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.
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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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            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

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            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
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            Sullivan University is a private institution of higher learning dedicated to providing educational enrichment opportunities for the intellectual, social and professional development of its students. The institution offers career-focused curricula with increasing rigor from the certificate through diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Throughout those curricula, the university seeks to promote the development of critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication, computer literacy, and teamwork as well as an appreciation for life-long learning, cultural diversity and the expression of professionalism in all activities. At the graduate level, the university also seeks to promote a culture of research.

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            • 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.
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            Salter College , West Boylston
            • Offers training programs in preparation for professional careers in business, health care, and computers.
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            • Places students in externships to gain real world experience before completing their respective program.
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            • 2 campuses in Chicopee and West Boylston, Massachusetts.
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            Good for Working Adults
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            • Flexible Scheduling
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