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Life Lessons From Culinary School

I recently finished a journey through culinary school, graduating with my fresh Culinary Sales and Marketing degree from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute. While I did learn a lot of technical skills and terms in my classes (batonnet, béchamel and blind baking, oh my!), my biggest takeaways have been the lessons that applied to life in general. Here are some of the many I’ve picked up along the way: 

Mise en Place is a Lifestyle

One of the first practices you learn in culinary school is the concept of mise en place, or “everything in its place.” Basically, it means that you take the time to organize your space physically but also, gathering your thoughts and plan of attack. By taking the time to grab everything you will need to accomplish your goal, and thinking about it, perhaps even writing your plan of attack, you will be much more successful when making a dish. While it helps you from not making a mistake, it also helps you in being more prepared to correct it if one does pop up. 

However, mise en place can also be practiced as a lifestyle – making sure you take the time to put everything in its place at home can make living much more of a breeze, or even when traveling, being sure to envision where you will go and what you will need, and then packing in a way that everything has a proper place. The possibilities for a mise en place lifestyle are endless! So be a girl scout, and always be prepared with mise en place. 

Ingredients Matter

Something can only be as good as the care that goes into it — so make sure you care! Invest in the good stuff that will provide you with more flavor and more nutrients (ahem, local food). You are what you eat! 

Mistakes are a part of cooking

Don’t let mistakes stop you from doing what you want to do. They are a learning experience, not a barrier! Before I went to culinary school, I somehow burnt a vegetable soup. You do not have to be a prodigy to give something a go, and most people become more skilled via practice, not genius. Need some inspiration? Check out this scene from Julie & Julia

Want to learn something? Ask! 

There are so many amazing people in the culinary world – farmers, chefs, brewers, and so many professionals who have a passion for what they do, and a huge base of knowledge to boot. The culinary world has a practice of stage opportunities, where someone who wants to learn is able to volunteer in the kitchen to gain practical experience. So do you have something you always wanted to try out? Ask an expert in your field if you can stage for a day! 

So while knowing how to properly make a stock is important, the most valuable lessons I learned in culinary school are the ones I’ve brought into my life. Thank you, chefs! 

Claire Butler is a Communications Coordinator with Taste the Local Difference, who loves local ingredients and farm-to-fire cooking. You can reach her at claire@localdifference.org

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