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
            • 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
            • 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
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            4 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
            • 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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            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
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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.

            3 Program(s) Found
            • First opened its doors in 1980 as the Academy of Medical Art and Business.
            • Students can choose from a variety of diploma or degree programs, as well as continuing education courses.
            • Provides programs in massage therapy, dental assisting, criminal justice, cake decorating, and more.
            • 7.5 acre campus is located in the foothills of Blue Mountain, north of Harrisburg, PA.
            • Involved with many community service organizations, including the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank (CPBB), March of Dimes, and Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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            • Accredited
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits