May 25, 2016

Culinary School Lesson 1

After 5 years of playing with the idea, and months upon months of getting up the courage to sign the loan papers, I finally enrolled in culinary school. Here on Brooklyn Salt, I’ll document my experience; all the laughter, tears, sweat, blood and bernaise...

I woke up the morning of orientation day in a bad mood, a mix of anxiety, resistance and fear. I was about to start a big scary journey, financially, physically, mentally and emotionally. Orientation was a piece of cake, but I walked out of the school building with so many questions. Will my new culinary school duffle bag fit in my new culinary school locker? What lock should I buy? Are my Skechers work shoes appropriate for the kitchen? What do I bring to my first class? How do I put on this neckerchief?

My first class was the next day. My classes will be twice a week from 5:45PM to 10:45PM for the next 14 months. I hauled several bags of stuff (uniform, text book, pens, index cards, my lunch for the day, snacks, chef shoes, etc) to my job up on West 98th street, a 40 minute commute, and hauled them back downtown to school, sweating and half running to get there on time.

The staff was really supportive when my class arrived. The waistband of my chef pants were digging into my stomach so the staff helped me exchange them. There are 4 women in my class and 4 men, a small group. At least 3 classmates are my age or older, so my fear of being the oldest went right out the window.

We were escorted to our Level 1 kitchen where we’ll spend the next 10 weeks. Our instructor, I’ll call him “Chef”, spent the next 5 hours showing us around the kitchen, demonstrating traditional talliage (knife cuts) and a couple of steaming/boiling techniques. Each lesson was quick and intense, and usually timed by Chef. My self-taught knife skills are pretty good, so I got a few high fives from Chef. The hardest parts of class were knowing where everything is, getting tools out of our 3-section tool bag within seconds, standing in one place for 5 hours and trying to remember the million little things and dozens of French culinary terms Chef rattled off. Chef also mentioned at least 6 different tools and supplies that we should probably buy…on top of our whopping tuition.

Me and my 3 other female classmates made our way to the locker room after class, exhausted and asking ourselves “what the hell did I get myself into?”.

A higher level student asked us if we were Level 1. We responded that this was our first day. She said “Oh, I’m sorry….it actually doesn’t get any easier.” Another higher level student gave us tips on how not to have to haul so much stuff to and from school and to watch out for typos in the text book recipes.

Tonight I was supposed to do my homework which is practicing my knife skills and cuts on a bunch of carrots, turnips, cabbage and tomatoes. But apparently, I’d rather clean the litter box than think about culinary school. I’m totally overwhelmed and hoping I’ll adjust soon. Am I cut out for culinary?


  1. Hang in there, anything worth it is exhausting at first. You'll be
    fine, just give it time and don't loose patience and self confidence.
    You are there for a reason.

  2. Thanks for the encouraging words Carol! I'm starting to adjust and taking it one day at a time. Stay tuned!

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