Five hours a week, every week, I dress up in my uniform; white chef's coat, black and white checkered pants, a white floppy hat, black kitchen clogs and an apron, and galumph around campus with a knife roll, a 19 inch toolbox that contains what is basically a portable kitchen, and my textbook that weighs about 40 pounds. Life these days isn't glamorous. Our time in "lab" is an extension of this, we are a turbulent ocean of clumsy first years. The kitchen is a chaotic war zone, and Chef mostly leaves us to our own devices barking every so often that we are 30 or so minutes from serving time. I spend most of my classes feeling completely out of my depth, confounded by little things like how to work a gas range ( the first I've been near in my life) and where to find the butter, but every minute spent in the kitchen is a moment I'm becoming seasoned (battle hardened) and things slowly, slowly start to feel more natural. When I'm at home clarifying butter, making roux and practicing knife cuts until my hands are blistered and my feet are aching, and I won't lie, more than once I've found myself running to youtube in the dark of night to find out just what I've been doing wrong so I can fake competence in class. God bless youtube. When I'm in lab I'm dancing around hot pots and other people's knives and re-training my once pinpoint accurate chef's nose ( no timer's needed when cooking at home) to focus only on the dishes that I am in charge of. It's a big change, and I'm struggling endlessly to keep my grades up and my blood pressure down.
It's pretty hard though, to truly complain. While the work is rough and the kitchen is hot I can't quite put my whole heart in to moaning when at the end of every session we all gather around a table and eat real food, the spoils of our efforts. Forkfuls of sumptuous creamy mashed parsnips, crispy home fries, gravy, tomatoes, and okra, cross our lips and we smile, sweaty, worn-out, prideful, satisfied smiles. Because we know that while it won't always feel this hard, this part right here might just keep on feeling this good.