Well, it’s over. On Thursday I became an official alumna of Cookin’ School.
The school did a really nice job with the ceremony, and as we were lining up as a class to go in, I felt a bit like this was my first real graduation. I never graduated from high school (true... I am technically a high school dropout), and for my college graduation I was one in a sea of anonymous robed people, our class just one of many classes graduating together from the university that day. Because my closest friends were either a year ahead or behind me, I was with only one friend, my suitemate Jim, and we sort of just stood there surrounded by people we didn’t know and straining to hear a series of speakers whose names I can’t recall.
For my master’s degree (jeez, am I overeducated or what?), there was no ceremony whatsoever. Just hand in a final paper, shake hands with a couple professors I liked and then pack and hit the road.
So anyway, I found the ceremony on Thursday more meaningful and momentous than I’d expected. Aside from this being my first real graduation event, I have to say this degree was also the one I worked hardest for. I mean, I woke up early in the morning, sometimes ridiculously early, every day of my second year. I stuck my fingers in beyond-boiling sugar for this! (Uhm, okay, that last part was just for fun, but still...)
Right as we were lining up, I found out that, due to the order in which we were entering (reverse alphabetical), I would be carrying the flag for the baking and pastry class. Cool! I felt so like Arwen at the coronation, or one of the Rohirrim (yes, I’ve been watching the Lord of the Rings DVDs as a stress management technique the past few weeks).
Here’s a shot of me walking in, totally amused by the whole flag thing:
The photo was taken by Dr. Virago, who attended my graduation along with Shorewoodian. They’ve been so supportive of me to do this, even from my first inkling of changing careers and flinging myself into the unknown, that I was really happy to have them there.
Another thing about graduation: the culinary and baking students elected me to be the student representative speaker. I never ran for the position, and was kind of dreading Making a Speech, but it went well. People laughed when they were supposed to laugh, I didn’t stutter and my pants didn’t split, which is really all one can ask for when making a public presentation.
The bakers as a class first picked LeChef to be our faculty speaker, but sadly he was unavailable (he took a few weeks off to work in some restaurants and update his techniques), so we asked Der Erlkonig to do it. He’s said no to several classes recently because everyone wants him to speak (it’s his supernatural hold over us all), but he agreed to do ours. His speech was like his lectures, funny, slightly rambling, sweet and sometimes indecipherable.
Our guest speaker was Chef Irvine, whom most people know from his show on the Food Network, though the thing that impressed me most about him was that he was the head chef for the HMS Britannia for several years. My favorite thing about his speech was how he ended it: "enjoy this Christmas... it’s the last one you’ll have off."
The president of Cookin’ School spoke as well. He’s usually a very by-the-book kinda guy, so I was surprised and highly amused by his long tangent about the secret passion shared by all chefs: fire. "We are all enlightened pyromaniacs," he said of the profession.
Well, uh, yeah.
They gave out class awards (not to brag, but I got two of the three awards doled out to the bakers... after Der Erlkonig presented me with the first, he said "now, you stay heeere, don’t seeet down, hyahhhh," and promptly called my name for the next award, too. Below is a photo of him presenting one of them to me) and then our graduation medals, there was a final round of applause and all that and then we filed out.
The bakers walked out first, and Der Erlkoing was there at the exit to give us each a hug. This ended up holding the line and causing several culinary kids to grumble, but hell, it’s Der Erlkonig. He can do as he likes.
Immediately outside of the hall, we broke apart and went our separate ways. Sunshine, Mandilicious and I had a final photo op (below) before they left. Note my armful of bling (the awards I won), which I’m proud to say I did not drop at any point.
After the ceremony came a luncheon, a final round of good-byes to my chefs and well wishes from people I passed in the hall, some of whom I knew and others recognized only by sight. Then it was over. I felt a bit like Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry, sitting in The Green Dragon after the Ring has been destroyed and thinking well, now what? (Note to self: get some new DVDs.)
Actually, I am not, of course, without a plan. I will be spending the next few days doing nothing, or at least nothing of consequence, before going out to a couple places interested in hiring me. They want me to work a couple days in the kitchen to see if I’m a good fit, which is fine, because I want to go out there and see if that’s where I want to be. Chef Wednesday* also gave me the name and email of a friend of his who is opening a new place and looking for a head baker, so I’m going to contact him and see where that goes.
*I decided to call the chef for whom I laminated Chef Wednesday due to the similarity in speech pattern, intensity and skin pallor to Wednesday Addams. It just seems right.
Now that my formal bakin’ education is over, I’m not sure what direction I’ll take with this blog, but until I sort that out... have you seen my lamination?