So you wanna go to culinary school…..

Dear Eden, you are wonderful in the kitchen! your food is always so tasty and beautiful, but frankly, your knife cutting skills suck! -your chef instructor

Hello friends (yep, I’m corny now).

I had a full day of teaching two cooking lessons back to back kindergarteners for the first round and 1st-5th grade the second.

Yep, still effective birth-control!

Thank goodness it’s cooled down a bit in the LA area. Yesterday I had my kids practically melting faster than the marshmallows in their quesadilla. I forgot my camera so no cool pic of their culinary concoctions, but don’t worry, you didn’t miss much.

Speaking of culinary things, I realized I don’t write a lot about my year in culinary school very often. And I actually get a lot of questions about my experience there and how it interfered with my eating disorder.

First, I’ll address the culinary school as a whole. Many “foodie” bloggers always write about how they wish they could go. Honestly, I think if your that passionate about food, its totally worth it. Believe me, you’ll get so much more out of anything you choose to learn if you are truly passionate and connected to what you are learning. Hence I never did well in chemistry or Pre-Calculous.

I was a straight A student in culinary school, and believe me, it was not easy. I’m not an idiot, well, what I mean is, I got pretty ok grades in high school, I went to a good college. Culinary school was harder than college. Not only do you have to know your math (its not just measuring and weighing ingredients, you have to know yield percentages and menu costing), but there is history, english, and even psychology courses. The good news is, if you studied those courses in college, your off the hook in those in culinary school.

Mind you, when I’m talking about culinary school, I’m not talking about a bunch of cooking lessons. What I did was an AA degree in Culinary Arts program.

Besides the academic classes you are required to take, you also must actually have hands on cooking time. Usually, five hours a day.

There were three slots where you could do these five hours. 6am-11am (hell no I didn’t do that one! The thought of making reductions at 7am made me cringe), 12pm-5pm, and 6pm-11pm. I chose the 6pm slot.

A typical class was like this:

There was a 40 min or so lecture, depending on the course (for example, if it were a Intro 1 course, it was probably about something simple like the anatomy of an egg). A demo for the dishes of the day which was about 30 min, and then maybe two or so hours to make those dishes, turn them into the chef, let him taste and grade it, and clean up.

I can’t emphasize the “clean up” part enough. You clean, and clean, and clean, and clean. Thats why I’m really good with using as little utensils as possible, less stuff to dirty, less stuff to clean. Instead of putting flour into a cup and brining it back to your station only to pour it into a mixing bowl, I’d simply pour it in saran wrap. I then would twist it into a little flour package, and simply make a hole and dump it into the bowl when I needed to. No need to clean a stupid cup for “holding” my flour.

Anyhow, each semester was six weeks long. There was a quiz every week which would alway include something written, and perhaps a knife skills quiz. Knife skills was about precision when chopping. We used potatoes because they are cheap (because we never ate what we practiced for the knife cutting), and we had to cut it into certain shapes and sizes. And they had to be pretty exact (you wonder why chefs are OCD). For example, a “bruinoise” cut was an 1/8x 1/8 x 1/8 cube. Yep, it was the tiniest and I found it actually the easier ones. The slightly larger dices can get tricky. I actually was pretty terrible with knife cuts. I did better in math than in knife skills. I killed me, because sometime, the most unimaginative students would get good grades because they were good at cutting. While their food was bland and boring.

Anyhow, if your wondering about the cost of culinary school, I’ll warn you it aint cheap. But then again, no school is cheap. The good news is there are lots of financial aid plans available and loads of scholarships. There are so many scholarships that simply require you to write a simple essay, and they in turn give you 300 or so dollars towards your education. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but like I said, there are LOADS of scholarships and I knew a girl in my class who paid for the school just by collecting that scholarship money. My point is, if you really want to go, money should not stop you, and it’s still cheaper than a year at harvard.

Plus, its very easy to get well paying gigs while your in culinary school. Many caterers need help with prep work and will usually pay 13-16 bucks per hour for the help of culinary students. And once you graduate, you can always demand more of course.

