Culinary School

During the summer of 2009, I shocked many friends and family by announcing that I was quitting my job and heading down to Charlotte, North Carolina to go to Johnson and Wales University and get my Culinary Arts degree.  It was a life changing decision that has truly transformed both my personal and professional aspirations.  I am living proof that it is never too late to start over or follow your dreams.  Here is a detailed look into what has become the most exciting and fulfilling year of my life…


Make sure to check the Culinary School Frequently Asked Questions page too!

General Posts

Below is an overview and links to posts about each and every culinary lab I have taken.  The way that the culinary lab schedule works, you take the same class every day for 9 days in a row, and then move on to the next class.  In addition, you work with the same block of students for 5 classes in a row (one term).  Spending all day every day with the same group of 20 students leads to some great friendships and interesting stories…

Freshman Culinary Labs – First Term

Fundamentals of Food Service Preparation – this class focused on three cooking techniques: baking, shallow-frying, and sautéing.  It was my first class and I was so nervous!

After my first class, I took a lot of pictures during school, but got really overwhelmed with school work and started neglecting my blog.  In hindsight I am totally kicking myself!  I still have the pictures from these classes, and hope to do “catching up” type posts eventually.

Skills of Meatcutting – exactly what it sounds like.  We worked in a freezing cold meat cooler all day long and cut up various meat carcasses.  It didn’t bother me as much as people assumed it would, but I am glad to have it overwith.  I don’t think my future career path will include butchering!

Purchasing and Product Identification – in this class we worked in the storeroom and receiving area of the school.  We filled the requisition orders for each classroom each day, and learned all about identifying all sorts of produce, grains, etc.  It was a really interesting class, and because of my vegetarian and adventurous diet, I totally rocked all of the product identification for “exotic” foods.

Principles of Beverage Service – nine days of bartending!  We worked in a classroom that looked just like a bar, and we learned everything there is to know about wine, beer, and spirits.  At the end, I passed an exam giving me my ServeSafe Alcohol Certification – good to have if I ever decide to become a bartender!  :)

Nutrition and Sensory Analysis – how horrible that I never showed you guys my Nutrition class, I know!  :(  This class wasn’t actually as nutritious as I had hoped, but there was one entire day devoted to vegetarian cuisine.  The cooking techniques we focused on were poaching and steaming.  We made a lot of vegetable dishes and talked about alternative food choices – overall a really good class.

Freshman Culinary Labs – Second Term

By the time second term came around, I had gotten into a good routine and was able to balance blogging and school work much more easily.  The recaps became daily after the first class…

Traditional European Cuisine – we learned the basic techniques of braising and stewing, which meant that we cooked tough cuts of exotic protein every day – oxtails, rabbit, monkfish, you name it.  I hated the food in this class, but still learned a lot, and that’s what matters.

New World Cuisine – in New World we learned three more techniques: grilling, deep-frying, and roasting.  I loved the food in this class, and gained a lot more confidence in my cooking.  So many delicious vegetable dishes and salads – a nice break from my previous class of only braised meats…

Introduction to Baking and Pastry – I absolutely loved my first baking class.  We made breads, rolls, croissants, muffins – you name it.  In another life I think I was meant to be a baker.

Stocks, Sauces, and Soups – this class was incredibly challenging, but also completely essential.  I learned so many fundamental basics of cooking – mother sauces, stock ratios, and more.  Plus I LOVE soup, so this class was a win, win for me.

Essentials of Dining Room – I dreaded this class from day one of culinary school.  We had to work as wait staff in a dining room serving other students – very high potential for embarrassment and awkward situations.  I ended up finding that after a few days I got used to it though, and by the end I was sad that my Freshman year was over. :(

Sophomore Culinary Labs – Third Term

International Cuisine – We came back after Spring Break as Sophomores – so weird!  New classmates and a new uniform, as well as a new set of expectations as students.  This was hands down my favorite class (and Chef!) of my entire program.  So much amazing food – I wish it could have lasted so much longer.

Advanced Dining Room & Procedures – Another, more intense class serving students in a different dining room.  This time we had to do things like tableside cooking, clearing and stacking plates, serving wine, etc.  The curriculum for this class was very heavy on wine knowledge, and it was probably my most challenging class academically.  Go figure!

Advanced Patisserie and Desserts – My second Baking & Pastry class, which I loved just as much as the first.  This class was all about plating desserts to be served in the dining room.  We made a lot of fun things that were new to me – ice cream, mousse, soufflés, cheesecake, sugar work, and more.  This class tested my limits on tasting everything in sight…

Classical French Cuisine – This was the class I was most nervous for since the day that I started culinary school.  Both the class and the Chef had intense reputations – both of which were proven wrong over nine days.  I never would have expected that this would end up being one of my favorite classes of all.  Chef Tiess was amazing, and one of the best teachers I’ve had all year.  Although I wouldn’t eat a thing (sooo much meat!), I learned a lot – mostly about my level of self-confidence.

Garde Manger – This class was really unusual because it was all about cold food.  For 14 classes we had focused on cooking, and suddenly everything we did needed to be refrigerated!  This was the single most challenge class for me as a vegetarian – more meat products than I ever imagined possible.  While the food was less than appealing, I learned a lot about plate presentations and the visual aspects of food.

Don’t forget to check out the Culinary School Frequently Asked Questions too!