Few people know or remember this, but I spent the better part of junior high and the first two years of high school looking forward to attending the Culinary Institute in San Francisco after graduation. Becoming a chef sounded like a dream come true: Spending all of your days surrounded by food, concocting new recipes, and then presenting your fabulous dishes to an appreciative crowd.
Then I started reading more about the life of a culinary student. Um, they have to work really really hard. We’re talking long, stressful hours, all the time. OK, maybe not the life for me. Oh, but wait! I could major in home ec and go work for Sunset magazine in their test kitchens. Sure, there might still be the long hours, but none of that rushing around during the dinner rush. Perfection!
Two things stopped me from pursuing my epicurean dreams: I’m not all that inspired when it comes to developing recipes, and my knife skills are horrible. Now, you may say that these things are learned skills, and you would be right to some degree, but I can’t get the picture out of my head of me still standing at a Culinary Institute station, slowly dicing vegetables and having some chef shouting, “Again!”, seventeen long years later. It’s not altogether far-fetched, believe me. Still, I’m determined to keep trying. I watch very carefully as Tyler Florence tries to show someone the proper techniques on Food 911. Unfortunately, for me, it’s a bit like dancing: In my head, I see exactly how I want my body to move, but then I get out on the floor and turn into Elaine Benes. On the flip side, though, now that I’ve become the head chef at Chez Snappy, I get plenty of opportunities to practice. Plenty. And I am becoming a pro at recipe modifications and reinterpretations, if not development, and the results are met by an appreciative group. I guess you could say that, while my dream has been scaled back a little, it hasn’t been abandoned altogether.
Some days, though, I still feel like there’s someone over my shoulder shouting, “Again!”. The mealtimes—they never stop coming.