Cheers to Culinary School

Who wouldn’t want to go to culinary school? The food network is basically the only station that every family member can agree on; chefs are the new celebrities; you get to think about food all day long; then there’s the whole “you are what you eat” logic which is reasonably important. And, let’s not forget that a photogenic plate of food is one of the most significant (or instagramable) moments in any given day. As someone whose life tends to revolve around food, culinary school had always seemed like an appealing and dreamy thing to do. But it certainly never seemed like a realistic thing to do – at least for me. Until recently, when I decided out of nowhere that it was my next step.

I’ve always loved food. I know that sounds completely generic because who doesn’t love food? It's as generic as saying “I just love oxygen.” Plus, I find anyone who doesn’t like food (you know those people who brag that they wish they could take a pill to replace meals) very suspicious. Anyways, getting back to it: I love food. And my family is extremely food oriented so that must be where I get it from. My mom is a natural in the kitchen. She always whips meals up that are tasty and from scratch and I love her for this because this is where I learned to cook whole foods and not take shortcuts in the kitchen. I also blame her for shortcuts not coming naturally to me so I've have had to learn to work "smart" versus hard. My family has Eastern European roots and I grew up by the ocean so seafood was one of my first loves. For instance, my favourite part of Christmastime is Christmas Eve when my Grandmother makes “Scampi”, a traditional Croatian dish made with fresh prawns, white wine and lots of garlic and parsley. We ate a lot of home-cooked meals but growing up in Vancouver we also had the opportunity to eat out at some great restaurants (Vancouver has a fantastic food scene). When we travelled, second to booking our hotel would come making reservations - and I’m not referring to flights; those were maybe the fourth or fifth item on the list. (As I'm writing this, I'm thinking maybe this is why I'm notorious for missing flights). My younger brothers were eating chicken hearts and unagi as after school snacks before farm-to-table or sushi were even close to having their moments.

So with a lull in my studies and a recent decision to make a career shift (is it technically even a shift if you never had a career and are shifting from nothing to something?) I found myself in the kitchen for hours avoiding anything important that I actually needed to do. I am the first to admit that I was never that into cooking when I was younger (although I do have a keen memory of a sweet 16 birthday get together I had where my friends came over and we cooked stir-fry and I wore a green, velvet dress; asian food and emerald-anything is about as good as it gets) but over the past few years (due to health issues, which I will get into later) I found myself in the kitchen, getting creative, cooking food for friends, family and myself. Cooking started providing me with a creative outlet; given some frustrating dietary restrictions, I became determined to make alternate recipes so that I didn’t feel so limited. I also fell in love with my time in the kitchen; it is meditative and it anchors me in the present. When preparing food, I feel really engaged; focusing on the chopping or pan-frying, waiting for things to sweat or caramelize, I don’t think about anything else or the end-product will look and taste wrong. And the logistics, thinking about the timing of each dish is much nicer than thinking about the timing of the next bus you have to catch. I find cooking really transports me from the bustle of daily life to this Zen person, someone I’d want to be friends with. I know it’s not like this for everyone nor is it like this every time I cook. But usually, it’s my ‘me’ time and I just love it.

This past summer is when I first considered cooking school as an option. It was a family friend who actually suggested it, reasoning that my food quality was quite good for someone my age with zero-experience. She also noted (very politely) how she kept finding me in her kitchen for hours every day and that her fridge was always overstocked with my groceries & meal prep and she couldn’t fit anything in it. I was quick to dismiss the idea but as weeks and months passed, I began thinking more about to how to navigate the wellness scene and I realized that culinary school may actually be the answer. I figured that a) I love it (“do what you love”) b) it would give me a skill set and foundation that I could easily translate into alternate recipes that fit my lifestyle c) it would compliment any future holistic education which I’ve considered and d) it would give me a competitive edge that I desperately need. I toyed with the culinary idea, researched many schools and tried to interpret the differences between the varying curriculums, degrees and locations. I visited the school I ultimately chose in early fall 2015 when I dropped my brothers off at school on the East Coast (Boston and New York) and then I came back to Canada and made the decision to attend at basically the last possible moment. Okay, that’s a lie. I had a hard time committing to the program because although it seemed amazing, it felt a little too random or like I didn’t deserve it. I actually made the decision TOO late and was told the class was full which was completely devastating but funnily enough only further cemented my desire to attend. But in the end someone dropped out and I snagged a spot.

I moved to the US about 5 days after deciding to go ahead with the program which was 1 day before orientation and I found a place to live 2 days before the program and my new chapter officially began! Classes began in early November. My knife set got stolen on day 3. This paragraph is a pretty astute representation of my life. Stay tuned!