I know I’ve already written a really, really long post about my inspiration to venture into the culinary world, but a thought crossed my mind the other day. I haven’t told everyone about this secret double life (otherwise, it wouldn’t be so secret, would it?) but the friends and family I have told have been nothing but supportive. “Good for you!” I hear, “I can’t believe you’re actually doing this!”
Some days, I can’t believe it either. Especially when I’m planning my schedule and realize just how precious Sundays (my one day off) have become. But every Friday night, I pat myself on the back for having made it through another week at the office, and I brace myself for the adventure and learning that awaits me in the kitchen the following day. On my (very short) drive home from the restaurant each Saturday night, I think to myself, Self, you’re actually doing this! This isn’t just some crazy dream.
But then I received an email last week. It was from my mom, and she had forwarded me an email from Michael’s the arts & crafts store. I could hear the excitement in her voice as she wrote that she had signed up for her very first art class because she’s always wanted to learn how to paint her own pictures rather than buying paint-by-number kits. I was so moved by her determination to do something for herself that the onion cutting ninjas brought tears to my eyes. It was a personal reminder that it’s never too late to learn something new and this made me think, Self… this is where you got it from. This is who you have to thank.
Because unlike the stereotypical Asian parents (you know who they are), my parents were and are both unconditionally supportive of me. They always pushed me to do my best, of course, and whether I imagined it or not, it always felt like my best had to be pretty darn good. But still, I was taught from a young age to focus on what i loved, and I think that’s been a huge influence on my adult life, especially now as I’m nearing a crossroads in my career trajectory.
So back to my conversation with the charcuterie guy. I realized I may have brushed it off too hastily because I wanted to bring that discussion to a swift and painless end; maybe I shouldn’t have said that I was just doing this for the experience to better my credentials as a food writer. I know this is a very male dominated industry. I know that not many stages (culinary school graduate or otherwise) make it to survive in a real kitchen. I know that female line cooks and sous chefs are unfortunately rare. I know that there’s been a huge influx of culinary students and hopefuls who have been lured by the fame and fortune of TV celebrity chefs, and that interns and externs and stages are a dime a dozen.
But the truth is, so far I’m loving this life, even if I only get to step into it twelve hours a week. I feel at-ease with the people I’ve met (and let me tell you, there are some INTERESTING people working in the back of the house at even the fanciest restaurants). And most importantly, I just love working with food. I love making it taste good and look pretty before it goes out to wow the customers. I love having the opportunity to work with the freshest meats and produce and a huge selection of spices and herbs and ingredients. And I have to believe that I have what it takes to make it.
So I might never be America’s Next Masterchef. Or be told by Padma to “pack my knives and go” (probably for the best, actually). Or own my own restaurant and have people line up outside my door an hour before opening time just to be seated. But for now, I will learn all I can here for the next year or so. And at that time, you can bet that if Chef won’t ever let me advance from garde manger, I’ll be taking my experience here and finding a place that will. This is only the beginning and I’m okay with this uncertainty of what my future holds. It’s part of the adventure, right?
And even though it’s only the beginning, kitchen life has already taught me so much about efficiency and work ethic… and enough to already know that so many things on this list are very very true. (I especially like #20.)
I can’t wait for tomorrow.