Pomp and Circumstance

It’s taken me almost three years, but I finally did it. This week I graduate from culinary school with high honors.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was going back to school after 20+ years with kids half my age. Sometimes we didn’t quite share the same work-your-butt-off ethics in the kitchen (but then again, neither did I when I was 18 earning my bachelor’s degree in art), which provided a fair share of frustration. Working several part time jobs to keep my schedule flexible while going to school part time, while being mom and wife, was the other challenge I faced daily. At times, I thought I was going to literally lose my mind trying to juggle everything. But keeping the big picture in clear focus helped me get through it all.

When I first began school, I wasn’t sure what to expect or where I was going to take this experience. The only thing I was sure of was that I had food allergies and needed to learn as much about food as possible. Along the way, I realized I loved teaching people what I was learning, loved food writing, and loved developing and testing recipes. Once I determined a career path for myself, the rest just seemed to fall into place.

While in school, I began teaching local cooking classes, winning cooking competitions, appearing on national and local radio and television programs doing cooking demos, and writing for local publications such as The Orlando Sentinel and Edible Orlando Magazine, as well as national companies like Food Network and Martha Stewart. And thanks to my supportive family, I was able to spend last summer in Boston for a culinary externship at America’s Test Kitchen.

I’m currently working as corporate chef in charge of recipe testing and menu development for Wholesome Tummies, an Orlando-based company providing healthy lunch programs for public and private schools across the country. In addition, my blog is now one of the top food blogs in the country, I’ve secured several freelance food writing assignments, I’m traveling the food blog circuit as a mentor and speaker, and teaching cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods. I’m also working with a local production company on several food documentaries and a web-based cooking show that we’ll be pitching to networks. I’m slowly cranking out a cookbook and I’m also serving on the board of directors for our local Slow Food chapter.

Despite all that I’ve accomplished, this morning I experienced my proudest moment. Someone walked by and said, “Good morning, Chef. How are you today?” It wasn’t the first time someone has called me chef. But it was the first time I felt like I truly earned it.

Thank you to everyone that has stopped by Chef2Chef to read about my school experience and career development over the years. I hope the entries have provided insight and inspiration.

Part of the creed we agree to when graduating from culinary school is to pass on what you have learned; I strongly believe in that. Please feel free to contact me any time at Wicked Good Dinner with school, career or cooking questions — I’m always happy to help.

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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
            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
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
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            4 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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            3 Program(s) Found
            • Has been training students in the culinary arts since 1946.
            • Teaches hands-on culinary training in French, Asian, Mediterranean, Latin and American cooking, along with professional baking and pastry techniques.
            • Helps students gain professional skills in culinary management.
            • Offers an Italian Culinary Arts program where students get to externship in Italy.
            • Its instructors are respected chefs who put their dedication and life experiences into their instruction.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
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            1 Program(s) Found
            Salter College , West Boylston
            • Offers training programs in preparation for professional careers in business, health care, and computers.
            • Provides associate and certificate programs in medical assisting, massage therapy, culinary arts, and more.
            • Places students in externships to gain real world experience before completing their respective program.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
            • 2 campuses in Chicopee and West Boylston, Massachusetts.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            3 Program(s) Found
            L'Ecole Culinaire , Kansas City
            • 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