I have been asked a number of times why I decided to attend culinary school. I have been around the culinary world for 20 years in one form or another. I have done recipe formulation, food journalism, lecturing on numerous subjects, catering, and run a food truck. I have a business background with plenty of experience in management. So why would I decided to go to school now? I am a knowledge sponge and I feel like I always have more to learn. I know I want a future in the culinary world and I wanted not only let the world know that I am serious chef but to prove to myself that I have what it takes to live my dream. I felt that if I was able to add CIA graduate to my resume I would be ready for that dream. I probably could have found a niche for myself without a degree but I felt that attending the CIA would not only give me the knowledge I am missing but help me start networking in the culinary world. I don’t think I could have found a better location to help me network because I have met an amazing array of chefs through the school and I will meet many more before I graduate.
CIA San Antonio
Has my cooking improved?
This is something I didn’t expect but YES it definitely has made me a better chef. I was very rustic and I lacked a lot of refinement before. I was good chef before and had a lot of fans but those same people are now even more impressed because I have been able to improve my dishes significantly. I was a little offended the first time my husband told me that my cooking had improved but after some expletive laden complements I am proud that my dishes now elicit that kind of response from people. It was a mix of learned techniques and just having a heightened awareness of what I am doing in the kitchen.
Is Culinary School worth the cost?
I don’t know that all culinary schools are worth the cost. A number of my classmates had attended other schools before coming to CIA. They all stated that they felt those other programs were half hearted and did not provide the level of skill and knowledge they wanted. I also feel that in the culinary world collaborating with other chefs helps you grow and provides future opportunities. The CIA is the best school when it comes to meeting established chefs who want to share their knowledge with you and help you find your place in the culinary world. They are constantly bringing in chefs and hosting conferences so that the students get a chance to network and access to these chefs. I feel like just the knowledge you get from the school alone is worth the cost but when you add in the priceless experience you get with these chefs it makes the CIA a no brainer if you are really serious about being part of the culinary world.
What is my dream?
Unlike most of my classmates I don’t feel the urgency to open my own restaurant. I have run businesses long enough to know that I am in no big hurry to tie myself down to that kind of responsibility again. I want to freelance and develop a couple lines of products that I can sell locally. I also want to work on this blog and bring it back to the active community that it used to be. I would love to get a restaurant review job here in San Antonio. Deep down in the back of my mind I do have one restaurant that I would like to bring to life here in San Antonio. That restaurant would be similar in concept to a little place my family and I used to frequent in South Bend, Indiana. A little Irish Public House where celtic music is always playing, the tables are a mix of large shared and small tucked away and the beer and food is a mash of traditional Irish and San Antonio. The location would have to be small and cozy with a sense of history to it. I feel like it will come to be one day but it is as far back on the back burner as it can get. I have a name to build and niche to find for myself before I worry about the Pub of my dreams.
What am I doing now?
I am trying to network in the local chef community as much as I can while I finish my classes. I am scheduled to graduate in December 2017 and my plan is to have a small commercial kitchen where I can experiment with some product ideas I have and test them out at some local farmers markets. I want to play with my fresh kimchi and kombucha recipes and maybe even some sauces. When my food truck was active we had a lot of people who loved our homemade kimchi and fresh kimchi is something that most people don’t know anything about. I would like to play with those first and see where it takes me. The one thing that I have always been good at is finding a niche in the market and providing something else that no one else is offering. I hope I can use that ability in combination with my palate and skills to make some profitable products. I am going to use my time outside of class when I am not doing homework to scout local offerings and markets and try to find the underserved markets and products. I will be sharing some of that with you but I will be keeping the important parts to myself for now while I develop my business model.
Have questions? Want to suggest something? Leave me a comment!
The last year has been a whirlwind and it has made it nearly impossible to blog. I started the year out by going back to college as a Culinary Arts student at the Culinary Institute of America. That wouldn’t have been so bad on it’s own but I also kept working my regular job until fall. I was so busy that I missed out on several chances to work with visiting celebrity chefs that came to the school for events. I felt like I was hurting the experience I should be getting so I finally quit working in early fall. This gave me some breathing time but then I agreed to be a tutor and while it kept me available to work with chefs I still didn’t have time to blog. I was balancing all this with being a Mom and trying to make sure all the duties that come with that got done. I am not sure if it is the mom or chef in me but I cannot leave the house unless I know my kids have a hot meal ready for them. I learned a ton and improved my skills more than I ever imagined. I will be sharing a lot of my new found techniques and recipes with you over the next few months. I promise!
Chef Millan sculpting ice
January of this year I started what the school calls an externship where I go to work for a restaurant of my choice within the network of approved sites. The head chefs that these locations sign a contract saying they will teach me the basics of everything that goes on at the location. I chose a large local country club that does large scale catering onsite but also has a traditional restaurant and a more high speed grill restaurant. Those three things basically cover the gambit of the restaurant industry that I wanted to experience. The only thing I was missing was high end gastronomy and that is something I would like to develop on my own anyways. So I have worked the last 4 months at the Country Club rotating jobs and learning everything I possibly could. I was moved into a line cook job for the last month, which at this location, is a really coveted job. If I wasn’t excited to get back to school and finish my degree I could have easily stayed but I have plans for after graduation and I am itching to get that rolling as soon as possible. The entrepreneur in me just won’t let me stay in a regular job. I always want to be out there creating and working for myself. I will share those plans with all of you as things finalize.
