Chow Town

A slice of humble pie: Adventures from culinary school

At one end of the hall a smell of fresh bread and pastries escapes one of the two kitchens. The other kitchen is spotless — calling out to my peers, begging to be used.

We patiently wait to be given the “Okay” from Chef to enter. Today is Asian Cuisine and the menu is vast with numerous foreign ingredients and unfamiliar items. Typical items, such as soy sauce, ginger and hot mustard, make their way into the day’s recipes.

However, some strange, more alien products appear throughout recipes as well. Items such as fish flakes, wakeme seaweed and chukasoba noodles are all new to most of us in class.

Thankfully, we receive a detailed lecture complete with procedures, pictures, and last minute advice from Chef before any cooking begins.

As I prepare my ingredients and gather all necessary items the sounds of running water, ovens slamming and knives contacting cutting boards flood the large, industrial kitchen.

By now I am silently rehearsing steps and going over time lines or recipes to myself. Very quickly pots and pans appear on the stove tops. Vegetables and proteins are divvied up amongst groups.

All the while there’s a lot of “Where is this?” and “What is that?” or “Has anyone seen (you fill in the blank)?” that can be heard intermittently from the white noise of the kitchen.

The class is five hours long. However, it is the quickest five hour time period of my entire week. Maybe time zips by because I stay so busy, or maybe because I am simply excited to be absorbing all this practice and information.

Nonetheless, my favorite part of each lab class can never come too soon — critiques.

This is when my entire group of four presents the day’s menu to Chef. More often than not a sense of pride and respect for the art is heavy at presentation — with the exception of occasional blunders.

One thing is certain: whether a great success or a tragic fail every day of cooking is a learning experience.

Every dish is an adventure. An environment that can literally consist of blood, sweat, and tears — even though Chefs do not cry, right? — can also offer up the most awarding sense of pride imaginable.

This reward is obtained after a Chef or instructor dishes out very positive feedback, and I know my hard work has paid off.

Chelsey Parker, at the age of 19, joined the Air Force as an active duty enlisted member to travel around Europe. She fell in love with many different cuisines and cooking styles during her two year stay. Now 24, she attends The Art Institutes International of Kansas City’s Culinary Program and cooking for Milbourn’s Food and Drink Co. in Platte County.