In his book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, Anthony Bourdain wrote that if you’re over 32 or you have eczema, you’re probably not cut out to be a chef. I think you can be anything you want, but I’m starting to see what he means. My hands are covered in eczema, cracked skin and rough patches. There’s not enough time between classes for my skin to heal. Last night in class, I sliced through my fingernail with a vegetable peeler of all things, but luckily, I didn’t break the skin.
At the start of this program, I was whining about my skin, my back pains and my heavy bags, but I’m noticing that culinary school is gradually toughening me up. Like, for instance, I usually never swear, but these days I say the “F” word a whole lot. I move around the school kitchen with purpose and I slice vegetables with robotic speed. I’m disciplined as I move my way through my long list of daily tasks; shower, make breakfast, pack bags, go to work, go to school, practice knife cuts, read food-safety text book, read culinary text book, write out lesson recipes, make flashcards, wash uniforms, learn how to use a knife sharpening stone, etc.
I’ve never desired to be a restaurant chef, but I’m really liking the discipline involved in the kitchen. It fits my personality. I’m very speak-when-spoken-to and obedient. I work well with others. I like being laser-focused on a hands-on task. I'm great at listening and following direction. Most of all, I love learning and experimenting with the science and the art of cooking. I think to myself, wouldn’t it be great to go work in a restaurant in Italy for 6 months or be a line cook at Blue Hill at Stone Barns saying “yes chef” to Dan Barber. But the reality is that life in the kitchen is long hours, nights, weekends, holidays, back pain, sweat and tons of eczema. Oh, and I’m over 32.