The last of the dishes were washed, the pots and pans in their proper places; the fridge was cleaned of any potential spoilage, the floors swept and mopped. Done at the close of business each day in commercial kitchens everywhere, it’s a ritual that takes on a little more poignancy when it also marks an academic milestone.
And that’s precisely what yesterday was for me and my fellow students: the conclusion of our fourth semester at Red River College.
I shake my head, still, at the thought of it being mid-December already. These past four months have truly flown by. And yet, what’s even more remarkable to me is how far I’ve come since this time last year.
It’s hard to catalog or capture just how much I’ve learned; the various cooking methods and cuisines, the many tools and trade secrets. So much crammed into 8 months of schooling and another 4 on-the-job training!
Of all the things I’ve learned, however, the most important is confidence.
Honestly, if I think about where I am today and where I was a year ago, my single greatest accomplishment in that time has been my growth as a confident cook; being able to walk into a kitchen, any kitchen, and feel not threatened but thoroughly excited at the prospect of setting pan to flame and cooking.
Naturally, this confidence is grounded in an expanding skill set and increasing breadth of knowledge; without either I’d be the same uncertain student I was when I started the program.
Confidence, of course, is nothing without humility — and I learned a lot about being humble this year, too.
The kitchen is a great equalizer: no matter where you’ve come from, what you did outside the kitchen, who you knew, where you lived; it’s all irrelevant when you’re in the shit, the bills are piling up, and you need to push plates out.
So, you keep your head down, work confidently — ever mindful you’re only as good as you’re last plate, and, more important still, you’ll forever be a student in the never-ending study of culinary perfection.