For a year while attending the University of Gastronomic Sciences, I was constantly asked, “How’s culinary school? Are you going to be a chef?” I would patiently explain that no, that’s not really what gastronomy is about.
Don’t get me wrong, I spent A LOT of time cooking during that year, with some of the freshest, most affordable produce I’ve ever seen in my life. Our class potlucks were lavish, internationally diverse and subtly competitive; everyone worked hard to bring their A-game to the table. Since coming to New York (land of take-out and tiny kitchens), I have yet to be surrounded by cooks in the same intensity and density.
Lately, I’ve been mulling over what it means to holistically understand food, from seed to table, and it’s clear that while I can certainly eat and criticize plates in front of me, I don’t have the foundational knowledge that a chef holds about how to build a dish. I can follow a recipe and have cranked out some impressive pieces in the past, but it feels derivative rather than truly creative.
So it’s time to go back to school, this time for the subject that everyone assumes I’ve already covered. New York’s leading culinary schools include the International Culinary Center (formerly French Culinary Institute) and the Institute of Culinary Education. I was looking for the most rigorous program I could get, without committing to a year-long culinary program. After all, I don’t intend to become a full-time chef (so far). After some research and speaking to a friend who went through the program, I settled on the Culinary Techniques course at ICC. It’s a 110 hour program, and I’ll be taking the classes after work, twice a week from 5:45-10:45 pm. The most attractive part is that it’s essentially equivalent to the first level of the culinary program at ICC, and you have the option to transfer into the professional program if you pass an entrance exam.
They’ll be handing me knives and chef whites when the first class starts on Thursday. Let’s hope I’m not the first person to cut themselves!