bourdain put it best in his book, Kitchen Confidential: You have to be totally nuts and hardcore to be able to work professionally with food. If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen, you know what I’m talking about.
I chose Northwest instead of other schools for many reasons, and felt that culinary training is a great investment because not only will it make me a living (hello!), but there are so many possible directions to go in, and at the end of this, the things I’ve learned can save me money and time for the rest of my life. Think of how fast you chop a carrot into little cubes. Then think of how fast a person in a professional kitchen does 30 pounds of carrots! One day I hope to be able to do things that speedily and accurately. Until then, practice, practice, practice.
This first week has been a total departure from what I’ve known for the past couple of years. Not only because I’m used to wearing girly dresses and jewelry instead of these new elasticized pants (I still work at the store and can do that on weekends), but because it’s non-stop go, go, GO at something I’m completely new at (and thought I was pretty good at). It’s been especially tough on me in particular, out of the class, because my station partner has been stuck in her home country and will be joining us next week, so I did a lot of 2-person/2-yield work solo (with some help from people at the station next to me). It’s also likely that nobody else in our group has been given a really nasty cough and then dumped right before class began either (even though everyone has their own situation going on, I hope none of theirs are clouding their minds like this). One of the instructors said that they would work me so hard that I’d forget all of my troubles; it’s a very good thing that he didn’t lie! I’m here to cook, not make excuses, so I have to push myself extra hard to keep focused and excel.
With multi-tasking and habit-changing and constant cleaning, I can already feel how different my life is rapidly becoming and it’s a good thing. I have made a few little mistakes here and there (it happens to everybody), but with all this exterior stuff going on, plus being The Lone Wolf (my new name) at the beginner stage (where everyone’s confidence is a bit shaky) and managing to whip up fantastic edibles proved to me that I can hustle, am tougher than I thought, and when the bottom line is how the food tastes, I kick some ass. It’s really nice when you can surprise yourself like that, especially when learning at this level is empowering but has also been very humbling.
The teachers are amazing and breathe excitement into the program, and our group of students are pretty focused. My brother Tarek and my sister Mia each have a friend studying here with me, too, which was a nice surprise. There are some great ways for me to volunteer with the school, as well, which I’m really looking forward to: Project CHEF, Terra Nova Schoolyard Society, and some of those Serious Foodie classes that I wanted to take, where I would actually get to coach someone. Very exciting!
Can’t write much more, will post a recipe sometime soon. Have to read my giant textbook while laundering my aprons. We just got our student ID cards, and my photo actually turned out really cute. Things are looking up!
PS: New category. School!