The changing room was vacant for a few minutes as I donned my uniform for the first day of classes at the California Culinary Academy today. I buttoned my jacket to the top, put on my commis and stood in front of the mirror.
I inhaled and exhaled two times -- normal breathing -- then took a third deep breath and let it out slowly. I walked out the door to my first class. Not quite Neil Armstrong's "one small step ... one giant leap ... ". Yet it was my own small but brave stride into a new, exciting world.
Chef John Meidinger and Chef Tony Marano greeted me and my classmates, and we plunged in. Even the fits-and-starts preliminaries -- a book or two missing from the book bags, a tool or two missing from the knife kits, the necessary building tour including how to get out and where to go in case of fire -- were moments we embraced. Each turn had a newness that kept us enthused beginning to end, the way a good meal does, from amuse bouche to dessert and coffee.
Day 1 brought the news that Day 2 and every day after it will mean a quiz in the Safety and Sanitation class, taught by Chef John.
Culinary Foundations I is being taught by Chef Tony in a demonstration kitchen where we will learn the bare-bones basics of terminology, kitchen organization, proper use of tools, basic food science principles -- finally, a mention of actual food! -- and foundational sauces and stocks.
Chef Tony wants a 250-word essay by next week reflecting on the inspiration each of us has gotten from reading a book on cooking. Mine will be on Julia Child's "My Life in France," which I have nearly finished reading. One caveat from Chef Tony: "I've had it with Anthony Bourdain, up to here," he said, slashing his hand across his throat. " Anything else is fine."
Second day of classes begins in 15 hours. I cannot wait.
(Anthony Bourdain photo credit: www.toliveandeatinla.com)