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

Friday Fuck Up: Terrine Tragedy

seafood terrines

I was skeptical. But I thought, yeah, this would be cool. Mini terrines. First layer, lobster. Second layer, crab. Third layer, poached salmon. Fourth layer, roasted red peppers…why? Why the hell not? The gelatin to hold it all together was made with the salmon poaching liquid of vegetable stock and white wine. I made sure the thing was properly seasoned and threw in some herbs. I was thinking #1, would this hold together? And #2 would this actually taste good?

#1: Yes, it did hold together. It held together quite nicely. It held together like a can of cat food that slides right out exposing the layer of nasty gelatin on top of the stinky meat mold. I couldn’t get that wet cat food sucking noise out of my head while standing there staring at my terrine fuck up. Meow.

#2: No. Oh, no, no. It did not taste good. Chef was lucky enough to have the first taste. And when I picked up my fork to try a bit, he encouraged me to take a smaller bite. Oh boy, that’s when you know you’ve fucked up. I’m not really sure what went wrong. It was like seafood with seafood flavored jelly. Perhaps I should have brought it home to the cat. I’m sure she would have torn the hell out of this gelatinous seafood carnage. So, I accidentally made cat food. No big deal.

the destruction after tasting

“How did the terrine turn out?” asked a coworker. “Um, it just…it just isn’t good. And it accidentally fell in the trash.” Oops. But the terrine has not heard the last from me. In other words, please help ESers! How do I redeem myself?!

In Over My Head



For me, the kitchen is a constant place of learning. It’s why I love it. When Chef told me we would be purchasing a whole, fresh, organic pig from a local farm for fabrication I thought it would be a great learning experience. When I was given the challenge of figuring out what to do with the head, the learning was elevated to a whole new level. This is way beyond egg day in culinary school. This is the head of an animal. What the hell. For a semi-vegetarian, this would be an adventure.

Upon googling pig head recipes, I found out that one could do a few things with a pig’s head. I watched a video on cooking a pig’s head. I ran into a recipe for pork brawn using the snout and eyes that made me queasy looked delicious. I was inspired by a woman named Carol who attempted the torchon from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook. And then the pig head arrived.

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Industrial Food Complex


Editor’s Note: As you may remember, ES contributor forkitude has given up the corporate life to take the plunge into culinary school.

Part of culinary education is learning how to purchase food. Therefore, I found myself in a food Home Depot during my walking tour of the 245,000-square-foot Sysco warehouse in Lincoln, NE.

When did food distribution become so mechanized and industrial?

Sysco was started in the 1970s by several producers in order to distribute different food stuffs to buyers on the same truck. This idea has evolved into a food machine. And it felt like a machine.

We walked past boxes labeled “fresh cut vegetables.” Maybe the English language needs a new definition for the word fresh. “Still consumable” perhaps?

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Culinary School Day One: Over Easy

Over Easy

Editor’s Note: As you may remember, ES contributor forkitude has given up the corporate life to take the plunge into culinary school. Here are her thoughts from day one.

Day number one: Culinary Foundations.

  • Knife skills: my fingers are valuable. It is a bloody lesson, but one I have learned. Got it. My knife skills are a work in progress.
  • Mirepoix: 50% onion, 25% carrots, 25% celery. The basic building block of soups, stocks, and sauces. Simple enough.
  • Eggs: better known as the devil. Eggs are easy to make and easy to screw up, and I have screwed up my share of eggs. Therefore, I get excited to learn the correct way to do things because screwing up is a pain in the ass. Eggs were my favorite part of the day:
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180 Degrees…and I Don’t Mean Fahrenheit

Editor’s Note: Please welcome our newest contributor, the Omaha, Nebraska-based forkitude. A former high-powered businesswoman, forkitude is now trying her hand at the world of culinary school and restaurant work, and we’re excited to hear all the inside details.

Goodbye business suit; hello chef’s coat. After eight years in finance, a few of which literally seemed like Armageddon, I have made the giant leap, the 180-degree spin into the culinary world.  Food has been a passion of mine for quite some time. They say you are doing what you were meant to do when 5 hours have passed and it seemed like 5 minutes.  (This is how I burn the croutons, by the way.)

If one thing is for sure as both a financial advisor and as a chef, your head must be in the game and you need some tough skin. I can still picture a veteran, white-haired financial advisor walking the hallway in the midst of the market crash of 2008, his face a white color to match his hair. That was trial by fire. This is my new trial by fire. I will share some of the translations from the business world to the culinary world as well as some observations I have made in my short time on the line. I hope you can laugh with me, and maybe you will be inspired to follow your passion too. Take a hike, pantyhose and heels. I didn’t really ever need you since I am already 6’0” tall. But thanks anyway for helping me rock the business skirt suit. We had some good times.

So, just a few weeks in, here are some of my most valuable lessons about restaurant work so far:

  • Salt is your best buddy. Sodium chloride has been receiving quite the beat down in the news lately. I completely agree that processed foods should reduce sodium.  Perhaps a bag of potato chips should not make your eyes shrivel and make you feel like the Michelin man. However, salt is a chef’s ally. Proper seasoning is vital or the food tastes bland. Who wants to spend $34 for a plate of bland food? I’m guessing not you. A very small amount of our salt intake comes from the proper seasoning of fresh food. So deal with it. Don’t knock chefs for putting salt in your food. And don’t knock financial advisors when they try their best to give you advice without knowing the future. Everyone needs a little seasoning and bit of advice every now and then.
  • Mise en place is a way of life. Mise en place – French for “put in place”. This means get your shit together BEFORE service.  Prep, arrange, organize, slice what needs to be sliced, peel what needs to be peeled. Prepping during service? Epic fail. You will sink like the Titanic. Much like prepping for the huge prospect meeting, get your shit together before the big show or you will look like a complete idiot. Not only do you need all of the necessary ingredients, but your mind must be ready. Get in the right state of mind. If your mind is somewhere else, you will screw up. Trust me. One more thing: your mise en place is not a snack bar. Don’t eat your work, or other people’s for that matter.
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