Cooking School Secrets: Time for the Real World

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Classes are over. Finally. Not sure how other classes do it, but we went out with a bang (or should I say blaze). One of the students started a fire in the restaurant as he was preparing to make crepes suzette at the next to last service. True to form for our particular class. No doubt the instructors were ready for us to return the next day so we could join in the champagne toast and head out.

I was a bit taken aback by the amount of emotion that some of the students expressed. As I expected, there were a few that I bonded with...and a few that I was ready to leave weeks before. It's highly unlikely that I will ever see most of them again (unless someone can find a way to convince me to go to graduation).

And there's the question of how many of us will even make it through the externship. At the time we separated, only about 1/3 of us had jobs. Here's what was on the agenda for my classmates: the Olive Garden management program; a trip to Chicago to work at Alinea and Moto (no doubt the best externship in the history of the school); the floating restaurant in Page; a resort in Lake Tahoe; the Arizona Grand; a part-time personal chef position; the return to a cake-making business in the mid-West. I was among the many without anywhere to go. One pondered out loud about returning to his $80,000/year car sales job - for some reason, the opportunity to earn about $8/hour prepping food didn't appeal to him. (Can't say that I wasn't tossing around the idea of returning to publishing...but I am determined to forge ahead.)

Was school what I expected? Not really. I thought there would be more foodies and less people who were there just to learn restaurant kitchen skills. I was longing for the chance to taste new spices, learn to differentiate between olive oil pressings and understand the subtleties of salt. What I got was very basic - at least for someone who has been cooking for years and watching PBS and the Food Network.

Those that have followed me for the past few months know about the functionality and antics of my classmates. Several of the instructors have told me that ours was an usual group of students, but I've seen too much mischievous behavior and heard too many inappropriate comments to believe it.

Would I do it all over again? Probably. Not because it was worth the money or it got me where I wanted to be...because I was ready to make a change in my life and education is my way to stepping into something new. I may not have tremendous new skills but I do have the confidence that I know what I am doing.

What's next for me? Time will tell. I have resumes all around town and I am doing my best networking. I have confidence in the road I am on....despite what a long, strange trip it's been.


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