I Left My Cookbooks In Nebraska

My last two months could be a real life idiot’s guide to how to move to New York City and work at a Michelin star restaurant. (Tip #13: don’t pay for a subway ride until you’re sure it’s going in the right direction.) Carrying two suitcases stuffed with knives, chef pants, white t-shirts, and high heels for abusing my feet on the streets of NYC, I boarded a plane to Newark, NJ. Upon landing, I realized the last time I had been in New York City had been as a financial advisor a few years prior. It was with great pleasure that I deplaned knowing that I would not have to give financial advice or go to a training seminar; I would be elbow deep in sacher torte batter and klimt biscuit.

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Culinary Students Misled About a Cook’s Paycheck

Along the same lines of the “hot coffee” litigation (come on, you didn’t know the coffee would be hot?), culinary school graduates are suing their culinary schools because they “were misled by recruiters about the value of a culinary education and their prospects after graduation.”

Not only is this ridiculous, but it is another example of people not taking responsibility for their actions. It is the generation of do-overs. Ooops, I got an F on my math test, can I have a do-over? I borrowed $500,000 to buy a house that I couldn’t afford, can I just walk away? I invested too much money into this ridiculous tech stock that I thought was going to sky-rocket. Why didn’t you talk me out of it? I want my money back. Since when did people start thinking it was okay to be let off the hook for everything? Why do we feel we are entitled to do-overs? When did risk become safe? This is not normal.

I’m sorry, but in the restaurant business, there aren’t very many do-overs. Do-overs cost money. You scorched an entire gallon of reduced balsamic vinegar? Well, a do-over doesn’t really exist for that. You burned it. You wasted about $30. People who want to sue a school for not disclosing to them obvious, common sense information should not be working in the restaurant business anyway, which may be one reason they couldn’t find a job. (Common sense is a necessary kitchen tool.) When I went to college, they did not tell me that I would someday want to quit my job as a financial advisor and go work in a kitchen for $10/hr. I feel like they should have known this. Maybe I could get my money back?

When did doing research and making informed decisions for yourself become someone else’s responsibility? I agree that some, if not all, expensive culinary schools are not worth the investment unless one is independently wealthy.  All one needs to do is a simple online job search to see that an entry-level cook, including those with culinary degrees, makes slightly over minimum wage. This is what we call due diligence and takes a total of 30 seconds. Instead, let’s spend $20-30,000 first, and then worry about it. Sounds like a fantastic dumb idea to me.

Photo: AP/Eric Risberg

They Don’t Give Away Michelin Stars For Nothing

We as people are always in search of something bigger, better, faster, stronger. But isn’t it great when you can enjoy dinner at a restaurant that actually tries to make you happy (and dine with someone who makes you happy) and just simply enjoy the moment, for a moment? I had my first Michelin star dinner in the stunning Italian alps at La Stüa de Michil in the La Perla Hotel in Corvara, Italy. Did they think I was a Michelin inspector? Maybe. (Probably not). As I sit here, back in America, contemplating, munching on a Kinder Bueno (my favorite European candy), wishing I were still in Italy, I think to myself, “What makes a Michelin star meal? Is it any different than any other meal?” The answer is yes.


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Europe Does It Right

As I stood in the butcher shop, or macelleria, in San Cassiano, Italy, staring at the meats hanging along the wall and what looked like a family working behind the counter, I wondered, why is the food here so good?

Back in America, I live in a place where the ground is fertile. Things can grow. It’s Nebraska for goodness sakes. If you drive through the state, you will be tired of corn after the fourth hour of looking at the continuous rows. You also might be nauseous from the smell of the cattle feedlots as you drive through Ogalalla, NE. The food tastes different in Europe. The yogurt is better. The cheese is better. The meat is better. What is different about the land on which the cows graze and the vegetables grow?


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10 Things I Learned About Food From a Swiss Grandmother

My recent trip to Switzerland with my boyfriend brought me to his grandmother’s house. In an old farmhouse with a garden, a wood oven, and a ceiling so low that I hit my 6’0″ tall head a few times.

I ate three square meals a day, sitting down at a table. (Can this be real?) When I stumbled down the stairs in the morning, the breakfast table would be set with plates, napkins, silverware, hot tea, milk, yogurt, cheese, fresh-made jam, honey, bread and museli. Did I die and go to heaven? No, I was still alive in Switzerland at a grandmother’s house.

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Hot Food, Served On A Plate, Eaten While Sitting

I have now been in San Cassiano, Italy for a week and could write volumes about the amazing alps and Alto Adige. As if the last week wasn’t great enough, the man had to pull something as crazy awesome as a spa day at Hotel Fanes: massage, sauna, a “quiet relax room” with a heated water bed, and naked Europeans. When a girl doesn’t think that things could possibly get any better, this ultra pampering session was followed by an impromptu three-course dinner in the Chef’s office.

A stock broker can get desensitized to money because she sees it all day long, and when the Dow drops 650 points, it’s really just another day at the office (stay with me here). Similarly, working in the food industry can cause a cook to be desensitized and forget how food makes people feel. We in the restaurant business don’t get to sit down very often to enjoy a hot meal. We forget what it’s like. Most of the time we eat standing up, perhaps over a trash bin because we’re too busy to actually put the food on a plate. (Especially if you’re in the shit and can’t get your work done fast enough because you’re still a shitty cook when it comes down to it, but work up a sweat all day trying to improve.) Sacrificing normal-people dinnertime rituals is what we do to make others feel happy during their dinner time. When you think about it, food really is quite simple. You either make people happy or you don’t. And a lot of us try to make people happy 100% of the time. The endless pursuit of perfection can be mentally and physically taxing. Sometimes if we don’t step away often enough, we forget what it feels like to be served a hot meal, on a plate, while sitting down. And if we don’t step back every once in a while from what we work so hard at every day and reflect on what is really important, we might just forget what that is. It’s just food after all.

Sometimes what a girl needs is just to sit down and be served a hot meal…in Italy…by a sweet chef…and take a deep breath of mountain air.

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