Learn to dice onions, and you shall be great

Monday marked the beginning of the new semester, and for me, my first actual cooking class. Sure, I have one semester of baking under my belt, but this class, which our school calls Quantity I, is what I had been waiting for since I was 18. Needless to say, I was a little excited and anxious to get started.

Background: When I was a senior in high school, it was a toss up between art school or culinary school. Art school won out, and I’ve been working in the design and marketing industry for, gulp, just about 19 years now. Culinary school was something I always wanted to do, and I finally found a program that fit my budget and schedule.

OK, so back to Monday…I hate being late, so I arrived about 20 minutes early. Eventually, the entire class settled in, and I noticed about 60% were not in their chef coats, did not have aprons, toques, knives or their book. As I’m sitting there in my uniform with book, notebook and pen, I’m disgusted, appalled, and ready to label them all young, stupid and clearly not serious about becoming a chef.

Chef began his lecture. He was in a great mood, rested, excited about the semester. He let the 60% of rule breakers roll right off his back without skipping a beat, and addressed the syllabus and required attire, “If you show up without your coat, hat, apron, book, or KNIVES, you get a zero for the day. You might as well go home.” Brilliant, thank you, Chef!

I was quietly laughing at them all. I glanced over at my rolling culinary case, still laughing, and gasped. I literally sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. My face turned flush and I called myself every derogatory word I knew.

I forgot my knives. I had measuring cups, spoons, a cutting board, tongs, microplane – you name it, I had it. But I didn’t have my knives. My knives were home, all comfy on the corner of my bed, waiting for me to take them to culinary school. I had walked right out the door without them.

My focus shifted to how the heck I was going to magically make my knives appear, without creating a buzz. I’m an A student, an over achiever – I never mess up like this. After some noodling, I decided my best bet was to get myself over to the bookstore, without Chef noticing, and buy a new French knife and paring knife. Totally doable. We took a short break, and out the door I went. I passed my lab partner from last semester, “R,” and “Boy who talks too much” on my way – they stopped me dead in my tracks.

“You’re not going to buy new knives – that’s ridiculous,” R said. Just use ours – we’re not using them today.”

“I couldn’t, I shouldn’t,” I thought to myself. “R” interrupted my thought bubble, “I used your knives and equipment all last semester – I owe you anyhow!” I looked at “R” and said, “You know what, you’re right! Where’s your knife roll?”

Crisis averted.

The rest of the day Chef took us on a tour of the kitchen, showed us how to use the dishwasher in the dish room, and did a few demos on the basics.

As with baking class, I was surprised at how much I already knew. I was the only one in class who knew how to hold a knife properly, and part of the minority of students who knew how to dice an onion; how to make tomato concasse; how to chop a carrot. It felt good.

I never did need my knives, but I’m glad I had a back up plan, and glad Chef didn’t have to lump me in with the ”bad” half of the class.

First homework assignment: Dice a bag of onions.

To quote Chef this week, “If you can learn how to dice an onion properly, make a proper roux and all the other basics I’m going to teach you in this class, you’ll be a great chef.”

I hope Vidalias are on sale this week.

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            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
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            2 Program(s) Found
            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
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            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
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            • Offers educational opportunities for the aspiring, career-minded chef.
            • Students are trained by professional chefs and spend the majority of their final term working in the campus restaurant to learn all phases of the culinary industry.
            • St. Louis campus offers new Food Truck Entrepreneurship courses.
            • Has a student-run food truck that tours around St. Louis.
            • All campuses have a public restaurant where food is prepared and served by students.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
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            Auguste Escoffier Schools of Culinary Arts , Online (campus option available)
            • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
            • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
            • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
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            1 Program(s) Found

            Lackawanna College is the premier, private, accredited two-year college serving the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. With a focus on keeping higher education affordable and accessible to our immediate community, Lackawanna draws 80 percent of its student population right from our own region.

            With a main campus situated in downtown Scranton, Lackawanna’s expanding footprint also includes satellite centers in Hawley, Hazleton, New Milford, and Towanda.