Saturday, February 7, 2009

Breathing a sigh of relief.

When I started this blog recently, I had a secret. Generally, I am a good secret keeper. If you're upset or sad or something and tell me a serious secret, I'll take it to the grave. If we're talking about good news you're about to hear or presents I bought you, it kills me...KILLS keep quiet about it. This is something I get from Grami. I am relieved that I can finally reveal my secret today.

Yesterday I was accepted to culinary school.

I couldn't be more excited. I begin in the summer session at Wake Tech in the new Baking and Pastry Arts program. For those of you who don't know me outside this blog, I used to cook. Until the last few years, all of my jobs were in restaurants. I've always had a passion for food and cooking. Many, many moons ago, I quit school to start cooking professionally. I worked hard for a few years and eventually landed a Sous Chef gig at a local restaurant now defunct thanks to the raging coke habit of the owner. At that time, I knew I wanted to get into baking and pastry stuff, but there wasn't much here to speak of in the way of fine dining. At that time, the Raleigh food scene was still pretty pedestrian and a real "professional" kitchen was hard to find. I became frustrated and decided to go back to college. I graduated three years later, in December of 2000 and gave up on the cooking/baking dream. I have learned over the past few years that I am not an office person. I don't understand what most people do all day. It's hard to be creative in a cubicle.

A few years ago, my brother enrolled in New England Culinary Institute in Essex, Vermont. I've been hearing about the classes and the chefs for a while now. I had the opportunity to visit him last May, right before he took off for his internship in California. I got to sit in on a few classes and got a complete tour of the campus, including meeting most of the chef professors. I would be lying if I said it did not affect me. Perhaps not consciously at first, but it got to me.

I began researching culinary school last semester. I was taking another class at Wake Tech and saw the new B&P program on the website. I knew I wanted a dedicated B&P program, not straight culinary. I can't handle the butcher stuff. Unfortunately, this left me with few options, almost all private schools. Naturally, I looked at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the French Culinary Institute in New York City. My two biggest concerns were time and money. I loved that LCB and FCI were both 6 month programs. Both required moving, and I have a lease until December. Both cities are more expensive than Raleigh as well. LCB wants an application fee of 1500 Euros. FCI wants 500 dollars. If we remember back to our college application days, that's just to apply and doesn't guarantee admission. The cost of the program at LCB in Paris is actually cheaper than the other LCB campuses, with a cost of around $20,000. The total cost of the associate's degree B&P program at NECI is about $60,000. The FCI is around $35,000. Wake Tech's associate's degree in culinary or B&P is less than $5000. But it's also 2 years. Another thing to consider is my living expenses. I have a great apartment downtown for $615 a month. Because it's old, we have radiators. Because we have radiators, my only utility bill is electric and it's not been more than $35 a month. It's hard to argue with that! I was laid off last Friday and my last day of work is May 1st. With FCI and LCB I couldn't start until January because of my lease. What would I do until January?

In the end, I decided to sacrifice time over money. If Social Security is around when I'm 65, I don't want to use it to pay off student loans. As well, the improvement in the Raleigh food scene is astounding. I think it was Bon Appetit (Gourmet?) said Chapel Hill is the latest up and coming hot spot for food and restaurants. We now have choices. We have excellent bakeries and restaurants, so finding work while I'm in school will be easy. The bonus is that I'll come out with a lot of experience. One of the perks of the big name schools is the connections. My brother got an internship last July at a restaurant in California with two Michelin stars and three Mobil diamonds. His boss will be on Iron Chef in March. It turned into a permanent job and he's currently the assistant pastry chef. Do I expect that when I leave Wake Tech? Certainly not. But then again, I don't want to be famous, I just want to make croissants.

This blog will still have my recipes, but I will also write about my experiences in school. I take my first two foundation classes in the summer, Safety and Sanitation and Basic Culinary Skills (or something like that), then on to the fun stuff in the Fall full time.

Allez cuisine!


3 Bay B Chicks said...

Congratulations, Meg. This is such fabulous, fabulous news. I was thrilled to read your post on your "other" blog. A change like this definitely warrants a change in your blog focus too. I am happy to make the journey over to this site as you begin this new chapter in your life.


PS: Where is your brother working in California? I hope this means that you are open to the possibility of living here too someday. We have plenty of public transportation to offer you in northern California!

Meg said...

Thanks, Francesca!

I'm always happy to brag about Lil Brotha's job to people on the West Coast. He works at Manresa in Los Gatos, under David Kinch. It makes me sad that more people on the East Coast don't know this place. The last time I was out there, I had dinner there with three friends. We had the tasting menu, 12 or 13 courses, 4 hours. It was unreal. He knew he wanted to work at Manresa when he started school. He's loving it.

My best friend and her beau live out there, as well as some other friends. I love the Bay Area and would give anything to live there. I will definitely focus on moving out there once I finish school. In fact, I'll have to do an internship too, so who knows!

Linda said...

That's so awesome. I'm actually jealous. I wish I could go to culinary school. Alas all college (I've been thinking about grad school) is on hold for now.
I look forward to hear about your adventures!

peewee said...

HEY! I used to live next to the CIA in Hyde park, NY. I knew A LOT of people who went through their pastry program (2 yrs!) and I will say this...I know you learn a ton about the mathematics and basics etc...BUT nothing they ever made was really that great. My point? It's obviously a talent in you already, so I doubt it matters where you's matters what you add to it :) YAY YOU!

Meg said...

You know, both my brother and I never considered the CIA. The folks coming out of there have a great business knowledge, but food...not so much. I have worked for, with and over a number of CIA grads. They come out of there with the attitude that they are Chefs, immediately and without any work.

You're right. A croissant recipe is a croissant recipe, regardless where it is taught.

slanted.enchanted said...

yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay thats so fabulous! cant wait to hear your tales:)
ps, i dont want to post it on my blog, but you totally guessed, gotta give you that. the district is fc! lol!

peewee said...

tapping foot on floor. tap tap tap. waiting. waiting. waiting........

Meg said...

Um, uh oh. I better get cooking.