|Le Chef de l'Hôtel Chatham, Paris|
I’m going to chef school. This September.
It’s a culinary skills course. For a year. For a certificate.
And frankly, as everyone congratulates me on moving in a new direction, I’m terrified. But then, what else is new?
I’m 50 for crissakes.
I make my own tomato sauce, salad dressing, and turkey stuffing…so what makes me think I can jump to the next level? Really. People think I’m a good cook. I read almost exclusively food books and cook books. But that does not qualify me to be a chef.
The hardest part of switching direction is trying to determine if this is the right path – if I’ll go for a month and then wake up one day saying this isn’t really what I want…or wake up one day and figure it’s too a)hard b)scary c)stupid d)authoritarian e)all of the above.
I don’t know if a chef demands I jump that I can just say how high…I’m not sure it’s in me.
I’m not sure I won’t look silly in the hat – okay…actually I’m excited about that part. And I think the chef whites will help temper my imposter syndrome.
And I’m not sure I want to go to school as the most definitely oldest student in the class. Or more realistically if I want to go to school with a bunch of kids – and yes…they could be my kids.
Out, out damn-ed doubt.
I went to the information night last fall (just back from Italy and still digesting tons of excellent food and even more excellent red wine – by the way, can anyone explain why I don’t get a headache from cheap red wine when I’m in Italy?) and listened to the chefs explain how the courses work, what to expect and how delighted they were they had chosen this line of work and that god probably created humans to become chefs – the chosen tribe. (and on that previous parenthesis thought – I wonder if red wine in France has the same effect?)
I went up to the chef who was giving most of the information to ask about the different types of programs and what I was thinking of doing – he said (with a straight face) that he’s had a lot of people come through the program in their 30s and also a fair number in their 40s who were thinking of changing direction – he’s even (and this was where the straight face thing came into play) had one person in their 50s.
I just looked at him and nodded…but inside I had fled through the door, out into the rainy, cold October night, with that familiar feeling of just not belonging…
What a freak. A flighty, quirky, weird sort…
Oh well…so I’m flighty…
I thought about it through the winter and into the spring – and a couple of weeks before my 50th birthday, one evening, impulsively, I filled out the form – my finger hovered over the ‘Submit’ button…and I pressed down. I felt that metallic cold flush of fear like I’d just made a huge error.
I looked at Steve with my eyes wide and he just said, ‘What?’ – ‘I think I just applied for chef school.’
Steve, being Steve, just smiled. Then he said, ‘good for you’.
How I love that man.
So now the tuition is paid and I’m wrestling with the stupid, self-important educational bureaucracy, and going to orientation in just over a month. Next week I have to register for my courses and the next day have to take a placement test for English (yes, really – two degrees including one in journalism – although any journalist and especially editor will tell you that has no bearing on the quality of my English) and a test in math (just gulped).
Of course it’s not a totally new direction. And no, I don’t want to be a Chef…no, I don’t want to work in a restaurant or, god forbid, an industrial kitchen…I want to write about food. And I want the cred to do it.
I’ve blogged on and off for a few years, but that ain’t going to cut it with what I think I want to do.
I have a project, or two, in mind for after I’m done. And they’re big.
But for now, baby steps, just drop myself into a place where I feel I know nothing – Just be there to learn…that’s my zen goal for now… how to chop an onion, how to make sauces, how to roast a chicken…and working in those beautiful, new, professional kitchens…hey maybe the excitement could actually douse the fear…maybe…staying tuned.