It’s been some time since I posted anything about school.
There are many reasons for that. Mostly, the busyness and (minor) stress of the latest block. And resistance to broadcasting the voice of an aging, frustrated crazy person who yet again questions life in general and her path along it. But hell, that just makes me exactly like most other people.
So here I am, bringing you the good, bad and tangential on school as I presently know it.
I had a zero sum day in the kitchen today.
I experienced my very first total fail, by burning the ever living shit out of what were supposed to be linzer tortes. (Pictured). I screwed up some weird bread by underbaking and somehow making it even weirder. But my chicken paprishka – though lacking in as much paprika as expected – was pretty rockin’.
We survived our second kitchen practical with Chef Dragon Lady, though this time she was actually our instructor. 2-person teams, 5 courses, 3 hours. And my 4.0 GPA is still intact. But grades certainly aren’t everything.
Let’s get the bad that’s been clouding my head out of the way first, shall we? Clear the air.
*As an adult returning to a nontraditional classroom, the academic in me sometimes struggles against the hands-on pragmatist. As in, “Why am I not learning more _______?(fill in the blank)” versus “Why is so-and-so hung up on _____? (fill in the blank) You just have to DO it.”
* The entire class has been pissed and worn down, with a great loss of joy for the whole process. These times are to be expected, but the lackluster of our everyday kitchen has been in response to instructional overbearance, in different ways.
* Chef Dragon Lady does not often swallow or eat our food. This could be understandable if we all tasted or ate large amounts of any given dish daily… no one wants to gain 50 pounds. But that is not the case. She tastes, spits, and often offers very little feedback at all. I question how this can possibly be teaching me anything, save how I process intimidation.
* The functional attitude of the school doesn’t seem to be one which fosters any real hope of success in the industry. I don’t want to be the next Iron Chef. I just want to pay the bills while working my ass off like everyone else.
*A member of the office staff (whose job, in large part is to place students with kitchens) has blatantly ignored my requests for stage opportunities before externship and job hunting. Classrooms are one thing, but I know until I do legitimate time in a restaurant, I won’t know what I’m really getting into. I haven’t had time to straighten that out yet, but it’s shitty that no one in this tiny school’s administration knows your name until you have a problem. Oh wait – that’s every school.
*They took away our kitchen garbage cans and replaced them with tiny damned office trash cans we are now required to keep under the work station tables. Who would DO such a thing?
OK, that last one seems especially petty, but it’s a pretty big deal.
Overall, I’ve found myself wondering if I am learning another perfectly usable skill I won’t be able to use profitably. Not just monetarily, though the concern that I’ve paid thousands of dollars to get a barely-over-minimum-wage job I’ll have to supplement is a real one. But satisfactorily, being able to get my foot in the door, being hirable out of school, working for decent chefs. If my eventuality as a small business owner in the industry will be just another crash and burn.
Realism is important.
Enough of my whining. On to the good!
* Our class is down from 16 to 7 members. Most people would view this as a negative. I see it as natural selection. Besides, we knock out the same production every other class does in the same amount of time. We rock!
* Our class time has been restructured, and we split into teams where each makes the entire menu as a (very) small group every day. The pressure is on us. We race the clock. But time flies, and we get the satisfaction of knowing we busted hump with (usually) good results on a daily basis. It feels great, when all is said and done, to be dog tired and happy about it.
* I’ve learned about, cooked and eaten so much fantastic food. And I find myself looking forward to every challenge as a great culinary adventure.
* Chef, who I really don’t find to be a Dragon Lady at all, actually asked me how things were going with class, and what I wanted to do after I graduate. It caught me off guard, but I told her what I don’t know I learn, what I mess up I learn from, and for me it’s mostly a matter of what a person chooses to take personally. As a professional, as an adult, I don’t take a lot personally.
* The above answer, the knowledge of my work ethic and confidence, and the recognition that I don’t know everything remind me that I can do this, and eventually do it well. And have a helluva good time failing and succeeding and doing it all over again.
What’s so wrong with just taking life day to day where you can anyway?
The world is big.
I have a plan.
If you’ve stuck with this post, thanks for your tolerance.