Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Learning from Experience

There is something to be gained from every experience. Therefore, anytime I learn about a cookbook author, chef, or restaurant owner giving a lecture or doing a book-signing, I book a babysitter and clear my calendar. I'm also a sucker for "Chefography" on the Food Network, but that is neither here nor there.

While listening to Mark Bittman speak at my local Border's bookstore, I learned that not only was he not a culinary school graduate, but that when he first started food writing he did it for free. I also learned that he thinks the best way to learn your way around a professional kitchen is to work in a restaurant (again, without pay, if necessary). From local, underpaid writer/restaurant kitchen apprentice, to New York Times columnist and bestselling cookbook author. Impressive, and duly noted.

Next I attended a lecture given by Carole Peck, chef/owner of the critically acclaimed Good News Cafe in Woodbury, Connecticut. She regaled us with stories about being a member of the first class to admit women at the Culinary Institute of America, and of working her way through restaurant kitchens all over the country, having to prove herself as a "real" chef, despite not possessing a Y chromosome. I learned that cooking in a restaurant can be incredibly competitive, and sounds incredibly exhausting. I also learned that as long as you absolutely love what you are doing, and believe in it fully, with some patience, a little luck, and a lot of hard work, you can be successful. Ms. Peck was also the first person to suggest to me that I start a food blog. At that point, I wasn't really sure what a blog was, but I promised myself I'd look into it.

Most recently, I returned to Border's to hear Sheila Lukins discuss her new edition of The Silver Palate Cookbook. I learned that she began her career in food much in the same way I did. As an educator-turned-stay-at-home mom of two, she greatly enjoyed cooking and often entertained for friends. There was no formal culinary training, simply a love of food and cooking. While our paths diverge at this point---Ms. Lukins began a catering business where as I began a cooking school---I certainly hope my road leads me to the places she's been over her 25+ year career. I learned that writing a cookbook takes years of hard work. I learned that her signature dish, Chicken Marbella is pronounced "Chicken Mar-BAY-a" as in Marbella, Spain, not "Mar-BELLA" like it is spelled. I also learned that she is the second successful person in the food world who believes I should start a food blog. Again, duly noted.

So, as I wrap up this most recent blog entry, I give thanks to those who suggested I try "blogging", I reaffirm that I've chosen the best career path for me, and I accept that there is plenty of hard work ahead. Now, back to watching my TiVoed episodes of Chefography.

For more information on cooking classes, go to http://www.thesecretingredientonline.com/

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