Also…….you don’t have to aspire to become a chef to go to culinary school! I knew from the beginning I didn’t want that. I knew I wanted to work with food in some way, but I was leaning more towards recipe development and food writing, like for “gourmet” or “saveur”. Some people in my class were over 50, and they simply had it with working in a corporate setting and wanted to immerse themselves in their passion.

Once again, it comes down to passion. Are you passionate about food. beyond just eating? Does cooking science intrigue you, does the art spark your imagination? If so, I think you would love culinary school, and I recommend you attend.

But that being said, I’d like to address the fact that I was still very much in my eating disorder while attending. I was running or walking about three hours a day, eating very little thought the day, and “bingeing” on “safe” foods at night when I got home from school. I did taste me food, always (a good chef should!), but I never ate a significant amount. With all the manual labor of culinary school AND the exercise I was doing, I resembled a holocaust victim. But I think culinary school kept me alive in some way. It felt good to be good at something besides my eating disorder. I used to think loosing weight or controlling it was the only thing I amounted to. But when chefs would try my food and “mmmmm…..” at what I made, even when all the other students were doing the same recipe, it felt good. It felt better than thinness, better than running, and maybe better than eating. That being said, a lot of eating disordered people like feeding the world while they neglect themselves. I’m guilty of that.

Thankfully, these days I always make myself things! Hell, the whole blog is mostly things I make for my self! It feels really good to make myself something nourishing, and eating the “fruits” of my labor!

Sorry, no recipe today….will have a great one tomorrow!

And from last week……The winner of the Crofters Jam giveaway is…….Astrid!  Congrats!

Stay tuned for I’ll do a “You wanna go to treatment” post!

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21 thoughts on “So you wanna go to culinary school…..

  1. Thank you Eden! For the Crofters and for this post. I do want to go to culinary school in the future. I think that is I don’t get a job offer this fall, I will apply to lots of scholarships and a culinary school program. It is something I know I am passionate about. I love to create things for myself and for other people. And I am conastantly wanting to learn more and more. The one thing I need to learn, and that I am super stupid with, is knife skills. And probably the cleaning, too. Stephen cleans the kitchen for me. I wish I had a little kitchen elf to clean up after me. That is the one down side of cooking for me!
    Cooking really has saved me. The experience of cooking and eating what I make (from the healthiest to the most decadent) is far superior than wanting to control what I eat. It is such an art to me, and it is a complete sensory experience, too.
    I cannot wait for the treatment post. Part of me wishes that I had gone. But I have had a strong recovery all the same.

  2. That was really informative! I’m not gonna lie. I had this image of culinary school being kind of more laid back. Piping icing onto cupcakes all day kinda thing. But you’ve really proved me wrong! It sounds a like a lot of hard work! But if it is someone’s true passion it probably doesn’t feel like work to them. Sometimes I think highschool might be a waste of time for some people. Why learn tedious mathematical equations if your passion has something to do with music or something compleatly different? It would make more sense if we could choose to study things of interest in school, once the basics are out of the way. That would probably lessen the dropout rate too!

  3. The thought of cutting up all those veggies makes me fear for my fingers! I’m pretty sure I’d leave with at least one less than I came in with!

  4. When I was in college as a nutrition major, we had to take a “culinary” class with afood management stuff. Lots of MEASURING, Calculations, and CLEANING! I couldn’t believe it! I love hearing about your experiences through it! And darn it, I wish I could taste your food. Top Chef some day? You know you’d be awesome!

  5. Thanks for sharing about culinary school. I always wondered what it would be like. I wouldn’t ever make it there, though…not with MY cooking skills, haha! You should have tasted some of the stuff I made this week. Bleck! My poor husband looked at me and was like, I’m tired of eating stuff that doesn’t turn out from those recipes you’re using! hahaha. He did NOT marry me for my culinary skills, LOL

  6. Wow! I am so glad you did this post. I have been thinking about going to Culinary school especially since I have not been working as much. It seems fun but yet intense. The whole going back to school thing kinda turns be away, but I know how much knowledge I will take away from it if I would go!

