culinary school · Culinary Student Life

dear new culinary student

Dear new Culinary student,

Welcome to the beginning of your schooling! You like to cook and want to make a career out of your hobby? That’s great! Culinary Arts is an incredibly creative, diverse, and ever expanding industry and I understand why you would want to be a part of it. Preparing good food and presenting it to someone in an attractive manner? There’s something so appealing in that. Isn’t that why we go to restaurants anyway? The culinary world is a fascinating one with so many different paths to take, not to mention the sheer variety of cuisine to explore. You can become the executive chef at a four star restaurant, an instructor at a university, or even open your own restaurant with the degree you’ll have at the end of this.

Maybe this isn’t your first career path and you’re starting your life over, or you’re fresh out of high school, or even somewhere in between. Most new culinary students go into the schooling with bright eyed enthusiasm, planning on opening a restaurant when they graduate. It is a hard but admirable goal to have. Culinary school doesn’t necessarily teach students creativity with food. I believe it gives an outlet for the creativity you already have and simply haven’t had a chance to express in food. You will learn how to make beautiful and good tasting food while challenging yourself to push your limits among like-minded students. There are so many opportunities waiting in Culinary school if you have the courage and guts to take them.

To be completely honest, new Culinary student, I chose Culinary Arts on a whim. I needed to go to school for personal reasons and Culinary was the only degree that sounded vaguely interesting. With no clear idea of what I wanted to do after graduating outside of thoughts of opening a restaurant, I was like so many other first year students, so optimistic and excited to cook. I had no idea that Culinary had so much book work involved in it, how many papers I’d have to write and projects to do. The eight hours a day on my feet in the kitchen was a struggle to get used to. Now I can go for almost fourteen hours with only a handful of breaks. My body has adjusted to the long hours and I’m used to it. It can be a hard adjustment to make and often that’s what drives some students away from continuing their culinary education. Not everything is negative, however. I’ve made wonderful friends out of school, friends who push me to become better, challenge what I think I know, make the kitchen a fun place to be, and keep me coming back to the university. I’ve also made numerous connections within the Culinary community here in town through the events I’ve assisted in. These reasons are why I’m still here finishing up my degree and haven’t dropped out like so many others, even though I have been tempted to just quit.

I want you to think about how serious you are about making this hobby you love so much into a career. Culinary isn’t an easy field to go into. It’s physically demanding, with long hours on your feet with few breaks, working on the days most people have off because that’s when they go out to eat and you work. Burnout is common among cooks with everything they have to put up with, from long hours to minimal pay to hard working conditions. Sometimes I wonder if you have to be a little crazy to succeed in this field. Dan Barber, chef and co-owner at Blue Hill Farm, seems to think the same way,

“I believe strongly that good cooking is physical. It demands a kind of conditioning. Because of the drudgery and the hours and the exhaustion that this kind of work demands it does attract people who are attracted to a certain kind of abuse. It’s exhilarating, and the challenge is sort of, “How much of it can you stand?” And is that the way to live, you know, a happy life? I don’t have the answer to that at all. I wonder.”

This is not an easy industry to work in and culinary school is often the proving ground for those who will and won’t make it. From my first semester to what is now the end of my third semester, my class went from about twenty to twenty-five students down to five in just a year. Those numbers are appallingly low. Some of them graduated with their one year certificate, some dropped out in the first semester, some had personal issues come up that stopped them from finishing school, and on and on. This isn’t just at my school, either. The retention rate of culinary students is staggeringly low. Five years from now, how many of them are still cooking in the industry?

If you really are serious about making this your life, a word of advice: do the work. Do more than what is asked of you by your instructor. Don’t just do it for the grades and that fancy piece of paper they hand you at the end of the two years, put in the hard work and extra hours for yourself. Bother your instructors for extra tasks and then prove that you can do them when those extra assignments are given to you. This will build trust between you and your instructor, because they know they can rely on you to get both your normal assignments done and additional ones on top of it. If you can do that, your instructor will come to you first if there is an event they’re involved in. They will trust you more than your other classmates who may not be so driven. Make yourself indispensable, honestly, and cultivate that skill for your future. Nothing looks more attractive to future employers than being told by an instructor that this student showed up to every class, every event they signed their name to, and represented their school in an upstanding manner.

Explore as many techniques and ingredients as you can while you’re not the one paying for the equipment and ingredients. Who knows if you’ll ever have the chance to use an immersion circulator or liquid nitrogen again in the industry? Fail, new Culinary student, because it is better to fail in school where the impact is minimized than out in a restaurant where it can have larger ramifications. Besides, that’s the only way you learn how to make your food better, if you fail a dozen times before you succeed. Believe me, the cost of this education isn’t just the book work and what happens in the lab. If you put the hard work and extra hours in, this can be the foundation of your new career. Be smart about your choices going through culinary school, as you would be going through any schooling. This is your education, your money you’re spending. You will get out of it what you put into it.

What if you love to cook but aren’t sure if you really want to go to culinary school? Culinary school isn’t for everyone. I know a lot of cooks who have never gone to culinary school, just went straight into the industry and are doing just fine in their career path. Maybe getting a job in a restaurant is the best option for you. Start at the bottom of the totem pole, as a dishwasher or a prep cook and work your way up. Explore all your options before deciding to go to school. Remember, you love to cook. That’s the whole reason you’re even thinking about going to culinary school. Don’t let a school steal that love from you if it isn’t right for you.

I’m not telling you to drop Culinary Arts as a college path; I’m suggesting you take a deeper look at why you want to go into Culinary and really, really think about every aspect involved in this path. If it’s because you really love to cook and want to have fun, then maybe a full two year degree isn’t for you. See if your university or college offers elective Culinary classes, they tend to be slower paced and not intent on making you into another industry cook. Think long and hard about why you’re choosing this. You don’t want to spend years and thousands of dollars on a fancy piece of paper you won’t end up using. If you do choose to go into Culinary after everything I have said, good on you. It isn’t an easy path but if you are passionate, driven, and very stubborn, you will succeed and grow to be a good chef. Go forth, new Culinary student, go forth and succeed.

Sincerely,

Someone who’s already doing this

{This is an essay I wrote for my Writing 111 class. Apparently, as a second year culinary student who will be graduating next year, I have a lot of feelings on this subject. They’re mostly coherent for this being a rough draft and the fact I’m steadily losing my mind due to stress and finals and a stupid project that’s been hanging over my head for the past semester.}

books · reviews · YA books

Red Queen {review}

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Every time a YA heroine in a fantasy/post apocalyptic/sci fi book says ‘I’m not like other girls, I’m different!’, flowers die and puppies cry.

Please, for the sake of the puppies. End this trope.

To be completely honest, I’ve seen this book EVERYWHERE. E V E R Y W H E R E. And I’ve never read it. I have a tendency to read hyped up books well after they come out (like I didn’t read the Hunger Games until like 4 years later.)

Red Queen is a lot like the other YA fantasy books that have been popular for the past 5-6 years or so. Poor downtrodden girl who Is Not Like Other Girls meets the prince/is chosen by the prince to be his bride and is saved from her life of poverty. She is instantly hated by all the other girls, develops strange powers that she instantly knows how to harness, and can fit into the court almost at once after just a few lessons. Both princes fall all over her, even though Mummy dearest isn’t fond of her at all.

And then! Because she can’t just live semi-normally and accept the good fortune she’s given, she joins a rebellion! Within days of entering the palace! Because plot deems this a good idea!

Side question: how much time passes between when Cal meets Mare and the end of the book? A couple weeks? A month? A year? I couldn’t figure that out. There was no clear passage of time.

But I digress. She sloppily handles being part of the rebellion, gets people killed because her fiancé said so, all while justifying it to herself because ‘they might be able to hurt us in the future’.

