The freedom to cook, at last, at last

This week was our first week back to school, and it was the best week I’ve had since enrolling. I overloaded myself with classes. Well, really, I’m only taking two classes this semester, but they’re intense and will no doubt suck up most of my free time. And I don’t mind one bit. They’re brilliant.

Quantity Cookery II is my second-level cooking class, spanning two days, and the best thing that’s ever happened to me in school. Thank God for this class! This is the reason I enrolled in culinary school. This is what I had been waiting for, for an entire year: someone with cooking experience who speaks to me about the whys and hows of cooking, and then allows me to apply what I’ve just learned. Thank you, Chef P.

Chef P. gave an inspiring 2-hour lecture that covered everything about the state of today’s industry. He talked about why we should be proud of our school’s program and culinary training, comparing our curriculum to some of the leading culinary schools in the country.

And he broke down cookery into its simplest terms: There are a handful of cooking techniques. Once you learn those techniques, you can apply them to anything, and when you apply them, you become a cook. Mastering those techniques is what makes you a chef. And mastering takes practice. I swore I heard Debbie Allen’s Fame speech somewhere in there, too.

Our first class was learning how to break down a chicken. He showed us once and threw us into the lion’s den with a whole dead chicken. “Break it down,” he said. Never having done this before (because they would never allow us in Quantity I, for which I still hold a grudge), I knocked it out of the park in only 4 minutes. It was a nearly perfect dissection, except for the two pieces of oyster meat I butchered when trying to remove the thigh and legs. Not bad for a first try.

Then came the great potato debate and whether to cook in cold or hot water. Chef from Quantity I told us to start the potatoes in cold water. But Chef P. told us to start the potatoes in boiling water because it shocks the flesh and keeps the starch in the potato. When I brought this conflict to his attention, he simply said, “This is how I want you to cook potatoes in my class. Outside of this class, you can cook them however you want.” And we left it at that. I realized I would have to memorize the expectations of each chef instructor, and keep them straight. A dizzying task.

Our class project is to create a cookbook. Although we have a text book, we are not using any recipes – we are being allowed the freedom to make up our own recipes/methods, based on what Chef P. tells us to cook.

My second class, Classical Cuisine, is just that. We’re learning classic techniques, but with freedom of expression. I know, can you believe it! Chef K. told us that by the end of the 15 weeks, we would master our cutting techniques, stocks, sauces and classic dishes. He would give us a protein, vegetable, starch and salad, but we would choose the cooking technique. Thank you Chef K!!!

We started with breaking down chickens in this class, too. And I was doing OK with it until R., my first semester partner, whom I adore, started chirping in my ear. I second guessed myself and left a lot of meat on the carcass – it wasn’t pretty at all.

Groups – I love my groups this semester. Everyone seems on the ball. I’m reunited with R and V from my baking class, for Classical. And Quantity II has me paired up with an experienced chef who has been working with Disney for the past five years — he’s been a great help!

R. warned me every day won’t be as great as my first days this week – to quote him, “It’s all downhill from here.”

I’m looking forward to proving him wrong. I think it’s going to be a tough, hard-working semester, but a great one.

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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
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            • 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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            • 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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            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.

            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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            4 Program(s) Found
            Virginia College , Birmingham
            • Instructors are typically real-world professionals with many years of experience in their career fields.
            • Ranked #3 in Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2014 by Military Times.
            • Presents the full tuition cost up front. In most cases, even textbooks are included in the total price.
            • Provides career services associates to help students review their resume, provide career counseling, help with job searches, and more.
            • Has 27 campus locations across the southern United States, plus offers online degree programs.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            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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