If you are interested in attending culinary school, or would like to find out how to get training without going to culinary school–go to www.Chef2Chef.net and talk to chefs who have received their training in various ways. I received great advice from the forums there, and they aren't afraid to be blunt. I haven't visited the forums in the last year, so I should probably go back myself.
A look back at my culinary school experience, then and now.
We had a new girl in class today. She was introduced to us by way of her conversation with Chef Carter, which went something like this:
"You've missed four days."
"I was told that class started today."
"But you've still missed FOUR days."
"The magister said that school didn't start until today."
Oh, I not only made a 100 on both quizzes, but I also answered both extra credit questions correctly. Oh yeah! Now we have another quiz on Tuesday.
It's time for the Monday count. As of the first class of the day, we only had 17 students. That's down from 21. The new girl (see Day 5) showed up late during the second class today to move it back up to 18. Gotta finish studying for two quizzes tomorrow and my jaw is driving me nuts. I'm getting to the point where I'm actually looking forward to the friggin' surgery now.
Today I took my second quiz for Sanitation and Nutrition (there are three quizzes and one final exam for each class). Didn't do quite as well this time. I got a 92 on one and 96 on the other… but I did get both extra credit questions. Luckily spelling didn't count when listing the nine essential vitamins, because I had a problem with pantothenic acid. Tomorrow starts our two additional classes: Computer Basics (which I don't have to take), and Basic Cookery (or CA 100). Unfortunately, I won't be attending tomorrow since my husband picked up tickets to see Rockapella perform at Texas A&M and we have to leave early enough to drive out to College Station. Normally, I wouldn't skip out of class for a concert, but he bought these tickets before I enrolled at TCA… and this is ROCKAPELLA in their only show in Texas.
Thursday morning is my surgery, so I'll be missing two days of school. Chef said to stay home on Friday so I can heal up, but if I've lived with the constant pain for over a month now – going to class on Friday won't be a big deal. See you later – I have a date with some painkillers so I can get some sleep.
Typing sucks right now, so that's it for today.
Days 3 and 4 (Skipped day two because it was a short whine about the pain and not being able to focus on class. Boring stuff. Beginning to think I should edit the dull stuff out.)
Day 3: Went and visited the Oral Surgeon this morning. He walked me through everything that the surgery would entail, as well as my sedation options. Since this is going to wipe out our savings, there's not much left for covering any unconsciousness during the operation… so I'll be numb, but coherent through the entire bone-scraping time. I'm hoping that the nitrous oxide hoses don't get in the way of the operation and can be used for more than just the numbing procedure. Oh, by the way, this is scheduled for next Thursday morning (the 15th). Whoopie.
I forgot to give the numbers for the class size. On the first day, there were 8 people who were there, but not on the roll, and 12 people on the roll who never showed up. Physically, there were 21 people in class. And as of the today – we're down to 20. I'll try to update the class attendance total every Monday.
The Job Services lady came in today to see who needed a job. I had already talked to her the other day and said that I'd be waiting another month before looking for a job – but I told her to open my files back up since I now needed to make up the cost of my surgery.
Third day, third chapter, and getting ready for quizzes tomorrow on Sanitation and Nutrition. I'd like to study tonight, but for those who know my husband and I, you probably also know that every Wednesday night is "Game Night." No, we don't watch sports (the PVR records our hockey games), but we do play the evil and insideous game of DUNGEONS and DRAGONS…. whooooooo…. Anyway, that means I get to rush home, clean up and make sure the snacks are ready before everyone arrives. By the time everyone left – I was too tired to study (I have to be up for a 7 AM job). I'll deal with it tomorrow. We still play D&D on Wednesday nights–yes it's sad, but fun.
