With a car load full of heirlooms and memories, we drove from my late parent’s house to the city in the early morning hours before class. Coffee was as critical as the muscles in my eyelids to keep them open. We pulled into the garage and after a brief walk, I was in the locker room at school transitioning from pedestrian to chef – a shift I had become accustomed to making.
In the classroom, we had moved on from dry-heat cooking methods to hybrid techniques, like braising and stewing, and were now beginning to explore moist-heat cooking methods, such as steaming and poaching. This would be the final stage in our protein extravaganza and at the turn of the year, module two would end with another practical exam and I would be nearing the halfway zone in my studies. The modules maintained a sense of navigational clarity like a buoy in an expansive ocean. The spreadsheet kept of my travels began to show completed classes with increasing dominance, and I received a letter from the school’s administration acknowledging my perfect attendance.
Despite my weariness, I looked forward to class with earnest. I was learning through textbook, demonstration, collaboration and error about technique and flavor. I used a pressure cooker for the first time to nearly vaporize beef cheeks and filleted a whole salmon with precision to serve 12. I learned how minute differentials in the size of a saffron pinch could alter chicken tangine unpalatable and understood the comparison of flavor profiles between sweated and sautéd onion. Although I had come to school after years of practice in the kitchen, there were boundless concepts to apprehend. I was overcome by the swell of what I did not know and it extended both inside and outside of the classroom. The very commute I made to school each week has been a lesson in patience and approaching my physical and psychological limits has created an acute awareness of my connectedness. I have worked at the calculus of a complex equation using food as my tool, and though not fully solved, like the car I drove home full of objects of sentiment and tradition, I’ve begun to understand how to measure the value underneath the curve.