The curated kitchen: “Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood”

More than ten years ago we were introduced to culinary school by Anthony Bourdain, Culinary Institute of America graduate in Kitchen Confidential. In The Making of a Chef, Michael Ruhlman expanded this introduction. Now, more than a decade later, Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood completes the circle with a real life account of what it is like to be a full-time culinary school student, today. For anyone who ever thought about going to culinary school. Excerpt, after the jump.

Let me tell you about my fellow culinary school students. These are not foodies. These are not people who read Saveur or own cookbooks or eat in fine restaurants. These are not people who know who David Chang is or what soba noodles are. These are people who, if, and only if, you are lucky, have worked at a suburban chain restaurant and actually had someone teach them how to take a slab of meat and heat it until it is a slab of dinner.

The bulk of them are an unwashed bunch of uneducated, foul-mouthed, hung-over, twenty- and thirty-year-olds, who wear school uniforms they slept in, who ruin their palate with cigarette after cigarette every chance they get, and who, as my first term chef instructor told me, think The Olive Garden is haute cuisine.

They have a passion, not for food, but for fire. And knives. And tattoos and weed and getting drunk once a night and twice on Tuesday. Later, if we, and they, are lucky, this will turn into a passion for food. But, right now, they are at culinary school because everyone from The Food Network to Anthony Bourdain showed them that cooking is a fast track to fame and fortune, and as their own lives have demonstrated, cooking is a whole lot better than the life in and out of prison their friends are living.

That, predominately, is who goes to my culinary school.

Yes, there are exceptions. The tormented vegan gay guy who yearns to be Paula Deen. Literally. The grizzled, semi-retired real estate mogul who spends his days developing pristine land into crowded communities and his nights yearning to answer “What now?” And me, the mid-life journalist looking for knowledge in a six-room schoolhouse full of stainless steel and creamy white globs of putrid chicken fat.