  7. It’s such a coincidence that you wrote this, because yesterday I was looking up culinary schools online. I’ve been questioning if my job right now is truly my passion, and I wanted to see what else was out there…and I do have a real interest in baking/pastry. I think I would really love that. Did you take any of those types of courses in your culinary school, or was that a separate program? The ironic thing is, I’m allergic to gluten and dairy, so I wouldn’t be able to taste 95% of the stuff I would make…but I am mostly interested in the art form of it. I think there is so much creativity involved, and I find the science of it pretty intriguing. I am only half serious about this, because it would be a major life overhaul, but it’s fun to think about…and I loved hearing about your experience.

  8. I was pretty tempted to go to culinary school, and funny enough, I was in a pretty bad place as well. I was told to work in a restaurant to make sure that that was really what I wanted to do with my life, and that almost ruined my culinary desires. Luckily, I quite just in time and was fortunate to learn quite a bit from some ridiculously talented chefs before leaving. I’m certainly not against going to a culinary school, however, I am glad that I didn’t attend the one in my state as I wasn’t impressed with much of it.

    Great post. 🙂

  9. Thanks for this post! I’ve been doing a bit of research about culinary schools lately and I would LOVE to study in one (I do such in math but I love cleaning :D) someday..

    Money is definitely a problem. In Finland school and education are FREE. Yes, universities, polytechnics everything. We are used to it and everyone can have an education, no matter do you have money. We even get money from the government if we study; for living cost and if you earn enough credits you don’t have to pay it back.
    In Europe there are not many culinary schools.. they have a few in Switzerland but oh boy are they expensive! I have done a bit research on culinary schools in US and I found ICE in NY very appealing before I learned I could not get a student visa because the program I wanted to do was part-time. I still haven’t figured out do international students also get scholarships etc. but I’ll keep on researching.

    It’s sure not made easy, but I’m sure if I ever have the chance to attend a culinary school, it’s worth it!

    • I went to Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena CA. it a pretty top notch school and one of the “cheaper ones” although not cheap. You DO get what you pay for though. You get 5 sets of uniforms, a huge tool kit with knives and everything, plus, the food, or course.

  10. i really loved this post! i think i wanna go to culinary school one day. Right now med school is in the future plans (which are costlyyyyy!) but im definitely making a promise to myself to eventually maybe do it! i mean like u said, theres 50 year olds there too!! hopefully it wont take me that long though.

    its really awesome how culinary school kept u somewhat grounded more during ur ED. Really inspiring post thanks!

  11. Even though I only cook for my household and cook for parties, I am always intrigue when people tell me they are going to culinary school. This post is very informative and since I’m a visual person, I pretty much pictured every word you said and felt like I had imagined your day in school. It sounds fun Eden.

  12. Thank you for sharing this! I’m always impressed when you just look close enough on something suddenly a universe opens up – that’s what I though when I read what you wrote about culinary school. There’s so much science, practice, and technique behind it. In the end it becomes art, I suppose.

  13. Ohh, I can’t wait to read the “so you want to go to treatment post.” I could probably write one of those too, but mine might be “what NOT to do in treatment.” I got kicked out the last time I went…oops.

    Anyway, I’m glad to read how much more you are actually enjoying what you are making these days. I love your recipes… you are so creative!

  14. LOVE this post! I would dieeee to go to culinary school. After contemplating the money issue for a while, I eneded up doing a condensed evening course at L’Academie this winter/spring. If anything though, it only made me want to go full time even more. Your post is something to think about for sure!

    – Beth @ http://www.DiningAndDishing.com

  15. Culinary school always seemed so glamorous to me…the cleaning aside of course! It sounds really intense and high-paced though, definitely not for the average cook. I think that loving food just isn’t enough to get through such a hectic year! Kudos to you Eden for doing it.

  16. hey Eden, i’m having a great time scrolling through your posts! totally agree that it’s important to chase after your dreams. it’s so easy to settle or say “that’ll never happen” but i truly believe “never” is a self fullfilled prophecy (deep.)

    once upon a time, i studied hotel and restaurant management, and part of the program was “intro to culinary arts” – that’s when i realized i’m more of an eater than a chef. apparently my skills stop at cereal and milk. 😛

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