April 20, 2010

Where do we go from here?

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Harriet van Horne

This is a quote on the wall of the restaurant of my school. If everyone who cooked or baked could feel this every time they went to produce something, I almost feel like there would never be any bad food. Eh, lofty thinking.

The last day of class was last Wednesday. We spent most of it cleaning. Not particularly the best part of being in the kitchen but a necessary part. The also decided to spring one last 'lesson' on us. A timed exercise in hand whipping and chocolate piping. Ha, my worst skills due to incredibly weak arms and an unnatural and totally noticeable inability to stop shaking. The minute they kicked us out of the kitchen, the air ran high with nervousness and it was like the people I had come to know that term changed. A class that is competitive and a little ruthless? Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me but I sensed it. I disliked some of the strange behaviors but mostly my own performance. No big shock there. I am sure you are all familiar with the frustrating moment of 'why can't I just do this?' Yep, the one that you have right before you just keep going because that is what you do. Keep trying. I will get it eventually. Kaizen, continuous improvement. Not insanity because I at least change my method every now and then...

The next day was our good-bye lunch. I almost didn't go. The last few days of class were like a continual good-bye. Everyone else isn't stopping. They get to go to their fancy externships or continued classes. I am going home to paint wooden signs and get married. Then what? They handed out awards at the lunch. We were all expecting the Spirit of OCI Award. This was the award the whole class voted on. We didn't know who would get it, odds were that it was going to be a three-way tie. It wasn't. The award went to the ever incredible piping master, Delicia, soon to be pastry phenom at Ten 01. Next up was the Chef Parks Award (you can read about Chef Parks here). At this point my attention was gone, lost somewhere in thoughts of how to improve the Italian buttercream recipe (maybe I should have figured out the crème anglaise addition) when I hear my name. I had no idea why and it took me a minute to figure it out. Apparently I called Chef Wilke's bluff or the staff/chefs got to talking and they think I am a good student. I am not sure exactly. Either way, I do not want to disappoint myself or those that recognized my hard work. I am honored to have my name even mentioned in the same sentence as Chef Parks, who patiently waited for a turtle that Saturday where my ability to temper chocolate was overshadowed by my inability to be patient and trust in myself that I could do just that. Oh how fast word can travel at that school...

My goal for school was to learn. I had no plans to do anything in particular with my schooling, I just wanted to understand the process of baking. From day one I felt completely lost. It seemed that everyone in my class had an idea of what they wanted to do and the place they wanted to go. Some of my classmates even had previous schooling and experience doing some of the things we did in class.

How do you work in that environment? Some folks cannot, we lost two of our classmates. One in the first section and one in the second.

I am a swirl of thoughts right now. I still do not have a plan. I do know that I have to get back to a kitchen. A real kitchen. I miss school so much. I had no idea the impact it would have. All the teachers were so great to put up with and answer my incessant questions. My classmates, never a more diverse and interesting crowd will I meet. I am amazed at their skills. I do hope that we all stay in touch.

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