Culinary School: End of the Beginning

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http://restaurantapplianceparts.com/product/thumbscrew14-20-sku-262501/ There are two parts to every story — an end and a beginning. In the beginning of this story, I sit on a long bench outside my classroom on the first level of Cincinnati State’s ATLC building. I am holding a green bandanna and though I know nothing about how to tie it around my neck, I am pretty sure the woman next to me does.

She looks seasoned, ruffled and a bit tired but despite these characteristics, she is friendly. “Like this,” she motions and her hands move briskly in the air. “You’re going to like class,” she promises. She must sense my hesitation. “Famous last words,” I laugh.

In the end of this story — this tale of my first term in culinary school — I am finishing a stuffed, two-egg omelet for our final practical. We are being graded on how well we season, on how clean we keep our stations and on how many trips we have to make because of a forgotten piece of equipment. We are being timed, we are being observed and the energy in the room is heightened.

My hands, which are now shaking either with adrenaline or nerves, fumble around with a spatula to fold the edges of the eggs into a suitable shape. I am slightly concerned with my fingers and their inability to steady; I have never felt so unable to operate my own body. But focusing on this aberration of movement is a luxury I do not have. Despite the ticking clock, the audible 5-minute warning from my instructor, and the concerning way my eggs seem too thin on one side, I can only think of one thing. Get the eggs on a plate.

Since flipping the pan onto the plate is too harsh of an action for the delicate omelet I have constructed, I take the piping hot thing out with my hands. Strangely, I feel no pain as I transfer the omelet as deliberately and carefully as a surgeon in an operating room. When the eggs land neatly on the plate, I take in a gulp of air. Relief starts to trickle in but it’s too soon.

This crazy first term, the hauling back and forth from work to school, the late night reasoning that I am moving in the right direction — it won’t be over until my instructor takes a bite.

I slide the plate in front of her and stand back to wait for feedback. The moment lingers. “Yum,” she says. “That’s really good.” And then she slides my written evaluation on the table.

“Thanks,” I say. “Thanks, a lot.” And then once again, my body makes a movement I cannot control. I smile.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara April 9, 2010 at 6:13 am

Congratulations, Courtney! It’s a great accomplishment to have finished your first term!

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Ann April 9, 2010 at 6:30 am

It has been fun reading your posts, Courtney. I am also finishing Cul 01; I have my final on Monday. Sounds like you did great – congratulations!

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5chw4r7z April 9, 2010 at 7:06 am

YAY!!
I can’t wait until next term starts.

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Ginna April 9, 2010 at 8:42 am

loved this post – can’t wait to read more about your adventures in culinary school.

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Barb April 9, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Congrats on your first term! Love reading your blog, keep up the good work, Courtney!

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marymakesithappen April 12, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Hey Courtney just finished Cul 1 today. Finally have a grasp of the expectations.
Thanks for the post on doing others work. I had to laugh, I thought our class was the only one with folks leaving dishes. wew. Looking forward to Cul 2.

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dc April 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Congratulations Courtney!

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Courtney April 13, 2010 at 5:32 am

Thanks to all. Really appreciate you taking the time to type out a few words.

Time to buck up for the next round — soups, stocks and sauces, here I come. Ann and Mary, you must know what I mean.

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Ann April 13, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Looking forward to hearing how class is for you this quarter. Do you start this week?

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Courtney April 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I start next week – let me know how it goes for you too! (this part of the site is sorta centered around myself but I love hearing how it’s going for other people)

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marymakesithappen April 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Sauces and soups. Just reading about beurre anything makes my eyes roll to the back of my head in heaven. Chapter 8 is a journey. Here we go.

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Amy April 23, 2010 at 5:49 am

Looking forward to hearing how class is for you this quarter. Do you start this week?

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Courtney April 23, 2010 at 6:21 am

Yes! Sorry Amy, just realized your comment got caught in my spam folder for some reason.

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