My Garde or Pantry station
Here I am in my last week of externship, with all my homework assignments done and ready to turn in. I finally have time to sit down and breathe. You don’t know what a luxury it is to sit down until you work as a chef! My plan from here is to attend school during the day and finalize my plans for after graduation and blog at night. I have tons of recipes and interesting articles bouncing around in my head and I can’t wait to share them with all of you! My goal is around 3 posts a week but you might see many more because I have so many unfinished posts sitting around.
I would love to hear from all of you and answer any questions you may have about culinary school, being a chef, whatever!
CIA San Antonio
I recently realized that I was destined to become a chef. When other kids were outside playing, I was either cooking with my grandmother or watching cooking shows on TV. Once I left home and had full control of my kitchen my learning curve was exponential. I was cooking every day and trying to do something new as often as I could. I was also on the bleeding edge of Internet development so when I was put on bedrest during my first pregnancy I created this site. It was one of the very first “food blog’s” that existed. I was devouring recipes and techniques and regurgitating that knowledge at an amazing pace. I was consumed by the passion for the culinary arts. I cooked for guests whenever I could. I had offers for restaurant management and to become an untrained chef that I turned down because I had a plan for my life.
My life plan was to get married have kids and raise them as a stay at home mom. Successful happy families have that one parent who is willing do anything to support the rest of the family and I volunteered for that position. I found any way I could to work from home while raising my kids. My cooking skills carried me through those years but I have always been restrained by my responsibility for my kids. My eldest child has already left home and the two remaining will be out of school shortly. I feel like I can finally think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I jumped the shark in 2013 when I bought my food truck and started CockAsian. My eldest child said she was all in with me but she quickly tired of the intense lifestyle. My husband travels for business at least bi-weekly and wanted to share what little down time he had with me and not on the truck. We still rocked it for almost a year before my team broke down and neither my husband or daughter wanted to work the truck anymore. It was a sad day but I finally put the truck in storage and found a job that used my other great skill communication. I work for Marriott International as a customer care representative but I have plans to change that position and I will tell you about that later.
I made myself block out my culinary side for the first year with Marriott but I felt unfulfilled in my life. Lucky for me Marriott has a tuition program that will pay for your college within the hospitality industry. I took a look at what was going on at home and in our finances and after a ton of research, I decided I could work my job and still attend school. I applied and somehow managed to get accepted into the Culinary Institute of America here in San Antonio. I didn’t think they would accept me when I applied but I had to try. I was totally shocked when I got my acceptance letter. I was actually on a culinary tour of Japan at the time so it felt very unreal until I got home and opened the envelope myself.
Since then it has been a whirlwind of planning to make sure I can keep working while attending classes. I am very thankful Marriott has a strong presence in this area so staying employed by Marriott is not a problem. I am actually really looking forward to working for the San Antonio JW Hill Country for my externship because they have a number of different restaurants and I should be able to gain a wide variety of experience. And you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to work. I am a little sad that I will no longer have the freedom to work from home but I get to work in an awesome office with some really great people so I shouldn’t complain.
I went in for my orientation this week and it was very interesting to meet my classmates and actually see the inside of the school. I must admit it is much smaller than I had imagined. I was nearly shaking with excitement and I cannot wait to start classes next week. It has been 20 years since I set foot in a classroom but I have never been more ready for this. I don’t think I would have been able to focus in the same way back then there were too many distractions in life. I have learned so much since then and I am much more confident in my abilities to stay on task and get good grades.
The orientation was a very emotional thing for me. Starting that path that I have been fighting to get to my entire life. It is so huge for me to be here learning from the best and gaining the knowledge that will let me fulfill my wildest dreams. I have a long game goal and one of these days I will tell you all about it.
I am going to keep you all updated on my classes and cool happenings! Looking forward to the visiting chefs and sharing them with you.
The post from yesterday was almost a month in the making while I fixed issues with the site and dealt with life issues. I received the best news ever while I was on vacation in Japan.
I was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America! I thought it was a long shot but I was accepted so quick it left me in shock. I can’t start classes until May 2016 because I have to get my work schedule adjusted and that doesn’t happen until sometime after the next semester begins. That is fine it gives me lots of time to get everything ready for this new chapter in my life.
I have taken on a new struggle over the last few months. I am trying my hardest to lose weight but it feels like it goes against everything I live for. I love food. I love making food. I love eating food. Unfortunately I just can’t stop once I start and I cannot withstand temptation. I hate not being able to eat anything I want any time I want. I understand that realistically I can just in very small portions and there is my fault. I am also Irish/German so I love beer and whisky. Fortunately I can stop at just one of those but when I am trying to lose weight it seems like just one is all it takes to stop me in my tracks. I am adapting and figuring out how to get the weight loss done without having forsake everything I love.
It is so hard to be calorie conscious when your thoughts are always on how you can make a food taste better. As a chef your goal is to provide the ultimate culinary experience you can so balancing flavor versus calories can be a real struggle. Adding spicy, sour and or salty flavors to a dish can up the flavor without added calories. I will be posting much more calorie mindful recipes in the future while I continue my personal struggle. So far I have lost 25 pounds and the loss is starting to be noticeable with my clothes fitting better so I am happy with my progress so far. My only fear is that when my oldest daughter leaves for Germany in a few weeks that I again revert to my not give a damn ways. Have any of you felt this same struggle? If so how do you overpower your inner food diva?