Day 4: I got up early this morning (I was awake because of tooth pain anyway) and studied for Sanitation, did homework, and wrote a short essay on Shigellosis before heading out for work. Wish I could generate that kind of energy every day. Work sucked because I missed the last two days so I could visit multiple dental specialists, and everything was backed up by the time I returned (but I was thankful that I missed the net-conferencing debacle). I should have it all sorted out by Friday morning. Got to class early enough to do a run-through of my Sanitation notes with a classmate. I was nervous about this quiz because I didn't know how tough or easy it would be. All I did know was that for three days I've been cramming a lot of information into my almost middle-aged brain (and with painful distractions), and I wasn't sure if any of it had stuck. Well, it did. Other than some momentary confusion about whether the Lag or the Log Phase come first in the growth stages of bacteria – I think I did pretty well. And the extra credit question was easy: define aerobic, anaerobic, and facultative. Now ask me if I still remember what facultative means (or if it's even spelled correctly).
Did most of my studying for Nutrition during my lunch break. J.C. and I studied together to make sure that we didn't miss anything from studying our own notes. And again, the test was pretty easy. Was a little confused about the storage of glycogen, but answered it correctly anyway. And luckily I had just finished looking over the same information that was used as the extra credit question. Chef Carter's going to post our grades tomorrow. I know I did well, but I'm hoping for a perfect score.
When I got home this afternoon, there was a message from Job Services. One of the restaurants that I had asked about (Limey recommended it as a good place to work) said that though they weren't really hiring, they still wanted me to come in and fill out an application. They know that I'm completely unskilled, so they probably need a new dishwasher… but that's where I said I'd start anyway. It's kinda funny… I once worked for D.B.M. helping ex-IBM employees put together their resumes, but I have no idea how to write one geared towards the restaurant industry. And when do you go in to apply? They don't have much of a slow time since they open at 5pm. I posted these questions on Chef2Chef in hopes of some assistance, so now I wait – at least until tomorrow and then I can also ask my instructor. I don't know if I've mentioned it or not, but Chef Carter is great. He's only been teaching us for four days, but I'm looking forward to starting my third class with him next week. Now back to working on homework. I never made it to the restaurant to talk to anyone about a job. The company I was being laid off from decided that while they couldn't afford me, they couldn't function without me either, so they extended my contract as part-time for the next year. The pay was equivalent to what I would make at a restaurant working full-time and they were willing to work around my school schedule, so guess which one I chose.
Today was my first day of culinary school. The first half of the day was spent introducing ourselves to each other and the instructor (Chef Michael Carter), followed by what he expected of us and our notebooks. Yes, notebooks are 25% of our grade. For the first six week period, I'll be studying Nutrition, Sanitation and Basic Cookery (CA100). There's also a Computer Science course, but they let me out of that one since I took a couple of programming classes a few years ago. The second half of the day was with Nutrition… and right now I have 8 pages of notes that have to be typed up for my notebook. Luckily, we're allowed to bring our powerbooks to class, so no more transcribing notes for me after today. And there's also a reading assignment and several workbook assignments as homework. My jaw and right ear are pounding away right now since the 'family' doctor pulled me off of ibuprofen this morning, so I have to get all my homework done before taking my prescription medication so I don't screw it all up. I ended up having to go to a specialist for a apicoectomy on my jaw. I refused to take the pain medication I was given until after I was finished with class for the day because I couldn't think clearly while taking it. At night, it increased the amount of time it took me to do homework from about one hour to five hours instead. And I was still working part-time, so there wasn't a whole lot of free time available.
I've met a couple of classmates so far, and everyone else seems to be pretty cool – but we'll see how that goes. The most interesting part of today was roll call. There were about eight new students who were not on the roll… you'd think that would make for a larger class, but there were an awful lot of people on the roll who weren't there. Tomorrow I'm going to try to get a count of enrolled v.s. actually attending (my count for today was 21 there, no clue how many enrolled because I didn't think to count until he was finished calling names).
