Reflecting on my time at Le Cordon Bleu as an instructor one year shy of fourteen years, I have come to the conclusion that I have perfected the balance of work and play at work. I Imagine that some of my colleges would say I played more than I worked.
My work was play for me and I like to horse around. The drudgery of costing, inventory, and scheduling constantly as an Executive Chef was lightened up with the change of position to a Chef Instructor.
I was able to get my hands dirty in order to show students how to do and understand techniques. Demo time was relaxing for me. I have always been at ease when cooking. Ok, ok, it’s actually the holding of knives and playing with fire that really sends me into a meditative state.
In time I was able to hold a dry erase pen, write almost legibly on the whiteboard, and feel confident that I could navigate the next lecture trusting my experience and knowledge. Some days I would wonder where the questions would lead us as a class and at times if I was going to be able to steer us back to the curriculum.
The challenge was never the food, it was the students. Students from all walks of life. Collectively they spanned all possible skill levels. Some so green they didn’t know that beef was cow. People grow up differently and are exposed to different things at different times.
I’m from Idaho, I know potatoes, cow and a few other things. If the student grew up in a big city and their family didn’t really cook from scratch the student might not have made the connection between live animals and packaged cuts of meat. Where does a breast of chicken come from? It’s not a mammal, chickens don’t breast feed their young.
I had to explain that once. Actually, I was asking what kinds of animals we could make cheese from. The answer I got was “Duck”.
Remember when I said “I would wonder where the questions would lead us”? Well, sometimes the answers would send us into a lesson on how mammals are different from birds and you can’t milk a duck.
In putting down the paper toque and sharing some of the dishes I prepared along the way, I’m hoping this might be a way to show my appreciation. I am appreciative of the time I was given and the people I have a connection with through this food.