Taking the plunge

On our first official day of class, we were told to arrive at 8:30 am at the latest. It has been awhile since I had a first day of school, so naturally I did not sleep well. My mind was racing as it did a mental checklist of all of the items I needed to bring to class....apron check, chef coat and pants check, index cards check etc. As I was terrified that some sort of NYC metro construction would delay my train, I opted to walk. The city street are so peaceful in the morning, no tourists, many of the shops are still closed and you feel, just for a minute, like you are the only person in Manhattan. It was a peaceful 40 minute walk and helped mentally prepare myself.

I arrived at 7:30 am armed with my backpack loaded with a bizarre assortment of 'culinary school supplies': chef uniform (chef coat, chef pants, neckerchief, apron, kitchen towel, hat and kitchen shoes); large water bottle; first aid kit (band-aids, neosporin, gauze, aspirin, Tylenol); deodorant; granola/nutrition bars; index cards and pen/sharpie. Despite the calming walk I was still nervous and had some time to kill, so opted to have a coffee at the nearby Starbucks.

After my coffee I made my way to the corner of Broadway and Grand where L'Ecole restaurant sits, the walk sign changed to walk, but I just stood there and let the crowd of people brush past me. I look appraising at the building that was to be my new home for the next 7 months and I remembered the first time I discovered FCI.

It was 5 years ago, and I was on a girls trip to New York and came to L'Ecole to dine for dinner. My friends and I loved the food and they mentioned to the waitor that I was an aspiring chef, so the hostess arranged a tour of the school after dinner. I fell in love with the student kitchens lined with industrial grade ovens, stoves and fridges; the cookbook library with floor to ceiling cookbooks and magazines; and french curriculum. At the end of the tour, they gave me a fake chef hat, business card for admission and a box of matches bearing the name L'Ecole, at the end of the tour.

So at the corner of Broadway and Grand, the same corner where I rushed out of a cab 5 years ago with 3 of my closest girlfriends, I took a deep breath, fiddled with a very worn box of matches and crossed the street to begin my life in the kitchen.

And so it begins....

It has been 10 month and 22 days since my last post and for that, I apologize profusely. The last few months have been filled with decisions, applications, endless to do lists and far too many hours on craiglist searching for an apartment, but it was all worth it because it brought me here....to New York, as a student of the French Culinary Institute.

To be honest, perhaps the real reason I haven't been blogging is that I lacked inspiration, I found it difficult to believe that anyone in the world, aside from my immediate family and friends, woke up each morning with the intense desire to hear the status of my visa application, housing situation or self inflicted culinary homework assignments, but hey, that's just me. However as I sit here in at the Think cafe on Blecker Street, sipping my iced coffee, feeling the gently rumble of the 6 train beneath my feet, I feel inspired to write again.

Yesterday was a big day, it was Orientation, the day that you are supposed to find out exactly what you got yourself into and I was, well, terrified. After all, this was the day I was going to meet my fellow classmates and teachers, who would help to define this incredible adventure. A good friend of mine gave me Anthony Bourdain's novel Kitchen Confidential, which I have been reading diligently in the hopes it would help to mentally prepare me for the physical and verbal abuses of the kitchen.

So back to orientation, the session was fairly straight forward and mostly administrative but there was one memorable moment, which struck fear into my heart and left me slightly sleepless last night. At one point in our session a gentlemen in the back of the class was dozing off, and the chef yelled, and I do mean yelled "WAKE UP NOW!!" This shouting shook me, more than any written words or folklore about the verbal assaults in a kitchen ever could, simply because I was there. I realized truly, for the first time that one day I will be yelled at by a chef, and it terrified me. In that moment, I resolved not to be one of those girls who cry when being 'disciplined' in the kitchen. Fear is a good motivator, at least for me. After orientation, I knew I would study and practice more than I ever had in the past. I was committed to reading and eating everything food related in the pursuit of not only surviving, but (hopefully) excelling.

But it wasn't all administrative or terrifying, during our meet and greet, we had the opportunity to interact with other students, our faculty and some students. From these brief exchanges I gleaned the following:
1) always be on time - being late as a chef is the best way to get fired. This one will take a little work on my behalf.
2) be well groomed
3) take nothing personally - being yelled at is not a personal assault, but a reflection of the piss-poor job you just did
4) learn fast - there is no margin for error here, we are expected to learn everything on our first go and be able to do it exactly the demonstrated way immediately.

I do not mean to scare you all, I knew most of this going in. I knew what I was signing myself up for when I applied. I knew it would be hot and gruelling work. I knew I would get cut, burned and my hands and arms would never look the same. I knew I would stand and work harder than I knew was possible. But I also knew that I would love every second of it.

So, orientation is over, I am finally settled here in New York and eagerly anticipating my first day of school like an eager wide eyed 5 yr old, filled with wonder, enthusiasm and most of all....hope.