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Food Studies: Meet Christine, Studying at New York City's French Culinary Institute

GOOD's second Food Studies blogger is Christine, who chose to go culinary school to become a food writer—but then fell in love with cooking.

Food Studies features the voices of volunteer student bloggers from a variety of different food- and agriculture-related programs at universities around the world.

I wish I had a simple answer for why I chose to go to culinary school. I wish I could say that I have been dreaming of donning chef’s whites for as long as I can remember. The truth is, my decision had more to do with my fascination with the food itself than the desire to spend my life cooking it.

To backtrack, I grew up as an American expatriate in Singapore, where food is the common denominator in a country with such a diverse population. I learned quickly that food is the fastest way to bridge any cultural gap. I guess you could call it ethnographical eating, but that kind of over-complicates things. Basically, I have always looked at food as being something highly ritualized and more than just the sum of its parts. Food sustains us, defines us, and gives us something to talk about.

So, I started at New York City’s French Culinary Institute in October 2010, almost immediately after graduating from Northwestern University with a creative writing degree. Initially, my goal in completing the Classic Culinary Arts program was to gain more insight into the world of food and cooking so as to eventually become a credible food writer or food historian.

Three months in, however, my goals have changed. It’s the cooking, not just the food, that’s got me hooked.

I chose FCI because of its great reputation in the industry, and because it was shorter and more intensive than other courses (my program is three nights a week and lasts nine months). I wanted a curriculum that would teach me the basics without keeping me in a classroom for too long. To supplement the formal culinary program, I am interning in a restaurant kitchen here in the city, which is proving to be an entirely different education. I am simultaneously humbled and inspired by the never-ending process of professional cooking.

Back to the initial question: I chose to go to culinary school not to become a professional cook, but because food is my passion, and because food is essential and interesting and limitless. What culinary school has taught me, though—besides the basic ingredient ratios for mayonnaise, the difference between a jardinière and a julienne, and the massive amount of work that goes into making puff pastry—is that I enjoy the process as much as the end result. Cooking is work, no doubt, but the opportunity to be constantly creating something makes that work seem worthwhile.

Why I chose to go to culinary school is irrelevant. Now I go to culinary school because, first and foremost, I want to be a cook.

To be continued... Christine is a student blogger for the Food Studies feature on GOOD's Food hub. Don't miss fellow Food Studies blogger Erin's self-introduction last week, and if you're a food or agriculture student who would like to learn more about becoming a volunteer blogger, we'd love to hear from you! You can email me, Nicola Twilley, at nicola[at]goodinc[dot]com.

All photos by the author.

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