The Heat is On

Today is the day: My classmates will take our level six final exam at the French Culinary Institute.

The task? We draw a number from a hat that determines the dishes we'll cook under deadline. Then a panel of judges critique us in front of our classmates. We'll either cook a fish and pastry pairing or a meat and appetizer.

If you pass, you receive a diploma declaring you're a chef.

I spent yesterday being a nervous wreck, though. I inhaled three sizable cupcakes and ordered Chinese take out (something I've never done in New York) at 12:30 a.m. as I was studying my recipes. Last night I only got about five hours of sleep. Maybe that's why I'm calmer this morning.

I know I can cook the dishes. The only thing I'm worried about is doing everything on time and making sure it's presented well. I figure it's better to be calm and confident instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Breath, stay calm and just cook — that's what I keep telling myself over and over.

In the meantime, my uniform is cleaned and ironed. My knives are sharpened. I've gone through recipes in my head countless times.

The only thing between me and diploma are two dishes. I'm hoping I get the branzino and bread pudding pairing. But whatever it turns out to be, I think the biggest lesson culinary school has taught me is to be confident in my cooking. I'm sure that will be the key to passing.