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Malawry

Who Is Malawry

42 posts in this topic

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a culinary student? Me too.

My name is Rochelle Reid Myers. I live in Washington, DC. I am starting a one-year professional culinary program at L’academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD on Monday, July 1.

A few years ago I started considering larger questions about the direction of my career and personal interests. About a year ago I started toying seriously with the idea of pursuing a food-related career. Looking over the jobs I’d had, I realized that all but one of them had involved either food or writing in some sense. It seemed logical to bring my twin interests and skills together into a single career. So I decided to move my publishing career in a food writing direction. I’m genuinely interested in all kinds of things related to food. I might like to do some kitchen work to continue learning. I like the idea of teaching people about food, which is something I do already.

I spoke to many people working in food-related jobs that seemed interesting before deciding on this direction. They included a cookbook ghost writer, a newspaper food features writer, and an Italian wines expert who has a long history of freelancing. I read books such as Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef on the experience of the program at the Culinary Institute of America. I spoke to people who worked as chefs and line cooks. I asked them all how they started doing what they do, why they enjoy their work, and what they thought somebody interested in doing similar things should do.

I have not yet spoken with a food writer who has a formal culinary education such as that afforded by a degree or a period working as a stagiare in a restaurant. I also have not yet spoken with a chef who thinks culinary school is an essential part of my future direction.

So why did I decide to enroll? I think it will be nice to take a year to intensively study my new field. I want to be able to speak the language and gain the respect of chefs and other professionals on their own terms. I want to have some time to develop connections with people in DC’s culinary community without trying to make a living at the same time. I am tired of my former work in publishing but don’t yet have the tools I need to move into my new job. I want better knife skills, and I want to learn French culinary techniques.

I only applied to one school. I chose L’academie de Cuisine because it is located near Washington, where I live. I am not at a point in my life where I want to leave Washington. There are a few other options for culinary education locally, but L’academie carries the strongest reputation and has the added benefit of being extremely well-connected to DC’s upper level restaurants. I like that the academic program includes a six-month paid externship. I visited the school and liked the people I met, and the students I spoke with spoke highly of their experience. I also spoke to an alumnus who was working in the kitchen where she had externed, and her recommendation carried significance for me. My application was well-received and school director Francois Dionot seemed to like me fine after my interview, and I liked that he seemed both serious and passionate about food and his school. I did not hesitate to send in my deposits and order my chef’s jacket and pants as soon as I was accepted.

I’ve had many people try to talk me out of going for a culinary degree. I am reminded of the traditional Jewish approach to interested converts: a Rabbi is supposed to turn one away three times before accepting them. I’m fully willing to hear arguments about why this is not my best path and ideas about what a better path would be, but they’re unlikely to change my mind.

School starts Monday, July 1. I will be in class daily from 8am to 3:30pm, Monday through Friday. I know a lot of the things I will be learning, but I don’t know what order they will come in except that the early part of the program focuses on knife skills. Classes wrap up mid-December and I will begin my externship immediately thereafter. During the six-month externship I will return to school every Tuesday for additional classwork.

I intend to keep this diary at least until the externship phase of the program begins in December. I look forward to your comments and questions, and hope to give those of you who are interested a glimpse into the life of a culinary student.

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Malawry -- or do you prefer to be addressed as Rochelle going forward? -- I must say I deeply respect your choice. And I'm doubly glad you've agreed to expend the time and effort it will take to let us be voyeurs.

Have you purchased appropriate footwear yet? You're going to need it!


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'll "answer" to either. Much as you yourself do. :biggrin:

I have indeed considered my footwear needs. I know it will be hard to adjust to being on my feet initially, but I also know from personal experience that I'll be fine within a week or so if I have the right shoes. The school has not yet given us guidance on footwear. I took note of the shoes I've seen people wearing in kitchens and I have some ideas for what to try. I own Doc Martens and black sneakers and will probably try both before I take the leap and invest in chef's clogs, since if something in my current shoe collection works I'd rather save the money for eating out. I saw somebody in a kitchen once wearing Birkenstock clogs, and those might be the next thing I try if the DMs and the sneakers don't work/aren't acceptable. When I have trailed, I wore the DMs.

One important thing I have tried to do is get my body ready for this experience. I exercise daily and try to lift weights to keep my muscles in shape. In the past few months I've put myself through some paces with testing my endurance. I expect some muscle fatigue and figure I'll do well if I can just avoid injuries. I'm not a total klutz but I'm not always one of those folks with a keen sense of my spatial environment either.

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Both Shaun Hill and Tony Bourdain have extoled the virtues of chefs clogs on their Q and A sessions on this site, if that helps with your decision. For myself, I have always worn trainers in the professional kitchen, which is in fact not a great idea due to the lack of protection they afford.

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Rochelle, thank you so much for undertaking this in addition to the actual workload of study. Since you intend to become a food writer, this diary will no doubt become useful in that endeavour.

Will you be issued a knife set or do you have to buy your own?

Footwear: Clogs. Really. For comfort and safety (being able to kick them off when they fill with hot oil or are just plain on fire).

Will we have some lovely, um, photos?


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Malawry -- When you have a chance, please indicate whether the school has asked you to prepare for courses by undertaking background reading, purchasing personal cooking equipment, etc. :wink:

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Malawry -- having "been there, done that" several years ago (at a considerably more advanced age than yours :wink: ), I want you to know that I am here for you. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (where the dickens did I hear that before??), and one for which you will need all kinds of strength -- physical, mental, emotional, moral. And it's fun. I look forward to hearing about your experiences!

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Thanks for all your kind thoughts.

