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2011 was definitely one for the history books, wasn’t it?

I find it hard to believe 2012 can top it, but, then again, who would’ve thought, at the beginning of 2011, three iron-clad regimes would collapse, Japan would be dealt an incomprehensible trifecta from Hell, Europe would teeter on the edge of dissolution, they’d find Bin Laden (let alone kill him), ordinary Americans would actually rise up against the elites (and their civilian police forces would stand not with them, but against them).

Yeah, it’s as if the only thing that could top 2011 would be, well, Armageddon — not that we’re doing much to prevent it.

Inasmuch as 2011 was one for the ages, it was also quite an interesting one for your faithful scribe.

I started 2011 still wet behind the ears culinarily and spent the better part of it cooking and cutting, chopping and slicing, braising, baking, roasting, toasting, sautéing and sweating, and, most of all, learning — be it at school or on the job.

With a year’s worth of work behind me, I can say, with confidence, I’ve come quite a long way — and have a much greater appreciation for how much farther I have to go.

A year ago, when looking back on 2010, I summarized my year with a single word: travel. (It was a decidedly different year!) How best, then, to summarize my 2011?

Kitchens.

So much of my year has been spent in kitchens — cooking in them, learning in them, laughing in them, sweating in them.

Yes, if 2010 was spent outside, traversing continents, 2011 was spent inside, in kitchens. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Kitchens are beginning to feel like my home, the place I’m meant to be, where I’m happiest and most comfortable; familiar with the tools, the implements, the methods, the madness.

2011: the year of the kitchen.

What word will come to define the year ahead? Onward — and let’s find out.

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What a difference a year makes.

Last summer I was gallivanting about Europe and North Africa; this summer, I am working the line in Winnipeg.

Red River College’s culinary arts program has a co-operative education component, which means I spend two-thirds of the program in the “classroom,” and a final third in the “real world.” During this, my first work placement (the second, next summer), I will be at a golf and country club in the southern end of the city.

It’s an ideal spot to get my sea legs, grow my skills, expand my knowledge, and gain some genuine work experience. Better still, I’ll be required to assist with all kinds of cooking; from short-order breakfasts and lunches, to fine dining dinners and banquets.

Why just the other night, we prepared a 6-course, seafood dinner for 80, including halibut with sweet potato mash and a vanilla bean-infused beurre blanc (top), seafood terrine with dill sauce and micro greens (middle), and wasabi-crusted salmon with a butter-poached rock lobster and a crispy parsnip garnish (bottom).

Granted, it’s early days yet, but so far, I’m loving it — and look forward to a busy summer spent on the line.

The next time your friend suggests you extend your layover in Brussels by, say, 10 hours, quickly, flatly, resolutely refuse to do so. Seriously. The town is about as exciting as, well, a 100-foot high stainless steel sculpture of an iron molecule.

That’s not to say the city isn’t attractive; on the contrary, it oozes old-world charm. It’s cobble-stone streets, Gothic towers, plane trees and public art make the seat of the EU and NATO altogether difficult to dislike.

In many respects, it’s the Ottawa of Europe; however, its charm is the kind you can acknowledge as being pleasant, but are liable to forget as soon as you’re back at the airport awaiting your onward flight to parts more exciting, like, say, Barcelona.

Just sayin’.