It has taken me a little while to write about graduation day – a day that I won’t soon forget. When school finished that week, I had some foot surgery that I’ve been putting off. Standing in the kitchen for the past nine months has exacerbated pain in my feet, specifically my toes. Although I had a pair of fantastic Dansko Euro clogs to wear at night, it was during the day that my feet would feel crunched wearing dress shoes. So, I needed to have my toes fixed.
I went back to work full time at Wildlife Trust – in the evening time when I would find myself home at 6:30 pm I would experience an overwhelming sense of loss, not being in the school’s kitchen was so odd to me. I was meant to be there, I thought to myself, it’s 6:30 pm I should be prepping for service. It was a strange transition, leaving the professional kitchen made me long for it even more. Troubling!
But back to graduation day, mind you, that was the day after our food final. We assembled at school in the late afternoon and had our class picture taken with our tall chef’s hats. It was amazing to see everyone dressed in chef whites and tall toque.
Family and friends assembled in the culinary theater waiting for us to appear. Happily my mom, brother and two sisters were present for the ceremony. It meant a lot to me that they were there.
The soon-to-be graduates sat in the front row of the theater and our Chefs from different Levels stood up front. Chef Candy welcomed everyone and spoke about the accomplishment in graduating from the FCI. Chef Candy introduced our Chef-Instructors and one-by-one they spoke and gave us sage advice.
Chef Candy asked us to line up so we could officially receive our diploma and toque. Once called you were met with Chef Phil, our Level VI Chef who presented the diploma and then each of us would go down the line to thank our other Chefs including, Chef Nic, Chef Veronica, Chef Janet, Chef Laura, Chef Wanda, Chef Candy and finally Chef Marc.
With diploma in hand and toque proudly perched on my head, I went through the line and thanked all my Chefs before I headed back to my seat. Next, the presentation of awards.
Two of my fellow students received awards for never missing a class – unfortunately travel plans had me out of the kitchen twice. Awards for honor students was next on the agenda, Marcela, Michal, Sasi and I were called up to receive an FCI pin to affix to our jacket signifying that the four of us graduated with honors. I was thrilled to have the privilege to graduate with honors and stand up there with my fellow students. A round of applause and we were ready to head back to our seats when the Director of Student Affairs asked me to stay up on the dais.
A little bewildered, I didn’t know what to quite expect but I could see a Chef’s knife on the granite table in front of us. The Director went on to present me with the Chef’s knife inscribed with “Graduated Top of the Class” it was an emotional moment for me. The past nine months I’ve worked hard to excel, become better at my craft and to prove to myself that I could do it. Before I received the knife I was asked to make a speech. I could see my family in the audience, my fellow students in front of me and I grabbed for the appropriate words.
In short I said something like, I wanted to thank my family and fellow students for making this journey so incredible. Each of them have enriched my life in a different way, and I am grateful for that. I remarked that going to culinary school has been a long-time dream and at the age of 39 it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Lastly, I said that the wonderful thing about food is that it tells a story and has a rich history and all I could ask my fellow graduates was to continue telling their story.
It has been an incredible nine months of my life, as for my next move, I’m not sure yet. What I do know is I will never approach food and cooking the same way ever again and for that I’m proud.