Life Under The Broiler

I know, I know.  No need to get irrationally angry with me.  I’m sorry I’ve been MIA for the last few months.  But, blog followers, you should be happy that I have been so busy…or at least busier than I was during my 265 day weekend.  Here I am and I PROMISE to try and be more diligent about posting!  But I have to tell you, culinary school is no cake walk.  It is HARD-much harder than I could have ever anticipated.  It’s not the cooking part (because let’s be honest, this b*tch can cook!) it’s everything that comes along with it.

Firstly, no one thought to caution “Calamity Jane” over here about picking a profession that uses knives and fire?! Thanks.  I have learned (and unfortunately am still learning) the hard way.  Though I wasn’t the first person in my class to slice a finger, I WAS the first (and not surprisingly) to make a scene about it.  I mean, let’s be honest people, when dicing a potato (which I’ll get into shortly) and all of a sudden a sharp chef’s knife slices through the pad of your thumb, you too are going to make some sort of  high pitched yelping/yelling noise as you dash to the “first-aid corner”.  Truth be told, I have gotten much better about cutting more food than fingers, but then there are the burns.  For some reason (and we know I am NOT a brave person) I feel as if when I cook, I am invincible to heat.  Convection oven? Let me open you with a bare hand. Noodle stuck at the bottom of a deep pot? Oh, let me stick my whole arm into the pot to fish you out.  Flambe? Kidding, I don’t do that! My classmates have learned better 🙂

Secondly, I begin class at 8am every day Monday-Friday.  Well, we really start filing into the kitchen around 7:30am.  Fully dressed in our chef’s whites (THE most unflattering outfit of all time) we set up the kitchen, prep for the day ahead, and generally complain about how tired we are.  Some days we have a lecture before the cooking madness begins, but other days we get right into the thick of it.  I recall one day, by 8:07am we were all driving our chef’s knives right through the brains of a live lobster! I can only imagine that at 8:07am, you were still home watching Matt Lauer out on the plaza.  By the time we have prepared, plated, and eaten our assignments for the day and cleaned the kitchen, it is noon and time to go home.

Now, I know you are all thinking “out by noon?! There is no excuse not to blog!”.  And let me tell you, I have TRIED to blog.  I’ll sit with my laptop on my couch, and what I think is a blink has turned into a TWO AND A HALF HOUR NAP!  I’m not kidding. I don’t joke about naps-I am dead serious about napping.  I am a professional napper, so when I nap, it is nothing out of the ordinary.  Except when these two hour+ naps happen every day.  I didn’t bring it up with any of my classmates at first, because I am one of the oldest and I didn’t need to feel older than I already do.  But then, one GLORIOUS day, I was texting with one of my classmates after class when all of a sudden the conversation came to a halt.  I didn’t really think anything of it, but when I got to class I was busting his balls about it (as I tend to do).  I mean, you don’t leave a girl hanging!  He leaned down a quietly said, “sorry, I passed out and took a two hour nap”.  With the same excitement I felt the day I got into culinary school, I clapped and exclaimed (too loudly) “NAP!? ME TOO! I NAP EVERYDAY!”.  And then more nappers started coming out of the woodwork.  Everyone really embraced the nap.  Now, we talk about our naps from the previous day or how we are going to situate ourselves for the nap ahead of us.  I know most of my friends’ preferred nap times, so now I’ll never get an unanswered text!

Ok, now let’s talk about my true enemy.  The bain of my existence.  The thing that keeps me up at night.  The reason I shake in my chef clogs. MEDIUM DICED POTATOES.  I’m pretty confident in my knife skills.  Give me an onion, I’ll dice it.  Give me a pepper, I’ll julienne it. Give me a head of garlic, I’ll mince it into a paste.  Give me a rack of lamb, I’ll butcher it (apprehensively).  But ask me to medium dice a potato-the blood rushes from my face and I immediately am searching for an excuse to do something else.  Unfortunately, these 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 1/2″ potato cubes haunt me and my dreams.  For some reason, I just can’t get a handle on them.  I mean, to the untrained eye, my tiny potato squares look pretty good.  But to me and my chef instructors, I can not serve rhombus shaped food (even though they will taste just as delicious).  I’ve admittedly gotten SO much better than I was in the beginning of school, but I still come home and do some practice dicing.  I can’t have any more potato based nightmares!!

Medium Diced Potatoes

Yes, I do realize that up until now, this entire blog post has been all complaining.  But for those three reasons I’m complaining about culinary school, (one more minor complaint.  People, I’m not taking COOKING CLASSES.  I’M IN CULINARY SCHOOL.  Major difference) there are a million reasons why I love it.  Firstly, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.  There are few things in the world that make me happier than cooking.  I know it sounds silly, but cooking to me makes me feel like I’m making magic happen.  I sometimes can’t believe that I take these raw ingredients, cut ’em up, cook ’em up, and BOOM! Something deliciously magical is on the plate in front of me.  I know it isn’t really magic, but it’s the closest I’m ever going to come to being Hermoine Granger.  Secondly, I love my instructors.  Specifically, the one we just had.  She was a feisty, take-no-bullsh*t, foul mouthed, chef.  Basically, she is my personal Oprah.  What she says, I believe.  What she does, I want to do.  If it were possible, I would want her to adopt me into her family (sorry Mom and Dad).  But really, she made me feel more confident in the kitchen and that I actually CAN do this!

And really, the BEST part of going to culinary school is my class.  I love them.  Yes, we butt heads.  It is hot in that kitchen and there are clashing personalities, but I could not think of another group of 14 people I would rather see every morning.  My biggest fear about starting school was that I wasn’t going to make any friends (I know, I literally had bigger fish to fry, but I couldn’t help it).  After the first day, the fear was quickly quelled.  We were all in the same boat.  We were all at the same start line running towards the same finish line.  We were all there wanting to cook.  And that is what brings our motley crew together.  Well, that and our disgustingly raunchy (for 8am) “get your head out of the gutter” brand of humor.  And I’ll be honest, not everyone is best friends, but I think (or at least hope) we genuinely respect each other.  I want everyone in my class to succeed.  I really hope to see them one day on The Food Network or on the cover of Food & Wine or on the list of James Beard Award Winners…and I hope they wish the same for me.

Our Motley Crew

The other evening, I was hanging out at my friend’s apartment when they commented on how I’ve become a little “tougher” since I’ve started school. Through all of the burns, cuts, arguments, and medium diced potatoes I have grown a thicker skin, but I could not imagine being happier than I am now.    And hey, as they say…if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!

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