Tomorrow evening I'll walk into a kitchen with 23 other students, and begin the nine month Classic Culinary Arts program at the French Culinary Institute in SoHo.
Learning to cook professionally has long been a dream of mine, one that even earlier this year I wasn't sure could become a reality. Certainly the time commitment was quite substational, as were the fees. It is also well-known that a newly-minted chef can expect to work very long hours for very little pay. Yet, this was something I kept coming back to - from age about 10 and first considering it an career option, to seriously pondering it ever few years in the following decades. So, not wanted to be mired in regret a few years down the road, I took what was really my only option to fund the course, and did an early withdrawal of my IBM savings account retirement plan, and enrolled in the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday evening classes.
Each of those nights I'll be in school for five hours, and there'll be a mixture of (mostly) practical hands-on kitchen work and some time in the classroom. Every student has "Total Immersion" (that's the official FCI term, and it is service-marked!) during the training program, and has their own station in the teaching kitchens. Later in the program, at Level 3 I believe, we'll work as a brigade in a more restaurant-like situation, so that we can take our individual basic skills and learn to apply them in a kitchen team.
Overall the are six sections, or levels, and 600 hours later when I'm crowned with my toque I'll be ready to work in the kitchens of New York City and around the world. During my schooling I'll also have gained experience working at the school's restaurant L'Ecole, and hopefully have spend some time doing a stage at a restaurant or two around the city.
I hope to blog regularly about my time at the FCI, and I hope you'll join my on this adventure by reading my updates. Let me know what you think, and if you've any questions.
More information about my course from the FCI Web site.