Alter Ego

Forget Apple's impending release of iOS 4.1 or Brett Favre's return to the Vikings. This post is going to delve into another side of me, free of technology or sports. Today, we talk about my culinary side. Because, ya know, life isn't all about tech punditry or sports fanaticism. For as long as I can remember, I've always been interested in cooking and fooling around in the kitchen. When most 10-year-old kids were watching Scooby Doo on Saturday mornings, I was watching the likes of Jacques Pepin and Martin Yan instead. After that, instead of going outside to play -- in a parking lot full of parked cars -- I would scurry into the kitchen and cook something. And by "cook something", I mean boil a package of Ramen noodles and raid the pantry for every canned vegetable or bean I could find. Not exactly gourmet, but hey, it beat risking getting run over trying to chase down a football. It was a lot more fun, too. I loved experimenting in the kitchen, exploring my creative side. The food I made was actually pretty edible and tasty, too. I was proud of myself, and I learned a lot. I mean, what 10-year-old knows the difference between a Buerre manie and a Bain-marie? It seemed like a lot of the PBS shows (Food Network or Cooking Channel weren't around then, of course) showed a lot of Jacques Pepin and Julia Child, so I learned a lot about classic French cuisine. It was fun, and I felt very sophisticated for knowing what a profiterole or duck confit was. My love for cooking reached a point where, in 2003, I decided I wanted to do it for a living. I took a leave of absence from my school district gig and applied for admittance to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. I have a sweet tooth, so I applied to their Pastry Arts program. And I got accepted. In 8 short months -- at $4K per -- I would become a professional, classically-trained pastry chef. Unfortunately, money doesn't grow on trees and I didn't qualify for financial aid because of a loophole, so I couldn't go. I was crushed at first because I really wanted it, but things have worked out even better. Looking back, I'm not cut out for the crazier-than-shit demands of a professional kitchen and my feet couldn't handle the 14-hour, 6 days a week work days. Besides, working with young children is far more rewarding than making Crepe Suzette on some cruise ship. Still, getting accepted to the CCA is quite the accomplishment and one that I'm very proud of. I still have all the documentation the college gave me (including my acceptance letter) and my chef's coat. Reminders of unfulfilled dreams and the road not taken. Truth be told, I don't cook as much as I should or would like to these days. But I still watch those cooking shows and wander the produce section at Safeway looking for inspiration. I'm the Wannabe Chef.