Culinary School- The Decision

I know to blog readers it seems like I very randomly packed up and decided to culinary school. And it might have seemed that way to some of my friends as well. But thoughts of culinary school have been floating around my brain for years. I've always loved to cook.  I've been a great "cook" for a while.  But I wanted to step it up and become a chef.  The difference between a chef and a cook is tremendous. 

As you all know Chris and I had been planing to leave on our trip months ago.  But because of some personal stuff we've had to postpone our trip for at least a year (BOO!!). So, the questions because:

 "How can I best spend the next year of my life? 
How can I better myself? 
How can I keep my resume current? 
What will I enjoy doing for a year?"

I definitely considered getting a job; but I was worried that by the time I found (if I could even find one) a job and then finished training it would be time to leave.  I know that I could DEFINITELY learn a lot in a job in a year.  But  I kept on coming back to a statement that my grandfather always says:

"Find a job that you would be willing to do for free."

My first job out of college was as an event planner.  I loved planning, when I was actually planning, but 90% of the time I was doing crazy bitch work. I know that everyone has to start at the bottom but it was frustrating to say the least. So, I didn't want to go back to event planning if I knew I was only going to stay for only a year.  In the event industry you really have to work your way into a city event industry forging one relationship at a time.

While I was in Chicago I did lots of thinking. I volunteered for a great organization called Operation Frontline which is a part of  the Share Our Strengths philanthropy network. OF's mission is to help adults, families, and children learn about nutrition, easy cooking, and a healthy lifestyle through hands-on demonstrations and lectures.  Through the organization I assisted professional chefs in the classroom. While assisting I asked hundreds of questions about culinary school, being a chef, being a private chef, and everything else you could think of relating to attending culinary school. I also did several informational interviews with chefs.

I know that I could have gotten a culinary education in the field but I really want to have refined and technically correct culinary skills.  I want to have the distinction of going to a prestigious culinary school (man, that sounded snooty!).  My long term plan is not to become a chef in a restaurant.  The hours are crazy,the culture can be fairly intense (lots of late nights, drugs, and booze), and the pressure is always sky high.  

Eventually I want to open my own company-- catering, event planning, private cheffery (why yes, I did invent that)  or something along those lines.  What I really want to do is to open a small boutique cooking shop.  Imagine an amazing open kitchen with a living and dining room attached.  You could come take private lessons, pick up a gift for a friend, or have a fun girl's night out with great company, cooking, and wine!  

I applied to two culinary schools, Kendall in Chicago and Johnson & Wales in Charlotte.  Why those two? Well.... everyone else had already started the semester. Kendall was amazing.  They have a beautiful campus and the staff was incredibly friendly.  In the end I obviously decided on Johnson & Wales.  I wanted the name recognition and business training that J&W provides, I did NOT want to suffer through another Chicago winter, and I was ready to move into my own (with Chris of course!) place again. 

So far I'm loving culinary school. I'm definitely exhausted but it's all going to be worth it in the end! 

I'll be posting more about culinary school. My day to day life, what I'm learning, and maybe even a baking and pastry give away or two (who wants cookies in the mail? YOU DO!).

Thanks for sticking with me through these changes!

4 comments- my fav!:

S@sha said...

Interesting. Is the program that you are in only a year long? I think it would be incredibly interesting to study food while traveling the world. You could take local cooking classes around the globe and combine your newly minted culinary skills with the epic trip.

I'm definitely a good home cook, and have thought a little about culinary school. I don't want to be a restaurant chef though, for the same reasons you listed-- but additionally because there are things about professional kitchens that I find very un-ecological, like their over reliance on plastic wrap (imo), and the need to sterilize everything with bleach. I'm all for cleanliness in the kitchen, but I think chemical cleaners are not the answer. Anyway... there are a couple cool cookery shops near here that sound like what you describe. Certainly sounds fun!

S@sha said...

Oh, hey, also did you have to buy awesome knives? What kind?

Maggie said...

Looking forward to reading all about culinary school! I think about this sort of thing all the time.

Stephanie said...


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