Culinary School :: An Introduction
When I arrived on campus on the first day of culinary school in late November I was shaking. The drive at 5:30am was 45 minutes of pure anxiety. It down-poured the entire way over rural Central CA highways that are mostly unlit and full of semi trucks. Once I safely made it there (thank you Jesus) and parked, I prepared to dart out into the rain and book it to the classroom. That’s when I noticed the shaking. A culmination of emotions ranging from excitement to fear ran through me. What if I don’t like it? What if I’m not good at it? What if I’m really good at it? What will I even do with this?! What do people think of me starting something new at 34 years old? Am I too old to start something new? A few deep breaths and a silent reminder to myself of why I was there and the shaking began to subside, replaced with the excitement of my new endeavor.
You see, this is the first passion I’ve ever followed because I decided, without the influence or suggestion of anyone else, that I wanted to do it. When I went to college to be an elementary school teacher it was at the prompting of my parents and several of my high school teachers. They said I had great leadership skills, inspired others to do their best, and was a strong communicator so naturally teaching would be a great fit for me. I agreed and planned on becoming a teacher. Once I was in college I realized that while I embodied skills that would make me a great teacher, I simply didn’t want to teach kids (although I love kids. Just not for 8 hours a day most of the year. God bless teachers!). Five years later my husband and I were living in San Diego and someone in leadership at our new church recognized that I was organized and ambitious and asked me to help with weddings. Not long after that our pastors wife, who is a good friend of mine, suggested I start a wedding planning business because it seemed like such a natural fit for me. I agreed with her and thus began my journey as a wedding planner. While both experiences were wonderful, exciting, and life-changing in their own ways, I pursued them based on the opinions of others and used being really good at each as justification for the pursuit.
I have always had a deep love of food. I was exposed to amazing Portuguese faire cooked by my Dad and grandmothers on a regular basis. Beyond that I remember loving Sunday’s as a child because sometimes after church, if my sisters and I begged enough and Dad was in a good mood, my parents would take us out to lunch to a nice restaurant. Dining out and trying new foods has been one of my favorite things for as long as I can remember. During my time as a wedding planner in Southern CA I fell even more in love with food. I was exposed to so many fine restaurants that hosted meetings, upscale rehearsal dinners, and chefs that prepared divine menus. I had always cooked, but I really began cooking during that time. I began planning trips and vacations around culinary experiences and I became even more fascinated with restaurants and how they functioned.
Once we decided to relocate to Central CA and I finished my last wedding in 2015, I began to think about the next chapter in my life. I asked myself If you could do anything, what would it be? The first thing that immediately came to my mind: own a restaurant. Over the next 15 months I kept asking myself that question and I always arrived at the same answer. For me the decision was really simple. I love food. I love loving my family through cooking delicious meals. I know how people want to feel when they sit down at a table and I understand the importance of ambiance (thanks wedding planning!). One thing I don’t know is how a professional kitchen operates and I felt it foolish to even explore the idea of having my own restaurant without that knowledge, so I decided to start at the beginning – culinary school.
As I walked into the classroom that rainy November day I sat down at a desk for the first time in 14 years and I had zero doubts about my place there. Especially once I met Robert, who is 75 years old and finally following his own passion. It’s never too late friends.