AND THEN, oh this was the best part. Mare thinks she can manipulate Cal into taking power from his father and becoming king . (Or something.) Because she thinks it would actually work. Oh poor delusional child. The world does not, in fact, revolve around you and your over-inflated sense of importance. You’ve had power for like two weeks and suddenly you think you can change everything, because again, plot deems it best!!

Welcome to YA Heroine Syndrom, Mare, you exhibit all the classic symptoms.

Forgive me if I’m not impressed with the Cal/Mare/Maven love thing going on. It seemed too forced, like all these love triangles-shapes-whatever. I felt like I didn’t know the characters well enough to see it as believable.

I just don’t see how Cal could be HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE WITH MARE by just saving her once then sort of ignoring her?? And then Maven and Mare are planning on using Cal’s love for Mare as a way to manipulate him? I’m sorry, did I miss something in the past several chapters?

BUT COLOR ME WAY SURPRISED AT THE END OF THE BOOK. HOLY MO. (view spoiler)

I feel like this could’ve been a really good book, if the author had taken time to really do some more world building and build her characters more. Why did the Panther feel so intrigued by Mare? Why did the other girls hate her so much? What happened in Queenstrial? That, I feel, could’ve been really good.

We get the barest bones of backstory on this whole 100 Years War. Which is another trope that needs to die, like how can one economy sustain a war for so long?? If you’re conscripting all young men and women and so many of them are dying, how do you have enough to sustain your population if all the people of childbearing age are dying left and right? That’s not a way to keep your fighting force up.

~Maven, I feel, was the only one who had any sort of actual, genuine motivation to do the things he did. It was well-played in parts and a little too clunkely dramatic in others.

~Mare…had some ok motivation. Though she did whine a lot.

~And I just couldn’t figure Cal out at all. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s bad, all while being annoyingly perfect and pretty and pretentiously disheveled, I assume.

Some other characters deserved more time in the spotlight. Like Mare’s family, Gisa, Shade, Julian, even Evangeline.

ALSO STOP MAKING GIRLS HATE GIRLS ON SIGHT, FEMALE AUTHORS. YOU AREN’T DOING YOURSELVES ANY FAVORS BY CONTINUING TO PERPETUATE THIS HORRIBLE CLICHE.

All in all, I’m giving Red Queen 3 stars because it had the potential to be really good, but fell victim to a lot of the dumb tropes of the genre.

View all my reviews

books · reviews

Heartless {review}

HeartlessHeartless by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*SPOILERS AHEAD BEWARE SPOILERS*
K, so. This book. Was pretty decent. But I was still disappointed. Now, I love me a good fairy tale rewrite, and Alice in Wonderland is so kooky, so zany, and guys, this is Marissa Meyer. She writes really great books.

But Heartless? Was not a great book. It’s mediocre at best.

Let’s start with the characters, because they are what can make or break a story. Catharine Pinkerton (what kind of fairy tale name is that?) is the daughter of gentry but that simply isn’t good enough for her. Oh no, she wants to be a baker and open a bakery, because that is her passion! Her dream! Her goal in life!

*inhale*

So. I loved all the baking bits (because culinary school, yeah boy). But?? Baking is so important to Cath?? And I feel like that barely stood out in the book at all to me. Yeah she baked, and yeah that was a driving force in her motivations but…it didn’t stand out as something that really influenced her.

Also…Cath as a character. She seemed like she had little to no motivation. She wanted to be a baker but never told her parents until it was nearly too late. Her romance with Jest was….flat and blah and two dimensional. She herself was wishy-washy. And I had no idea what she even looked like? Plus her total 180 at the end of the book, like whoa lady, take it down a notch. And (view spoiler) she was spoiled, sulky, and just kind of annoying.

Now, Jest. I get the feeling he would be a super popular character because oh my gracious, a pretty male lead! Of course he’s going to be the fave! I felt, though, that his character was so flat. You got to see his motivations and see a bit of his romancing of Cath, but who was he really? What happened in Chess? Why do we not get any more backstory? What is he even like as a person?

