Reality Check

Hot kitchens. Demanding chefs. Long hours. Hard work.

Yes, that's what many of us sign up for when we go to culinary school. Many of us pursue this career because we love it - working with food, the creative aspect, the kitchen's energy and also, I think, the innate hospitality chefs like to share with guests. But I'd venture to say that in this age of the celebrity chef, an increasing number of people are entering the field for stardom.

On my first day of class at the French Culinary Institute in August, one student tells the class he was attending so he could be on "Top Chef." That's a fine goal, but I had to roll my eyes, too. Of course being a chef can bring you fame and success, but for every Mario Batali and Cat Cora, there are countless chefs working hard in a cramped kitchen trying to keep their business thriving.

I'm not anti-"Top Chef" or much of the Food Network, but I admit I don't watch often or care. It's great that the culinary field has gotten so much attention. But I hope people realize that a kitchen is much more than one chef, celebrity or not. Our chefs at school emphasize how everyone's role is crucial (especially the dish washer!).

There are many folks who work hard to bring out that entree for your special dinner, a person selecting the wine and the worker cutting vegetables meticulously way back in the kitchen. So I hope students realize this when they drop thousands of dollars for culinary school, a wonderful experience whether your career winds up in the kitchen or not.

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