The first day of culinary school was pretty harrowing. Three short months ago, I walked into room 1402 and sat down with sixteen other students for the first day of class. That day began a yearlong commitment to a culinary arts program that I have been thinking about for over two years. Self-doubt was rampant; I could feel that old familiar vibe in the air. But this time, it wasn’t emanating from just me. I knew that everyone else in the room was thinking the same thing, “what am I doing here?”
I arrived at the school at the appointed hour as instructed; the crack of dawn. Let’s just say it was still dark outside. Several weeks earlier, I had picked up my tool-bag (and believe me, I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s a “tool-bag” in every imaginable sense of the word), and the proverbial knife roll. Guess I could literally “pack my knives and go home,” now, if ever asked (I hope Padma doesn’t show up at any time, soon). I stood in line watching the hodgepodge of people gather behind me, the reality of this journey began to set in. ID pictures taken first (horrible, as usual), followed by being handed a bag of books that weighed about six-hundred pounds. I started having flashbacks of my early days at college (required reading? again? really?) I picked up my uniform the week prior to the start of class, and I must admit that putting on a pair of whites for the first time felt pretty strange. The comise hat, apron, side towels, and black heavy-duty slip resistant shoes were far from fashionable.
Who cared? I was in this kitchen to learn and to work and to figure out where I belonged in this brand new place so far away and utterly different from the world that I had come from. Besides, every one else looked just like me. I was happy to see so many people of various ages. For a moment, the room reminded me of that old-fashioned box of candy called the “sampler.” We were an assortment of people from various walks of life. Young, middle age, and older people, all together with the same goal. Seems that everyone is questioning their original career these days and looking for something more. I’m in great company. A finance person to my right, research scientist to my left, a clinical-trials scientist at table three, a school teacher at table two, and a lawyer down the hall in the same program that started a few months before mine. Wow. Suddenly, I’m not feeling so strange after all.
We’re all from different places; we’re all real professional people with serious lives, families, responsibilities, and commitments separate and apart from here. And we never would have met under any other circumstances.
And then the chef walked in…