Tonight, I ruined a chocolate pavé. Sure, it tastes alright but esthetically? I wouldn’t serve it to anyone and am even embarrassed to take a picture of it for Instagram. But you know what happens when I ruin a dessert? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There are no ramifications. I just learn not to do that thing and try again tomorrow. And do you know who taught me to embrace that attitude in the kitchen? My friend, Julia.
Julia Child might be the person I most admire. Not just chef I most admire, but all around person. And why shouldn’t she be? She’s incredible. A terrible cook until well into her thirties, she took up cooking classes with enthusiasm and subsequently altered the entire course of her life. She took mistakes in stride and laughed at failure. And she was a better chef, and person, for it.
It took her 9 years to get write and publish “The Art of French Cooking,” which she wrote in collaboration with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. 9 years. As someone who is constantly seeking instant gratification, 9 years sounds like forever.
I certainly admire her cooking skills. She wasn’t a prodigy, she learned just like everyone else. She toiled over a hot stove, and took insults from her French instructors at Le Cordon Bleu, the instructors who didn’t think she belonged. She endured. She didn’t shy away from learning to cook because she thought she was too old. She had one delicious meal in Rouen and was inspired to learn. Oysters Portugaises, sole meunière, baguette…she wanted to make it all.
My culinary school experience was likewise, not glamorous. I was 20 when I started, 21 when I graduated. I didn’t feel too old to be be there, but I did feel lost. Culinary school for me was an escape from failure. A new chance at something, success I suppose. I knew I liked to bake and that was pretty much it. Flash forward 9 years, that’s still one of the few things I’m sure of.
I was yelled at in culinary school, we all were. I cried. I went home sweaty and tired, and cried some more. I also ate amazing food, discovered some of my favorite restaurants, and fell in love, with food, the process, and my fiance. I, ultimately, was not cut out for the industry in the traditional sense. I baked in a few places but 5 am start times were not my forte.
So I took a cue from Julia and I learned to do something new.
I’ll likely do this a few more times before I’m done with this life. I like learning new things and like Julia, I’ll never be too old to start something new.
And while she wasn’t afraid to try new things, she also showed the world that good things take time. Her cookbook. Her rise to fame. Like all good line cooks, she kept her head down, her elbows in and worked hard. She focused, and had a sense of humor, and slowly (insert food metaphor here) things came together.
I wonder sometimes if my desire to learn new things is actually a lack of focus. But cooking, baking, eating, these things have been my passions since I was a young child helping my mother bake chocolate chip cookies. And with time, these things will come together. I just have to keep my head down, my elbows in.