Sunday, October 10, 2010

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.

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