Culinarians are, in general, people with stories to tell and battle scars to prove them.
Budding culinarians, like those in culinary school, are just testing the waters of the foodie life. Dipping their toes in, reading up on what they’re more interested in, purchasing knives, sharpening knives, sharing a healthy interest (and sometimes a rather unhealthy interest) in the tools of the trade–fire and more knives. Of course, eating out becomes an adventure when we all go out together. We pick menu items that are unfamiliar and share them with the table, eating everything with a refined palate (or what we hope will someday be a refined palate).
But best of all? Everyone in the group is a fantastic cook.
In class, we get critiqued–not enough salt, too much liquid, the soup is too thin, too thick, too spicy. Sometimes we don’t get critiqued very nicely–why would you even THINK to put mustard seeds in the samosas? How dare you bring this dish to me if it is anything less than what I asked for? Take this garnish off. It’s useless. The occasional rare bit of praise– meat is cooked nicely, good flavor, excellent plating— is received with a glow of self-worth and a beaming smile. Thank you, Chef.
But stepping outside of the classroom and into the kitchen of a classmate yields a different result altogether.
Despite the criticism we get in school, each and every student knows their way around a saute pan. My classmates in particular happen to be very close. Since the first week of school, we’ve rather banded together like family, and we’ve started a tradition of hosting dinner parties.
I truly don’t think there are any students out there more willing or capable of being the new rockstars of the industry. Our dinner parties are brief insights into the mind of a budding industry expert. I am always blown away at how well everyone can cook, which I guess is the point of being in culinary school. Still, I’m always amazed.
Last night we had one such dinner party. The menu was Thai themed, and the food was delicious. We sat and talked and ate, discussing our classmates, their various skill levels, our chefs, our coursework and our upcoming externships. We also ate dessert over a game of poker, and spent some time destroying each other in Super Mario Smash Bros. We sipped Thai tea, ate pineapple rice (served in the pineapple, which was awesome) and had a good time reveling in the presence of other foodies.
This event inspired me to create a list of the things I love most about culinary students. (Of course, I could go on for ages, but here’s ten reasons why!)
1. Culinary students will try just about any food out there, just for the sake of trying it.
2. Strange and unusual foods, like daikon radishes and durians, aren’t so obscure. In fact, we’ll hunt down unusual foods just for the sake of trying something new.
3. Going shopping for food gadgets is almost more fun than shopping for anything else. Melon baller? Santoku knife? Fish spatulas? Any other random gadget out there, we poke and prod and purchase with our hard-earned money. (Care for a tip? The best cooking tools are found at places like Marshalls and Ross because they’re on sale. Most people don’t know what to do with them, but foodies? Yep. We think they’re a steal. And this tip has come from multiple sources, including my chefs, and I can personally attest.)
4. Culinary students pore over cookbooks as if they contained the secrets to life itself. (“This is the most gorgeous tiramisu I’ve ever seen!” “Look at these quinelles!”)
5. Grocery shopping isn’t a chore.
6. Reaching into the fridge and making something out of nothing is a neat trick that means we’ll never go hungry.
7. Going out to eat is a better experience than hitting up a movie theater.
8. Breaking down a chicken and filleting a fish aren’t a challenge. Flop a fish down in front of us and we’ll fillet and skin that sucker with ease. (And make a fish stock while we’re at it.)
9. Knives. Buying, sharpening, looking, dreaming… you can tell you’re a culinary student when you look at someone else’s new knife and exclaim, “That’s gorgeous!” as if looking at the Mona Lisa.
10. Cooking is more than just dinner. It’s a lifestyle.
Maybe I’m a little bit prejudiced, but I really do believe that culinary students are some of the neatest people in the world. I love the people I’ve met here, and I love the atmosphere surrounding the school. I love being around people who appreciate food.
In fact, I have the perfect quote to finish this off! Ready?
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien