Screw You Bourdain; I’m Going To Culinary School!

I had envisioned this post taking an entirely different direction, but last September I read an excerpt of Anthony Bourdain’s newest book Medium Raw on Michael Ruhlman’s blog post “So You Wanna Be a Chef“. The excerpt basically says if you are 32 (actually, I am 31) and think you are too old to become a chef; Yes! You are too old! Bourdain then goes on to list numerous and I am sure valid reasons why someone in their thirties shouldn’t follow their dreams because well, they are just dreams. No one is going to hire the “elderly” and even if they do, your tired an aching bones won’t be able to handle the stress like those 18 year old whippersnappers!  Plus, for me, I have that personal baggage i.e husband and kids… geez, I am fucked! 

When I graduated from college in 2003, did I envision my life leading me to culinary school 10 years later?  No, but I have no other choice, I know that this is the next step that I have to take.  As it is when anyone embarks on a life changing adventure there are always doubts about whether or not you are making the right choice.  For some reason, I couldn’t get Bourdain’s words out of my head.  They kept surfacing, in the dark of the night as I lay staring at the ceiling, while my mind raced about all the possible implications of my decision.

The idea of attending culinary school emerged about 2 years ago. I was disheartened with the direction and career options that were available in the Bulgarian film industry.  I had been messing around in the kitchen and garden, since I moved to Bulgaria in 2006, but that was all I was doing. Then I started the blog in 2008, but at the time I wasn’t sure exactly what roll I wanted EGL to play.  Slowly but surely things started to come together and then I thought… culinary school!  The proceeding thought was “crap”, how is this even a possibility?  How can I move from Bulgaria to go to culinary school?  What will my husband and kids do?  How will I pay for it?  These were just some of the questions!

I started reading books for some preliminary research about people who had, at various periods of their lives attended culinary school or culinary programs.  I found an article that listed quite a few title to start my search..  Initially, since I am based in Europe, I thought about Le Cordon Bleu and that led me to Kathleen Flinn’s The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry, which drove me insane.  Aside from the fact that I am a Francophile and have a desire to attend culinary school, this book was something that I couldn’t relate to, as I am not the recipient of a fat severance package from an IT company. While her story sounded great, it is not a realistic option, plus her description of the school itself was not the serious institution I was looking for.  The next book was The Saucier’s Apprentice by Bob Spitz, which was a thrilling vagabond tale about a writer traipsing through Europe and using his connections to have fabulous cooking adventures and maybe one day fortune will smile on me and I will have a publisher who affords me such luxury, but currently that is not my lot! Then I came to The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman‘s book which made me fall in love with The Culinary Institute of America.  I knew after reading his book that if I was ever going to attend culinary school, this would be where I would go… if they would have me!

I did some research and decided to apply to the CIA for shits and giggles!  Just to see if I would even get in.  I marked off the latest possible enrollment date, for the off chance I manage to get accepted and some financial aid.  Then six weeks later, I got an acceptance letter!  This was amazing and awful simultaneously because I know I couldn’t actually go, but I now knew that this other possibility existed for me and I was stuck wandering about aimlessly in Bulgaria.  Then I got my financial aid letter, and as luck would have it I got a fair amount of scholarships and grants from the school, plus some New York State aid, so my coffers were filling up, but then the larger question of how to incorporate my husband and kids into this equation.

My husband and kids couldn’t follow me back to the US for 22 months.  Our lives are established in Bulgaria, but I could never get the training and education I was looking for in Bulgaria. Yes, maybe I could apprentice in France (since I speak some French), but logistically that would require more capital to accomplish, so if I was going to do this than the CIA was it.  Finally, after long hours of conversations and arguing, my husband and I came up with a plan.  I would move to Hyde Park in the spring to start my freshman term of the AOS program in Culinary Arts and they would follow behind me in May after the girls finished school in Bulgaria.  The plan would only keep me away from my family for a total of 12 weeks, 6 at the beginning and 6 at the end.  I would fly back to Bulgaria after the completion of my Freshman term. Then came one final twist, I received a Winter Advantage grant from the school that was too good to resist, so I changed my start date to January 4th, 3 weeks away!  As it stands now, I leave Bulgaria on New Year’s Eve and will move into my dorm on January 3rd.  The fact that I am going to be living in a dorm is well, a whole blog unto itself!  Stay tuned! The family will join me for 2 weeks in March, then again in May and remain in the US for the whole summer and we will all fly back to Bulgaria together in September. While, not the ideal situation, this was our best option, unless we come into some financial windfall.

As for Bourdain, I harbor no ill will against him, I’ve found some of his books enjoyable.  All his words have done was to highlight the uphill battle that I am facing, but I am the type of person doesn’t like to be told that I can’t do something.  I will graduate from The Culinary Institute of America at the top of my class, land an amazing externship and become successful in whatever direction my culinary career takes me, despite my culinary AARP membership!
The journey of a thirty-something braving culinary school to become a professional chef.

So, here it is, as of January 1st 2011, my blog is going to undergo a significant transformation.  I will no longer be document the trial and error process of learning to cook, grow and live and Bulgaria, I will now be chronically the journey of a thirty-something, against the odds, battling her way through culinary school to become a professional chef. I will however still be Eating, Gardening & Living, but now in Hyde Park!

If you are interested in purchasing any of the books I mentioned in this post please consider buying them from my Amazon store… I have an expensive culinary bill to foot… every cent counts!
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