If the name for this new section of my blog sounds familiar, that’s because I stole it from Anthony Bourdain. He is the New York chef who wrote “Kitchen Confidential” and stars in the Travel Network’s show “No Reservations,” in which he treks all over the world and eats delicious (and occasionally questionable) local specialties. I figure he has my dream job, and he seems pretty damn cool, so why not bite his style?
It’s mid September, and I am waiting to hear from the admissions office of the Culinary Institute of America- Greystone, the CIA’s Napa Valley campus. At the beginning of the summer, I applied to their Culinary Arts program, a 21 month program that will teach me everything about cooking, food safety, and kicking general ass in the kitchen. They don’t market their program with those words specifically, but after the first couple bumbling months, I hope to be kicking ass and taking names. Maybe I’ll be washing dishes and taking orders, like I am now, but I hope not.
I wonder if I am the only 26 year old who feels a little lost at the moment. Perhaps lost isn’t the word, but I do feel a little rudderless. I’m on a good ship, she’ll take me where I need to go, there are winds blowing, but I just can’t seem to steer. I don’t want this culinary school experience to prove as disenchanting as my grad school time at Columbia. (Enter clichéd bit about unfulfilling academic office work here).
So the winds are blowing, but I don’t know where to go. Stay in Tahoe and continue learning about food with my two cooking jobs? Go to the CIA in Napa? Apply to the French Culinary Institute in New York City to be closer to a dynamic restaurant scene? (And Zabar’s cheese selections...)
While I love my active life in the mountains at Lake Tahoe, perhaps I need some city ambition and pace to kick-start this career choice. Or maybe St. Helena will be the perfect setting to focus wholeheartedly on food and wine. Such a tough decision! Then again, if I’m choosing between a mountain paradise, California wine country, or the city that never sleeps, I’m doing pretty damn good.
Wherever I choose, at least I know I have already picked food. I have always loved cooking, both for myself and for others. Food dazzles me with possibilities. A couple weeks ago, I had plum and cucumber sushi. I know it sounds simple, but I had never tried a plum and cucumber roll. In addition to being visually pleasing with vibrant purple and green stripes poking out through ivory white rice, this roll was one of the best I’d ever tried. I wonder why more sushi restaurants don’t have this crunchy cucumber with smooth plum spread creation. Is it a sushi purist’s nightmare? Am I close to committing the cream cheese sushi sin? I hope not, because if I see it again, I’m ordering it.
My point is not that plum and cucumber sushi is bomb (which is true) but rather that I love food so much I’ll sit down to write a paragraph about it. My point is that food is so universal and so ubiquitous, why wouldn’t I choose a career in this field? We all eat every single day (except for Kelly Ripa, who only eats on Thursdays). I could travel anywhere in the world and be a cook or a food writer investigating local cuisine. How sweet will that be?
In the coming weeks, I should hear from the CIA-Greystone admissions office with a yes or a no. As a friend and former California Culinary Academy admissions officer put it, the CIA is one of the few culinary academies in the U.S. that “actually rejects people.” I find that news encouraging, because I want to go to a good school. I want the best preparation. I want to finish my program feeling prepared for the cooking world. I want to kick some ass.
Stay tuned for what happens next!