After class on my short commute home I think about what I learned that evening, what I could have done better and what I could be proud of – my mind continues to race even as I lay my head down on the pillow. The pace in the school's kitchen is quick and I've adapted to it by prepping as much as I can before class starts, reviewing and writing down my recipes in a small notebook, and referencing other cookbooks for tips on techniques and methodologies prior to class.
Standing at my station, the heat is on literally and figuratively - we are pushed to produce exactly what the Chef demonstrated at the beginning of class and we are working over hot burners and searing flat tops to bring our recipes to life. There are moments in class I catch myself in a Zen-like trance, caught up in the processes and steps I am taking to produce a presentable dish. The Chef will announce, "OK, in 5 minutes I want everyone to bring their finished plate up to me for review." Then everyone really starts to sweat, the clock is ticking, the deadline is looming and it's all about setting priorities and making quick decisions. The moment of review is always nerve-racking and the time leading up to that moment is pure but controlled chaos. As students we are being pushed to produce beautiful tasting and looking food in a set amount of time - as if we were working the line in a restaurant kitchen.
When I reflect and step outside of this frenetic moment I think about what brought me here at this time in my career and my life...and I know the answer intrinsically. My memory floods with thoughts of my mother's Sunday dinners, when I was a wee boy we sat down to eat dinner at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. Growing up, I thought everyone had Sunday dinner at 2pm as if it was the most common tradition. How special those dinners were, roast chicken with an herbed dressing, slow-roasted new potatoes, sweet corn or tender roast beef with creamy mashed potatoes and buttery carrots. My mother's cooking is always inspiring for me, not only does she love to cook, but she imparted her love for food on all my siblings. This love absolutely resonated with me and propels me to do my best in culinary school.
My mantra "Food is Love" is a living tribute and dedication to the way my mother continues to love us, and nurture our spirits with hope, strength and shear will. Mom's food is always made with love and attention she always takes the time to prepare delicious meals, she teaches us about culinary traditions and customary food passed down from her Polish parents. Her excitement from simply discussing what we she will eat for dinner the next day is contagious and without a doubt today she will call me and we will chat on the phone about what I'm cooking or what I made in school the night before. These are memories I cherish - these are my gastronomic roots that I draw upon to fuel my passion, especially in those last few moments in class when the pressure is on to execute a dish with precision, inspiration and yes, even some perspiration.