In elementary school, maybe in fifth grade, we had a week where each member of our class had to display a talent. I figured I would try and make cookies for everyone. Was mixing all the ingredients together in front of the whole class and then it hit me. Forgot the butter. Makes me cringe to this day.
My mom made all the meals growing up but never taught me much beyond boiling and maybe to pan fry (shout out to my homie Spam!). I never learned any traditional Korean dishes and still don’t know any. Admiring Food Network stars such as Alton Brown and Sara Moulton with pressure from parents lead me to the Le Cordon Bleu California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. It was a year program and I was able to work in a French restaurant making desserts another year after graduation before moving on.
What I failed to realize back then was that I did not have enough coordination or common sense needed in such a battlefield. Unfortunately they are innately given concepts which cannot be sought or installed if missing so far as I know. Also allergies and a bad sense of taste are definitely outing factors. Once I figured out the wrong ways to make a dish and got used to the steps I can get along fine with a familiar item. I remember meeting discliplined instructors who had many skills and experiences. They were organized and challenging but were also kind and encouraging. Luckily no terrifyingly abusive chefs barked orders at me but some did have tempers and I endured bad burns and deep knife cuts. I encountered some hilarious characters at the restaurant and the days were fast and simple at the back of the house.
So would I do this again? Most likely yes although choice of program and length of time involved might be altered. Regrettably little of my former training remains but I can recall some lessons for those considering to try it out:
+ obviously you get to eat a lot and have exposure to new foods!
+ satisfaction when the product comes out right
+ universal appeal in conversations: when people find out you’re a cook they all tend to relate with enthusiasm
+ artistic techniques that are attractive to creative thinkers
– ack, uniforms!
– it can be quite pricey with books and tools
– if you aim to make it a career the industry demands unsteady hours (forget having weekends and holidays to yourself anymore) with no benefits and low pay
– requires heavy lifting and tons of cleaning
Nothing is quite like glazing a fruit tart or reducing wine in a batch of beef bourguignon. Or as dreamy as the taste of coffee buttercream while coating ganache over an opera cake. Of course there were gag worthy meetings such as the ratatouille dish and I still find aspic jelly unsavory. But it’s all about the process if not only the result. The flavors would blend together like music in an orchestra or elements that form an architectural project. It is a universal language that connects us across the world.