A quick work update: I am learning a lot of new things! Our menu is continually adapting to seasons and changes which is a very exciting thing to participate in. I am constantly learning new techniques and combinations of ingredients and sometimes watching the same dish morph which is fascinating. In this way I am learning exactly what I came to the kitchen to learn; how to pair ingredients and have the knowledge and flexibility to create my own dishes and menus one day.
I’m a big Uptown Girls fan and I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the movie, “Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun.” This is definitely my fundamentals period. I practice my knife skills and plating and tasting every day.
One of my biggest challenges right now is that I don’t feel like I’m on a path. I don’t know where these skills are going to take me and it makes me feel like I’m not going anywhere. Part of the reason I loved the coffee company I worked for was because I had a road map from day one. I knew exactly what was expected of me, how to achieve it, and where I would get if I executed the plan. I loved it.
So far I haven’t found any food equivalent of that. I talk to everyone I can about the steps they took to achieve their experience and positions but they vary greatly. Some people go to culinary school, others don’t. Some work at one restaurant for a long period of time, some hop around to get a lot of different experiences. There doesn’t seem to be any one way. The fact that the roads are many should be a comfort, but I’m a woman who likes a plan and it mostly just makes me feel lost.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. When I started getting into food I looked for food podcasts. This week I listened to a Bon Appetit Foodcast episode with cookbook author Alison Roman that gave me some hope and inspiration. We went to the same jr college, both skipped culinary school and jumped straight into the kitchen. After working in restaurants she worked in the Bon Appetit test kitchen and is now a BA contributor, freelance food writer and cookbook author. When describing her first few weeks in the kitchen she says she cried everyday after work. Though I have not actually shed tears, I commiserate with the feelings of being new and bad at everything and share her determination to get better.
I think about going back to school to get my Bachelor's degree pretty often and am still extremely undecided. One of the things that keeps the thought circling around is that I don’t know if I could ever work for a magazine without it. Roman saying she left college because she didn’t share the excitement she saw in her peers really resonated with me. And if she worked at Bon Appetit without it, then maybe so can I.
Listening to her made me feel like I can do this and I can take it somewhere. I know that being a line cook isn’t going to be sustainable for me in the long run, but it's helpful to see that there are other options. This isn’t forever. I’m going somewhere, even if I don’t know where yet.