The school has not given me any guidance about advanced reading or preparations. I have read quite a bit in the past year to help me prepare (and because I'm simply interested in the subject, of course). Selections included Escoffier's cookbook and McGee's On Food and Cooking. I do not know what books I will be issued, but I look forward to finding out.

I have paid a "supplies" fee which includes all the books I will need, as well as a nifty knife kit complete with carrying case. These items will be issued along with my chef's jackets and pants on Monday. I own a very nice knife set, but I am glad I won't have to cart it around with me (I am sure my home knives are better than the ones they issue, but that's okay with me.)

As for photos, I have no specific plans to take any pictures, since I am terrible with a camera. I make no promises, but I will consider it if there's widespread interest in visuals.

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I vote for photographs. Exterior shot of the school. Shot of knife set. Shot of yourself in whites. A few interior shots. Just to set the context.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Malawry- I am also starting Culinary School, but i am going to the Le Cordon Bleu Orlando Culinary Academy in August. I am very interested to get a sneek peek at what life will be like. On the subject of pre-reading, my president suggested Larousse Gastronomique (not sure of the spelling).

Can't wait to start hearing about your school. Good Luck!

Michelle

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chefchelle, welcome. Perhaps you would post about some of your aspirations and then your experiences. If not here, then in the member's bio section. Larousse is great reading: brief entries that unpack an array of possibilities.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Welcome, Chefchelle. I wonder how long it will take people to confuse us? :cool:

Jinmyo, I'm not sure I want pics of me in my new cooking threads circulating online, but I'll consider the idea.

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Rochelle, I understand. But you know what I mean. :wink:


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Thanks to all for the warm welcome. My main aspiration is to be the best. I want to be bigger than Emeril, Mario and Martha :biggrin: ! I would one day like to own my own restaurant up in New England. I think seafood has endless possibilities.

Michelle

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I have no experience working in a professional kitchen, but a friend recommended Anywears clogs to me for a painful heel condition I had developed some time ago. It seems these clogs are commmonly worn by surgeons and nurses and the shop in Manhattan where I got mine, does a brisk trade in them with cooks as well. They run about $39 here and are not a big investment. I don't know if these are the same clogs everyone else is referring to.

Are you assigned your internship and/or can you arrange one yourself? I'd suggest this is going to be a major part of your training and anything you can do to get yourself into a great kitchen will payback many times the trouble it takes.

Good luck and thanks for putting your experience online. I trust it will be an arrangement of mutual benefit.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Good luck-school can be fun!I heartily recommend Birkenstock clogs;have tried a few different kinds,and find them to be very comfortable,durable,and ugly as hell.

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Hooray for Malawry!

If you feel like it, and maybe when it becomes appropriate, talk to us about why people tried to talk you out of doing this. I am very interested to read your diary as you delve into the experience. Looking forward to reading the words, I PROVED THEM ALL WRONG! Since I first began talking to you I knew you were headed for a food career. Go, girl!

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Congratulations Malawry!

You must be so excited, and I am excited for you! I am also considering culinary school because it will enhance what I am already doing (food PR). Still, enrolling is a few years away for me, I think. Reading your diary will be helpful to me in terms of decision-making.

I swear by my Birkenstocks. They are the best when one must stand on their feet for long periods of time. I have a pair of the clogs (the style is called Boston). I know a chef who wears a closed heal version of the clog. He counts them among his prized possessions in the kitchen. Though they are closed, they still have quick kick off ability.

Best of luck to you. I am looking forward to your reports.

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I am really looking forward to reading your diary of this adventure. I'm sure that many of us will be at the stove with you in spirit. I recently went back to school, at a much more advanced age than you, and found the experience very rewarding. I'm sure that I got more out of it now than I iwould have if I had gone right after college, and I suspect that it will be the same for you. Good luck and thank you for including us. :smile:

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Hello Malawry! I am very much looking forward to your on-line interactive journal. As former moderator of the culinary students forum at ChefTalk, this matter holds particular interest to me. I think you will get more out of your school experience by doing this, especially due to it's interactive nature. Thanks for letting us come along for the ride, so to speak.

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I studied at New England Culinary Institute back in 1982.

I am guessing that alot has changed since then, but, the one truism about culinary education is that you get out of it exactly two-thirds of what you put in. So you must give 133% to get back what you think of as a complete education.

Culinary schools can be chef factories and many people who graduate will find that within a year or two they can't handle the mind-numbing heat, stress, physical wear, long hours and (as a woman) sexism that go along with a career in kitchens.

It sounds to me like you are a level headed person who has a goal in mind. I heartily applaude your new venture and I think that with your focus you will do well.

Since it is very close to your first day. You will be completely absorbed in the school starting tommorow. I make only one suggestion, at the first opportunity read Kitchen Confidential by Tony Bourdain. There is no better book to prepare you for a life sentence in the biz. As a food writer you can do no better than Chef Tony for inspiration.

Best of luck. I look forward to your posts.

Tim


"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup." - H. L. Mencken

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Rochelle, All the best for tomorrow. I'm looking forward to your diary entries.

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Good Luck! I've seen a show on tv a couple of times (Food channel or Discovery maybe) about students at a cooking school. In one show one of the students faints and another forgot something on the stove and it caught fire.

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Won't be long now.......

Break a chicken leg, Kiddo.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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:smile: Congratulations on your new journey. I look forward to your posts as you progress through school. I have a great love for cooking and my wife has been encouraging me to do just what you have done. Although I must admit I am not ready for the leap from boardroom to classroom just yet. Knock em dead and remember another notch could be over thr top!

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