To culinary school or not to culinary school?….That is the question!

This has been a question lingering in the background for quite some time. I remember as a child, when every adult would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” At that point, I wasn’t really familiar with all the possible career choices. I would answer with artist, or zookeeper and even occasionally, a chef.  I have a lot of strong food memories as a child, whether I was helping out or just eating things. I was fascinated with the Food Network and those competitive cooking shows, but I never really questioned it or even considered it as a career choice.

A turning place in my life was definitely when I moved away from my family. Believe it or not, I had never had Indian food, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Middle-Eastern, African…the list goes on. The new world of eating out in restaurants as an adult and travelling really changed how I viewed food. But it was expensive and with all these new flavour experiences, I started to try replicating them myself, with varying degrees of success.

Now, after practicing and playing around for 12 years as an adult (I moved out when I was 18), I’ve really started to considering switching careers. I’ve had glimpses of the food industry, working in fast food as a teen, serving throughout my University life (oh, how I miss the cash…) and my lunch delivery service stint last year. I like aspects of all of them, but they are all related; connections with people, happiness of seeing others enjoy food, and the adrenaline of preparation behind the scenes. I have a decent job currently working in a laboratory and if anything, it has made me a better cook and baker, especially when it comes to being organized, precise and sterile.

My biggest epiphany has come through realizing careers aren’t always JUST about the money. I feel like I have been living a life that my parents and any sensible person around me would approve of. But it’s not why I work. I want to work because I enjoy it, so much so that it doesn’t feel like work anymore. And that’s how I feel when I’m cooking. I feel like, yes, spending 8 hours making pies and ice cream on my weekend off is totally reasonable. Time flies by with music on and loved ones around me; it’s my form of meditation. And I love sharing it with people, seeing their eyes light up and their plates wiped clean with whatever is closest, bread or even their fingers.

When I think of a career with longevity, I know it lies with food. I am just figuring out how to make a proper go at it. I know it’s not easy and for most, it’s an uphill climb. But passion is something I’m definitely not lacking so I will rely on it for most of my big moves, which brings me to the reason I even started this post.

I feel that the two areas that I need the most improvement on are presentation and scaling up (but more importantly writing down my recipes). I have so many ideas for businesses (if there are any investors you know of, hit me up!), but for all of them, I want some type of accreditation or professional experience. I have no doubt that I am capable of executing techniques, but cooking from home has been a bit limiting in that regard. I use home equipment, not industrial equipment and no matter how many shows I watch or magazines I read, my presentation skills will improve from mentorship and/or learning from the best! I know my palate is on point and my basic skills are quite good but I want to take it to the next level, because naturally that’s the progression I’d like if I plan on leaving my day job.

So culinary school popped into my head. Makes sense. Shopping around, I found three that I considered. George Brown in Toronto, PICA in Vancouver and NWCAV in Vancouver. All three are great schools but with trade-offs. I am leaning towards NWCAV because they have great recommendations from local chefs and their content seems quite modern. I’m applying this week so if anyone has recommendations or ideas about culinary school, I’d love to hear about it! Change is scary but exciting. Buckle up! Next stop, next level!

Photo credit: @nickkarvounis

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