And if you're waiting for an update on the 3Girls, I have bad news for you. I can't find them. Now that doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't there – but it means that only one is, and since they're not all cowering together – I can't tell which girl is there since I didn't look at them well enough to pick 'em out separately in a crowd. There are two possibilities, but I'm really not sure about either of them. Maybe the other two were just moral support during the orientation.
I had forgotten how much work is involved in going back to school full-time, but based on today – I think I'm going to like it. After getting through the apicoectomy and all the pain disappearing, I discovered that I made a much better student in my late 30's than I did when I was younger. During this session I was content to be an A student, but later on I discovered something that had been missing from life… the need to be better than everyone else. I had never been a competitive person–I don't know if that was a response to my brother and sister being highly competitive, or if I just didn't care about anything enough to feel that way. But for some reason in culinary school, it was no longer about getting an A, but about getting the highest score in class. And that paid off for me later on.
I attended orientation for new students at TCA Saturday morning. I was a little worried when I saw how many people were there, but I had forgotten that there are now three different class sessions going on: Morning, Afternoon and Evening. The day started with a Cooking Demo, and I really wish I could remember the Chef's name who did the demonstration since it was very well done and the food was great. I even picked up a pretty good syrup recipe in the process – ok, it was better than good – it was the best I've ever had (I'll be making it for my husband soon). Ha! Completely forgot about that recipe. I have it written down in one of my many mini-notebooks floating around my office… I'll have to look for it soon as it was pretty tasty.
After the demo, we were introduced to some of the faculty and to the history of TCA. They also covered the Rules and Regulations… lots of rules. From a school standpoint they seemed a little excessive, but nothing different from working for any company in the real world. I guess it's part preparation for the future and also a way to weed out some of the students who really don't care about cooking.
There were some other things that were discussed, like attendance (a major part of the rules), the fact that we would lose an average of 15% of our class before graduation, career services and Student Government. Then we broke off into groups determined by which session we would be attending. Roy Perez was introduced to us as our Afternoon Chef Advisor. I hope that he isn't the type of advisor I had the last time I went to school… that one was impossible to meet with and useless when you finally pinned him down. There were about 17 to 18 student in my group and it looked like I was the oldest one there. There were also three girls who were very noticeable in my class. More about them later. We started with about 33 student enrolled in my class. By the end of school, we had 17 students, and fewer than that completed the externship portion afterwards. We had maybe 50% of the original enrolled students graduate from the program–not a very good record for our class, but we were breaking all kinds of records during out time at school. The largest section of that group dropped out before classes actually started, some didn't make it past the first week, and the rest slowly dropped out as time went on. As for Chef Perez, I didn't see much of him until it was time to attend his class for Garde Manger. He was probably my toughest instructor.
At this point, we were all set loose to visit different booths and watch more cooking demonstrations. The booths were mostly set up to take care of our paperwork, financial aid, and to find out more about student clubs and organizations. I watched some demos and also wandered around talking to some current students and some of the other advisors. Which brings up the 3 Girls (that's how I think of them). While trying to meet up with my admissions rep to take care of my uniform fitting, she had to keep running off to assist the 3 Girls at each and every booth… and we didn't have a chance to do the fitting until they finally left. When they weren't being assisted, they spent their time in a huddle in the middle of the hallway, practically attached at the hips. Being timid isn't a problem, but not being willing to do anything unless being held by the hand isn't going to get them far, especially in this industry. They're my guess for not making it through the program. I know it's rude of me to assume this, so if they actually DO graduate – and find out about my comments – they're welcome to slap me in the face with a baggie of warm chicken fat. No face slapping here. Only one of the girls showed up for the first day of class, and she turned out pretty well by the end of the program, although I may have been a bit tough on her in my blog when school first started. No one will come looking for me based on what I've written posted because I never used my or their real names. Unfortunately, that led to some forgetfulness on my part of what their real names actually were as I only remember my friends and those who really pissed me off. It's driving me bugnuts trying to remember.