Well I finally made it to the end of week one of culinary school. Only 47 more to go. It has been every bit as difficult as I imagined. Not the classes necessarily but adapting to the schedule. When I finally made it to the weekend, I collapsed in a heap of exhaustion. Not wanting to go anywhere or do anything or talk to anyone. I’m hoping that gets easier as I become more used to the early morning classes.
Once I’m awake though, I LOVE the crack-of-dawn routine. It’s cooler out and the best part is that I’m out of class by 10:00 a.m. – still feeling like I have the entire day ahead of me. It does make my days SEEM awfully long though since I get so much accomplished before noon.
The classes themselves have been fairly good. For the first six weeks, I’m taking Culinary Foundations I and Food Safety and Sanitation. Le Cordon Bleu teaches a curriculum of Classical French Cuisine. When it comes to anything labeled “classical” or “french”, there is a lot for me to learn. Sure, I’ve known for years how to chop or mince an onion but until last week, I never once knew that particular cut was called “cisceler”. And when it’s come to chopping up everything else, I’ve not cared so much about having a perfect batonnet (1/4”x1/4”x2 1/2”) or an exact brunoise (1/8”x1/8’x1/8”). For this week, the bane of my existence has been the tourne cut. This is where you cut a vegetable (potato, carrot or such) into basically a 2” football with seven flat (not six, not five) sides and 3/4” ends. One of my friends who has done all of this before and can frankly kick my butt with most anything cooking-related told me that she has a good selection of tourne knives – she kept thinking it was the knife’s fault. This week, I plan to go through bags of potatoes until I finally get it right. And I plan to buy a tourne knife. It HAS to be the knife’s fault.
My chef-instructor is a great guy. His first day as a teacher at LCB was my first day as a student. Until this weekend, he, his pregnant wife, his seven-year-old daughter and his three-year-old daughter have lived in Steiner Ranch on the outskirts of Austin – so near where my sweet friend, Ronne lives and where I love to visit so often. This job is bringing them all to the Dallas area. Chef Pritchard has supervised many kitchens and owned a couple of his own restaurants as well. He’s been in the “real world” for so long though that he’s a bit rusty on some of his classical terms and techniques as well. From what I’ve been told by a guy who is repeating this class (yes, evidently not EVERYONE passes it the first time), we’re lucky to have him. Since hearing his horror stories, I’m a bit more willing to laugh off his mix up of cisceler and emincer and his bad habit of forgetting to tell discuss topics that he then puts on the test – thinking that we’ve gone over it in class.
On Friday, I had a meeting with my career counselor. Career counseling is a big thing at the school so they get you in quickly for that initial “interview”. I was dreading the meeting. Unlike many of the people there, I have no desire to work the line in a professional kitchen. I have no urge to be the “face” of a hoity-toity restaurant. And I have a tough time putting into words exactly what it is I want to do. I need to be able to be creative. I love to teach. I like my days to have a beginning, a middle and an end. I love the whole farm end of things, the slow food movement and I love seeing others become educated about food and how to use it to enhance their lives. I love working with a small group of collaborators – not a strict hierarchy. Especially not a hierarchy that I have no interest in climbing to the top of – that, for me, is the recipe for a dead-end job. We talked about a lot of things and she didn’t seem particularly thrown. She even planted the idea of teaching culinary arts at the high school level in my head. That is a very appealing idea to me. I have a huge heart for teenagers and I once was the “guest chef” at Lamar High School in Arlington. It was an amazing experience and I loved every moment of it. At my counselor’s suggestion, I’ll be attending the Texas Chef’s Association meeting on September 6th just to network a bit. The possibilities are exciting.
On the home front, everyone is gearing up for back-to-school. Collin starts high school tomorrow. GAH! He’s very excited to finally be getting there. We had his 14th birthday “party” on Friday night. I thought is was a perfect way for someone his age to celebrate. Four of his favorite people over to play on the Xbox, eat a delicious sit-down dinner of his favorite foods on the good china and then a couple of board games with peach cobbler. I was struck at how grown up the boys seemed during dinner – carrying on good, real, intelligent conversations much like we adults to at the table. It was a great evening.
Today I’m planning to enjoy my quiet day of staying home and get ready to face week 2 head on. There are chef coats to iron and flash cards to study. It’s almost time for another week of being fearless. I’ll catch you on the other side.