Laura Denby headshot
By Laura Denby—Student, School of Culinary Arts

Hi fellow foodies! I’m Laura, a media professional and current Culinary Arts student. Working full-time during the day while pursuing a life in the kitchen at night is nothing short of thrilling, draining, inspiring and exhausting. Yet despite the obvious challenges, going to school at ICE has so far proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Over the next few months, I hope to share some of my experiences and what its like to pursue your passion while holding down a 9-5 job.

I’m sure many of you, like me, struggled with the decision of whether or not to take the leap and jump headfirst into culinary school. But when I found that all I wanted to talk or think about was food, I realized that this passion was something I needed to take seriously. My desire to feed my hunger for knowledge and redirect my life towards a new career completely overrode the exhaustion I thought I would face. And after just two weeks of class, I’m already hooked. Knife skills, fabrication—you name it, I can’t get enough.

When I chose to pursue cooking more seriously, a lot of people asked me why I was choosing a non-traditional career path when I already had a very predictable and stable job. While I love to cook and eat, the answer for me (and I’m sure a lot of you) is much more complex. For me, cooking has always been a way to travel and explore different cultures without leaving my house. The origins of so many iconic dishes have been dictated by historical events in the past. Each country or region has their own traditions formed by times of war, occupation and colonization, as well as religious and socio-economic influences. Discovering food as culture has allowed me to experience so much more than just what’s on my plate.

Life as a Culinary Student - Lizzie Powell - Knife Skills

Yet, as I’m sure you can imagine, this passion doesn’t change the fact that there’s only so many hours in the day. One thing that I have found particularly difficult as a career changer is finding the time to be involved in extracurricular activities. Before enrolling, I envisioned myself attending guest lectures, electives, career fairs and networking opportunities. Although my schedule doesn’t allow me to attend as many events as I would like, I try to be as involved as I possibly can. Volunteering at events that take place on Sundays—like the New York Times Travel Show—and taking recreational classes in the late evenings are both ways for students with full-time jobs to practice their skills outside of classroom hours. One of my favorite things about ICE is the myriad of ways they help to complement your education in the classroom with experience in the field.

Volunteering - Food Events - NYC - Get Involved - Culinary School

My advice to anyone looking to go to school while working a full-time job is to stay motivated, get involved and keep the end goal in mind. Be prepared to work hard. Taste everything. Volunteer, read as much as you can and take advantage of ICE’s recreational classes! The truth is, many of the most exciting opportunities in the food industry require you to work outside of the traditional 9-5 schedule, so this experience is getting me ready to make that transition. I look forward to sharing more stories about my time at ICE!

Click here for more “Life as an ICE Student” stories.

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