Thursday, October 21, 2010


Almost through week number two. Tomorrow is Friday and we have our first test in Italian language class. For myeslf and the two other advanced students that means we must recite an Italian cuisine recipe in Italian. Something I have done in college classes but still very annoying.

Most of this week in the kitchen we have been learning about things that are going to be on our Serve Safe exam. This is the test about kitchen health standards and regulations, a test we must pass to be able to serve food in New they say. It's all pretty much common food sense like that you can't use the same tools to prepare raw fish as you do salad greens. The best part of this week though, was finally getting into some real cooking. On Tuesday we made our own fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. They turned out delicious and I definitely took a few balls of mozzarella over to my sisters apartment as payment for a free couch. We also had a woman come into speak to us who is one of the largest importers of authentic Italian artisnal cheeses in the country. She was very tranquil and knowledgable about her products and knew most of the producers personally and had herself seen each cheese's production process. She brought ten different and delicious cheeses for us to sample before returning to the days work of cheesemaking.

Today was my favorite day in the kitchen so far. We sill had Chef Guido lecturing us about Serve Safe for part of the lesson, but today was our first full day in the kitchen. And today was seafood anitpasto day! We made tuna tartar, pesce crudo, octopus terrine, we shucked oysters and clams, and had the opportunity to present to Chef Jessica Botto (our co-instructor) and Chef Guido our unique takes on a Himachi pesce crudo. It was freakin' awesome!! Not only did I have a praised tuna tartar (minus needing a little less acid) but my pesce crudo was my first home run. I watched most of my classmates struggle to execute their ideas for a dish and mine not only looked clean, symmetrical, and had beautiful color contrast It also tasted pretty darn good and Chef Guido called it cute, interesting, and tasty.

I've got to admit, besides feeling like I'm about to get sick, I feel like a million bucks. I am doing something I love to do, I'm doing well at it, I'm living a dream, I'm going to Italy soon, I have a great man, and, what else for a girl ask for?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday No-Fun-Day

Today is Sunday. Once reserved for all-you-can-drink mimosas and eggs benedict is now the bane of my existence. I have to work, of course, and waiting tables on a Sunday morning with its screaming children and fussy old ladies is about as fun as a hole in the head. However, working during the weekends is the price I have to pay for being a full-time culinary school student (not including the actual $41,000 it cost in student loans), and that being the case I gladly do it. I couldn't image doing anything else with my life now that I have started school. It has only been a week so far, but I absolutely love it!

The kitchen classes are by far my favorite part, especially considering the language classes we have to do are just review sessions for me. We started learning basic knife skills this week. Our chef instructor Guido I-Still-Can't-Pronounce-His-Last-Name is a short Italian man with a gray goatee and a great sense of humor. The first day of class we got our knife kit and he went over each piece and explained what everything was. He explain kitchen procedure and what we were expected to do/set up each time we entered the kitchen. Eager to use our knives, the class was ecstatic when Chef Guido pulled out a potato and showed us the dimensions of a proper julienne (1/8 x 1/8 x 2.5") and then asked us to do the same. That first day also practiced slicing and chopping onions and garlic.

The second day in the kitchen was more more eventful. We once again went over julienee, but then we tried a another proper cut which was just a bigger version of a julienne. Those were a bit easier for me, and I got praise for my good work from Chef Guido! A couple of the others had a bit of a rockier start. Amy, the 60-year-old oddball from Alaska already managed to cut herself as well as burn a hole through her knife hit on the first day. Another woman, also a little older, also cut herself on the first day. The second days casualty was my friend Chelsea. So far, in fact, I am the only female in the class who has yet to cut herself. The third day in the kitchen, Friday has been our most exciting so far. We actually did two recipes: bruschetta and panzanella.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2 Days Down

Today was my second day of culinary school. We haven't actually touched any food yet, we've been having full day intensive Italian language classes which honestly bore me to death. I'm one of the only people in the class that can actually speak the language already, which gives me a boost for sure but also means that I spend most of the day reviewing the basics. They already broke our class down into two groups, the people with absolutely no language skills and those of us with at least some knowledge. Out of us "advanced" language students our teacher, this gorgeous wild-haired Italian woman named Stefania has separated us even further. Four of us have been given an even more advanced curriculum due to the fact that we are already conversational if not fluent. Out of this tiny selection I am the only female, and the only one who has no Italian heritage.

