My back aches. My fingers marred with knicks. Burns cover my wrists and forearms. And my shoulders have permanently connected with my ears. I am nearing the end of my Skills One-Kitchen Basics class and it can officially be said that it has kicked my behind from here to China and back. This is the first time in my life where I have felt defeated, elated and satisfied in the span of six hours. Each day starts with lecture in a classroom for about 30 minutes, then we move into the kitchen where we are placed into groups to complete a set of assignments dealing with stocks. From there, we complete our knife cut drills and proceed into our individual work that we present to the Chef for a grade.
I have been very upfront that by nature nervous when it comes to my kitchen skills. From the very beginning, I have doubted whether I could hang with the “big dogs” but I am happy to say that for the most part I have held my own. While I may not be a “natural” in the kitchen, I have worked diligently on my knife cuts, slowly raising my scores and increasing my speed to where I am able to cut several cups of julienne, diced, brunoise and minced vegetables in under 40 minutes. To understand where I came from, I started three weeks ago barely able to cut a half cup of three vegetables in an hour. I am far from proficient and am still in awe of certain members of my class who sail through these knife trays with time to spare. Honestly, one person in particular who I will call “Milo” has amazing knife skills. His cuts are precision and simply beautiful to look at – he is my inspiration and where I aspire to raise my level. However, he is never 100% pleased with his scores and has on several occasions questioned the Chef on why he did not get a perfect “10”. I respect that he believes in his work to the degree that he will argue its validity. I, on the other hand, am normally just quite proud to finish all my cuts and to not have lost a finger.
If you read the blog often, you may have noticed that I have posted several inspirational quotes in the last few weeks. I find that these quotes are almost mantras that I say in my head as I am doing my knife cuts and assignments. The above quote from Aristotle is profound in its depth of meaning and simplicity. I have seen the fruits of my hard work. I have challenged and pushed myself to do better. When I have not pushed myself to the point where I thought I could not go, I did not achieve superior results. I now know that I am stronger than I was yesterday, yet I still have more to go.
I have tried hard not to compare myself with my classmates because their journey is different from my own. The barometer I set to measure my success needs to be based on my own goals and mandates. I won’t fool myself into thinking that my work is stellar, but I know my attitude towards my work exceeds my own expectations. I have found a zen and contentment that I believe comes from putting it all out on the table every day and holding nothing back. It’s exhausting and draining, but then I never assumed culinary school would be anything less.