Adventures in Culinary School - Part 1

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It's the morning after Thanksgiving and I've just finished cleaning the dishes.  The house is starting to resemble a home again after 13 well-seasoned dishes, 15 guests, 1 newborn baby, 2 dogs, some rain, and many after dinner cocktails.  All in all, Thanksgiving was a success - apart from a disaster with my gravy.  We did two birds this year, one on the gas grill and one on the Weber Kettle.  The drippings from the gas-cooked bird were a phenomenal addition to the gravy, lovingly made from scratch with turkey stock I made the day before.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the drippings from the Weber Kettle, tainting the sauce with an unmistakably smoky flavor.  A Thanksgiving dinner disaster that will be averted this time next year, due not only to making the mistake firsthand but because I'm about to embark on the culinary adventure of a lifetime. Next week I begin classes at the International Culinary Center in New York City where I'll receive a classic culinary arts education with an emphasis on the Farm to Table food movement.  French techniques combined with the future of food?  Sounds magical.  Delicious, even.  I've been counting down the days until I get to step into the Level 1 classroom for the first time, nervous in my kitchen whites and hoping that my classmates won't eat me alive.  The thrill of it, a new experience that will mold and define my future, is almost too much for me to handle.  I've been browsing the Farmer's Market in Union Square non-stop, making over-the-top meals for 10 friends at a time in anticipation of what lies ahead.  I can only imagine it's an overwhelming amount of work and strategy combined with the winning feeling of discovering a beautiful dish for the very first time.

I'm heading back to school for a number of reasons - first and foremost because cooking is my ultimate passion.  Chopping onions, deglazing pans, carving chickens, and timing a meal are incredibly soothing for me.  I am in control in the kitchen.  No amount of outside chaos can slow me down or throw me off (except smoky gravy, blerg).  Cooking belongs to me.  It is mine.  Perhaps we get along so well because I understand perfectly in cooking the complicated relationship between following a path and choosing when to veer away from it.  It requires taking calculated risks, something I'm comfortable with because I practice this method constantly in my own life.

The past decade has been an adventure: one of chaos, misery, riches, rags, stress, glee, love, curiosity, disappointment, heartbreak, delight, and most importantly - discovery.  From my debut on television 10 years ago as a kid from Orange County, California to quitting my job as a manager at an agency 2 years ago for the unknown of starting a business from scratch in New York City, all of my moves on the chessboard of life have been calculated risks.  Some more so than others of course, but each one enabling me to further hone in on what has been eluding me - the deeply seeded desire to discover happiness by doing exactly what it is that you love.  It's a human condition I'm certain you're familiar with.

As this 10th year comes to a close in my 27th year of life, I'm happy to report that it's happening.  I'm looking discovery square in the face and seeing that finding yourself isn't about hop-scotching through various jobs and activities, hoping you'll stumble upon something miraculous that will change you deep inside.  Discovery is about looking inward at who you already are and being brave enough to listen to what your gut has been telling and showing you for years.  My love has been sitting directly under my nose this whole time, coming out of my hands and heart each time I step into the kitchen, waiting patiently for me to pay attention.  I can only compare this feeling of discovery to putting glasses on for the first time if your vision is fuzzy - the sense of awe you feel when seeing clearly is incredible.

I consider this to be a major milestone in my young adult life.  I feel hopeful about my future for the first time.  Yay!  Yay!  Yay!

Yays aside, cooking up a storm simply for kicks is not enough to sustain myself and a family.  The rent must be paid, know what I mean?  So back to school I go, knowing that the long days and nights I'll spend on my feet are with a goal in mind: gaining skills at a professional level I can apply to any job I choose moving forward after graduating.  I have a pretty fantastic job lined up already, too.  I'm the co-founder of Revelry House, a content and commerce site that simplifies the way parties are thrown.  We are re-defining what it means to be a modern hostess and as the Creative Director I'll have a heavy hand in directing food content upon graduation.  We have plans for a test kitchen in our office, and I'm hoping to make staff lunch prepared by moi a "thing".

Attending culinary school marks the first adventure in the next decade of my life, a life-affirming decade of work, play, family, and love.  I'm thrilled to share my experience with you.  Each week over the course of the program I'll be blogging and vlogging about what I'm learning, the ups and downs and everything in between.  You can watch the very first video here that gives an inside peek at the International Culinary Center and subscribe to my YouTube channel to track my progress every week.  My goal is for this to be a shared experience between us so please leave me comments and questions.  I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity of a lifetime ahead of me, and I'd love to inspire an adventure of your own.  Here's to cooking, eating, and loving.  'Til next week....

Lo