Yesterday after our first long day of Italian language class a majority of us were giddy with excitement and decided to wander together to a nearby bar to celebrate. It was a good way to break any ice and get the ball rolling on being new-found best friends. After all, we will be spending seven months together five days a week in a hot kitchen in New York and then living together in the dorms in Colorno. It's safe to say that if we didn't like each other it was going to make this experience much less comfortable. Thank god we all clicked right away. We are definitely a group of extroverts, after one or two beers we were all laughing and chatting like old buddies. Almost everyone went home about an hour or so in, save for five of us. The obvious misfits. There was Chelsea, definitely already my pick for roommate when we move over to Italy. She's a cute 22-year-old University of North Carolina grad who seems to share with me a good sense of humor and an active drinking schedule. We're going to get along just fine I can tell, it will be nice to have a girlfriend to buddy up to during all this. Also included in our group of stragglers was Uda, a chill ass hell Puerto Rican kid who can shoot the shit and crack jokes just like I'm like used to at the restaurant. There were two other guys, Nick and one that I really can't remember the name of at the moment. Both fun, eager to get right into the food talk, and outgoing. Nick is in my Italian class and we already have been exchanging glances of abject boredom during class when we review once again the definite articles.

Tomorrow we get our knives and our first crack at the kitchen. I can't describe how excited I am. It's going to be a half day of kitchen time and half of language class in the afternoon. We start at 11am which will be nice, but I'm exhausted from my 6am start this morning so it's time to hit the sack.

Buona notte.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Italian Culinary Academy::The Italian Culinary Experience

A Culinary Orientation

On a beautiful crisp Friday afternoon I took the train to 462 Broadway for my culinary orientation. It was the first time I would enter a room as a culinary student; not a foodie, not a culinary enthusiast, but an actual student of food. I admit I was nervous, but more so excited. I anticipated who I would meet, who would be my peers for the next seven months, and if I would measure up to their already-acquired skills, and more importantly, would I be better. I can't help but believing that anything worth spending $40,000 on is worth being the best at. Although I admit as I entered the baren lecture space my insides were shaking, after all my journey to culinary school has been a long and steadfast journey.

I began as a naive and delicate 13-year-old girl who had fallen in love with the intricate art of pastry work after avidly watching the world pastry championships in the year 2000. From there my passion exploded and my eyes were opened to an entire industry that captivated my interests and provoked my creativity. From the age of thirteen on my heroes became the champions of the culinary landscape including Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, Jose Andres, Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, Jonathan Waxman, Alice Waters, and Jacques Pepin. Those names, they became my rockstars. They were my Lenon's, my Hendrix's, my Joplin's. What they did for the taste buds to me was the same thing that the great music legends did for our eardrums. They opened them up and made them feel alive!

Orientation was everything I expected it to be: somewhat awkward, but at the same time exciting. It is never easy starting a new phase of one's life, but all necessary change requires discomfort. All of us expectant students sat obediently as we were informed of the many details of our scholastic endevour. Most of the information we were given regarded our "stage", the internship we will partake in whilst in Italy as the final and concluding piece of our culinary education, during which we will be split up individually and sent to work as employees in different restaurants. The other most pressing matter seemed to be the quality and standard of shoe we all should possess whilst in school; this being a clog of sturdy black leather and non-slip sole. I, having already been in posession of such a shoe found this redundant reminder unnecessary, as the school had already sent us the list of required materials well in advance of the orientation date.

After we had been introduced to our professors, briefed on most of the finer points of what we had paid for and thoroughly tuckered out, we were granted a reprieve in the form of a wine-filled reception. For 15 minutes we were all treated to glasses of wine and pieces of bread and butter in order to make getting to know each other a little less uncomfortable. In typical fashion the girls mingled with the girls and the guys with the guys, until of course I venture over to the guys circle, brazenly introduced myself as a force to be reckoned with and then got as much information out of them as possible. After all, I was here to size up my competition. After closer inspection it seemed that I was one of the most seriously devoted to my chosen career path. There were a few who seemed to have a genuine interest in cooking and more so who had a true passion for Italian culture; however there were few, if any, who had a passion for cooking, experience in the kitchen AND previous knowledge of Italian culture. I seem, thus far, to be the only triple threat in the group.
I left orientation feeling pumped. I am so excited that this is finally happening! I've waited so long to fulfill this dream and it is amazing that it is finally coming to fruition. Classes start on Monday, and I have two full days of Basic Italian Language 101 before I even get to see a kitchen or get a hold of my knife kit. The basic crash course Italian classes seem like a waste of time for me considering that I've taken about 8 years of Italian language class at both the high school and university level; however, it can't hurt to review the basics and of course they are required.

I can't wait for Monday and the beginning of a new beginning.