Our first chef instructor was a man of clear distinction and significance. His list of accolades, accomplishments and credentials was longer than the length of my right arm (which is significantly longer than my left).
He commanded the kitchen when he first walked in. He demanded respect and he deserved it. He was able to rattle off recipes for French mother sauces and their derivatives without stopping to take a breath. I’m convinced without a doubt that of the hundreds of sauces in the French repertoire, he had committed most to memory. Never once in my 22 lessons under his tutelage, did he ever consult a recipe. They were all living as imbedded templates in his head.
He started working in a kitchen when he was 15. Now, 40+ years later, still working in the food services industry, and having worked in some of the finest food establishments on the planet to date, I have had the exceptional pleasure and the most intense pain of being his student.
The word ‘CHEF’ translates to ‘BOSS’ or ‘CHIEF’. Yes, the capital letters are absolutely necessary. And they remain necessary for all the chef instructors we’ve had over the last eight months. There was a definite philosophy in their kitchen. There was only one way; THEIR way (capitals continue to be necessary). Learn it right, learn it well, listen and don’t forget.
Fast-forward eight months. Our original class of seventeen has dwindled to fourteen. We have just graduated. Our externships take us to many diverse kitchens, but the same rules apply. The collective and sage advice of all our chef instructors is behind us. Now what? I continue to ask my self “WHAT NOW?”
This will be a messy split; a bad break-up. What will become of my weekends without ICE? What will become of my classmates? Who will I commiserate with about the heat in the kitchen, the number of pots in the sink, the paper I have to get done despite my full-time work schedule or the next practical or written examination? What will become of Class CA2DW.121011? What now…what now?
As of August 19, 2012, I will have washed my hands for the last time in kitchen 1402. We’re all a little uncertain. We’re all a little scared. It’s our turn to do something great with this culinary training. We’ve all come so far.
In order to be truly appreciated, all brilliant things must come to an end. So I’ll say a bittersweet goodbye to the class of CA2DW.121011, but not forever, just for now, and leave off with wise words that have remained with me for quite some time. “When you walk to the edge of the light, and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe one of two things will happen; there will be something solid for you to stand on, or you will learn how to fly.”
 Patrick Overton, REBUILDING THE FRONT PORCH OF AMERICA, 1996.
Photo contributed by Haesung Park