Hatta I did like, and his gradual descent into madness was believable.

The other supporting characters were okay. Cath’s parents reminded me soooo much of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, it’s not even funny. Except that it is.

(view spoiler)

I was underwhelmed and kind of disappointed, because the book started out so well and actually held my attention past the first 15 pages. For it to end like it did was a huge letdown to me.

So all in all, I’d give this about a 3.2 or 3.0 stars, with a ‘kind of recommend if you can tolerate dumb female leads’ recommendation.

View all my reviews

Empress of China · knitting · photos · project 365 · socks

project 365: week 1

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{This was supposed to go up yesterday, but computer-camera problems. C’est la vie.}

1. Sometimes she’s a bad floof, but sometimes she’s a good floof who lays calmly on the couch.

2. My poor single sock collection really needs to be whittled down. Some of these socks have been single since 2014!

3. For Christmas, my nana gave me a 4 cup measuring cup from Pioneer Woman’s collection. It’s so cute!

4. Ah…soft blue Malabrigo worsted yarn that’ll become a hat. I’m thinking this pattern.

5. In my room shuffle, I moved my dresser to right underneath one of my icons. It’s actually one that I was given for free at a flea market. It makes a good backdrop for Mary.

6. Empress of China and yet another hat!! One that I actually finished late last night.

7. I’m trying to keep my library hauls smaller so I have more of a chance to read all the books I pick.

Empress of China · FOs · hats · knitting

FO: empress of china hat

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As I’ve said before, I’ve been on a hat knitting kick recently. With one just finished, three more on the needles, and several more planned, it’s safe to say I’m addicted to hat knitting. They’re just so versatile! Any weight yarn, any size needle, any pattern, and you’re bound to get a nice hat.

One of my WIPs is a pair of gray and red boot socks. I finished the first one and had a decent amount of yarn leftover. The hat sort of…spontaneously jumped on the needles. I honestly have no idea how it happened. It’s some kind of knitting magic, I tell you.

At first I was simply going to knit with the gray marl, which would’ve made a nice but kind of plain hat. Then I remembered I had a small amount of coral yarn that I had dyed with kool-aid a few years back. It wasn’t enough for a hat on its own, but it certainly made a lovely stripe! I used every single bit of the coral. It looks so much nicer than the gray would’ve alone. The color is truer in the top and bottom pictures.

{Yarn is Patons Worsted, pattern is Ribbed Cap from One Skein Wonders}

books · knit night · knitting · Star Wars · yarn along

yarn along + knit night

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{Knit Night and Yarn Along happen to coincide, so they’ll be talked about together.}

Knit Night is my favorite night of the week. 3 hours of sitting in the LYS, chatting with other knitters, and just relaxing, ah so nice. I’ve been going for about a year and a half now and just simply love it. It’s the most anticipated night of the week.

I happen to be in-between books right now, but I just finished Specter of the Past, by Timothy Zahn. He’s one of my favorite Star Wars authors. I’ve had such a hard time finding this book, too! I nearly leapt out of my skin when I found it at the library.

I also just finished the hat pictured (a small post about that coming soon) and immediately cast on for two more. I’m on such a hat kick recently. They’re so much fun to knit and there are so many different patterns to try. I’m participating in My Sister’s Knitter’s Stash Down KAL and I’m trying to get the stash whittled down as well!

photos

a fresh new start

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I’m not one for making resolutions on the New Year. I prefer to have goals or hopes, things I would like to happen but nothing set in stone. I know I won’t keep resolutions if I do make them, so I simply skip a step and don’t even make any.

My goals/hopes for this coming year are pretty simple.

I want to keep my craft supplies more organized.

I want to write more and finish an entire chapter story by the end of the year.

I want to get better at photography and use my camera every single day. I have a good camera, why not use it?

I want to get straight A’s again this semester.

I want to continue to be good at my job.

I want to weed out the books I own but don’t read and either donate them or sell them.

I want to work more from my stash this year, either in knitting or sewing.

Happy New Year, everyone.