The beginning

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I am beginning my journey to become a chef in 13 days!  I will be attending the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan (located on 23rd street between 5th & 6th Ave).  Culinary school is not cheap and it's not going to be easy either.. which is why I had to be 100% sure I want to pursue a career in the culinary field.  

I first became interested in cooking when I was in high school.  My mother was a great home cook and made specialties like homemade pasta and pizza, which were inspired by her italian grandmother's cooking.  My mother grew up watching my great grandma cook in the basement of her cottage in the country.  She didn't speak much english and would start making homemade pastas and doughs first thing in the morning.  My mother would simply sit on a stool and observe.  My great grandmother passed away before I was born so I never got the pleasure of meeting her and tasting her cooking, but I think my mom did a great job recreating these italian specialties.
Like I said before,  I first started cooking with my mom in the kitchen when I was in high school.  I would help her prepare dinners once in a while and help cook on the holidays.  However, cooking was not my passion and I rarely cooked on my own.  It wasn't until I went to college and missed the home-cooked meals that I really began to appreciate my mother's cooking.  When I went home on breaks I started cooking more with her and really observing her techniques.  She taught me the correct way to chop veggies, crush garlic, and season meats.  I'll never forget the first time I made homemade pasta sauce with her.  It's her own special recipe that she recreated after years of making sauce with her mother.  This sauce is so delicious and is my ultimate comfort food over some homemade rigatoni.  I know that i will carry this recipe with me my whole life and eventually teach my own kids the recipe.

Once I finally had my own kitchen in my apartment at school, I began really experimenting in the kitchen.  i was only cooking for myself, so I felt that I could experiment with different flavors without the pressure of pleasing somebody else.  This is when I really learned my style of cooking and how to enjoy myself in the kitchen.  The kitchen became my place to zone out and forget about the pressures of everyday life.  After a long day at school, cooking would really help me relax and unwind (with a glass of red wine, of course!).  

I graduated this past May from Elon University with my bachelor's degree in business administration.  Cooking was only a hobby at this point, and my plan was to spend the summer searching for a job in advertising (despite the declining economy).  Over the summer, I went on interviews and searched for jobs, yet I had very little motivation.  People would ask me what I wanted to do, and I would respond "um, well whatever job I can get... I guess something in advertising.  I don't really know".  I felt like getting  a job in business was the most practical thing to do and something that was expected of me (with my dad owning his own advertising business and my sister being the marketing manager of a major company).  

My family was quick to observe the little motivation I had towards getting a job.  I wasn't very good at interviews and I wasn't excited about any job opportunities that came my way.  For the past year, me and my mom had casual conversations about culinary school and how it would have been really cool if i chose culinary school before I went to Elon (yet I wasn't that into cooking back then).  It didn't really cross my mind that I could attend culinary school after Elon.  Then my sister casually mentioned it again, so I started looking up schools, even though I didn't think it was realistic.  I remember coming across ICE and thinking "wow! I want to go there!"  But I continued job searching in advertising and sending out cover letters and resumes to companies throughout NJ.  

Finally, one morning my mom told me I should go to culinary school.  I was like, oh come on! It's wayy too expensive and it'll take too long!  She told me that my dad agreed with her and that I should look into it, since he could tell that cooking was my passion and it made me happy.  He also agreed to pay for it if I proved to him that it was something I really want to do.  I looked into different schools in the area, including the Art Institute of Phil, the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, and the Institute of Culinary Education.  After A LOT of research, I decided to tour ICE and meet with an admissions advisor.  He took me around the school and explained that the program is a 6 month diploma program (plus a 6 week externship).  This is a HUGE bonus since I already got my degree and i do not want to be in school for another 2 years (which is what the other schools require).  After seeing the facilities and getting all my questions answered, i was 100% sure ICE was where I belong.

Since i put down the deposit back in the beginning of September, I have been spending even more time in the kitchen experimenting with recipes.  I watch the food network with a new enthusiasm, watching every technique and taking in every tip.

So, here i am... 13 days before the first day of culinary school.  I'm sooo nervous, but so excited for the journey I'm about to take.  I will be commuting from my home in Colts Neck.. by taking NJ transit from Matawan to Penn Station and then taking the subway or walking to school.  

Stay tuned to read about my days at school and the adventures I face.  I'm sure I will meet several interesting people and have some strange/disastrous food encounters.  I will also be posting recipes along the way! :)


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