So much change. So much happiness. So much uncertainty.
To My Fellow FCI Mates and Loyal Readers,
We have now been graduates of The French Culinary Institute for approximately three days, two hours and thirty four minutes and I have to admit, I’m a bag of mixed emotions. These past six months have come and gone in a fury and I am still reeling in their wake. As expected, I am extremely relieved and excited to be done. I don’t think I have ever worked as hard or learned as much as in these last few months – about food, about people and about myself. To be completely truthful, I breezed through college fairly easily. In high school, I was barely mentally present most of the time. I’ve always enjoyed learning, but rarely have I felt completely and fully challenged by school. There have only been a handful of teachers who have ever succeeded in keeping me on my toes. Most of the challenges in college came from within myself: endless, obsessive personal critiques that I’m sure many of you can relate to, especially those in creative fields. But admittedly, by the end of my educational marathon I stopped caring about challenging myself. I felt completely lost and with that came, understandably, a lack of drive and determination. But culinary school slapped me in the face with a series of physical, intellectual and even emotional challenges and I soon found the struggle I had been looking for, whether I was ready for it or not.
Honestly, I don’t know if I was truly ready for the intensity that unfolded but I had to force myself to take it and move forward, push myself and move out of being comfortable. I had to deal with not naturally being the best at something. This is the inevitable event that happens to every only child who grew up with incredible parents who will always believe that their child can do no wrong, and invariably that child eventually believes it, even if only partially, and proceeds to go through life pushing themselves to be the best. I only did this to a mild degree, compared to many who take it a little too far, but I still did it nonetheless.
The incredible thing about culinary school was the moment I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to coast by. I was going to have to work harder and be more focused than I had ever been before. And I slowly witnessed everyone in my class have their own realizations, too. We formed this bond that I can’t explain. I’m not saying we were all best buds or that we all got along swimmingly at every moment. But I think that we pushed each other. There was support and competition simultaneously. I have never felt such a sense of community before. I don’t think I will ever again miss an entire group of people as much as I will miss my class.
I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be taught by such a stellar group of chefs and I can honestly say I learned just as much from my classmates as I did from my instructors. I know I’m gushing here, but there’s no way around it. And I can’t express how much I’ve always wanted to feel the kind of camaraderie that I felt with my class. I think that feeling is truly unique and it’s something to acknowledge and cherish. I know that I will lose touch with many of them over time, but the time we shared at school will always be with me and that’s what’s important.
Being an artist can be a very lonely business. In my experiences as a visual artist, I rarely felt real connections with other artists. Certainly there is copious amounts of common ground to work with, but ultimately artists are very selfish creatures and there’s nothing wrong with that. They have to be. Making art is directly connected to self reflection and constant reinvention. Moving and morphing and pushing and changing. Chefs are similar beasts but in most cases you are one part of a larger whole. They are sort of performers in a play, alone but part of an ensemble. You do your job, and you better do it well, but you are part of a team. There is so much to be orchestrated and you are just one part of an equation. I feel so fortunate to have been part of a patchwork group of varying personalities that somehow, imperfectly and perfectly worked. Whatever happens to all of you, graduating class of February 2011, just know that I appreciate everything you’ve taught me and the friendships we shared. Hopefully someday down the road, I will get to see all of your beautiful faces again!
With much love and admiration,