Labor of Love

Culinary school is a juggling act.

In class, we're constantly multi-tasking - listening to a chef's instruction, deconstructing a rack of lamb and ensuring our fumet (fish stock) isn't boiling. But when it comes to financing your education, it's a different sort of task.

One question I'm often asked when I tell people I attend the French Culinary Institute is: how do you afford it?

It's not easy. And in New York, it can be even tougher.

I opted to enroll in the nine -month night program because it allowed me to work during the day (rent is exorbitant) and generate some income.I have classes three nights a week but it still keeps me busy.

A frantic week can look like this: 35 hours at my day job (which isn't culinary-related), arriving at school around 5 p.m. and not leaving until nearly 11 p.m. three times a week, taking the subway home and not stepping into my apartment until 11:30 or midnight, volunteering at a food event, doing some freelance writing to earn extra money and finding enough hours to fit in enough rest.

I'm not the exception.

Chefs work long hours. One chef told me that when he attended the Culinary Institute of America he also held a job to help pay his tuition. On the weekends he would take the train into New York City to work at respected restaurants - for free. He figured he never got more than five hours of sleep on most nights during that time.

Most of my classmates also hold day jobs while attending school. They realize that coming out of school it may be tough, especially in this economic recession.

When it comes down to it, though, all the juggling we do is a labor of love.