Please Pack Your Knives and Go

I'm currently reading Daniel Boulud's Letters to a Young Chef. And by currently I mean I purchased it around 2pm today and a little over 4 hours later I'm almost finished. It's a short book and simply written so this is no great accomplishment. Not to mention that for a large part of the book I was riveted by every word.

Culinary school is something I've been giving very serious thought to for almost two years now. I've started to feel about food and the process of creating it the way I used to feel about the performing arts - passionate, consumed with a need to study and discuss it and ready to trade in my sorry attempts at a social life for a career I can consume every second of my life with. During this torturous dry spell of little to no work I've been increasingly filling more and more time with watching cooking programs (and not just TFN's crop of "chefs" but more educational and sophisticated fare as well) and reading blogs and learning as much as I can without actually entering any sort of formal training. Going back to school is going to a be a huge financial and emotional commitment for me and I want to make sure I'm going back for the right reasons and for the right thing before I make that leap.

So I'm reading Letters to a Young Chef and getting more and more excited and feeling destined for a role somewhere in the culinary world when Chef Boulud has this to say:

One more requirement-you need youth. Notice these are Letters to a Young Chef, not a new chef. In other words, if you were thirty years old I would not be writing this to you, because the demands of the job and the competition out there require that you start young, as you have, as I did.
My heart dropped as soon as I read that and it was several long minutes before I could bring myself to pick the book back up again. I could only do it be convincing myself that he's only one man (who is nothing short of a God in the culinary world) with one opinion (and one that a career of being a God has left me more then entitled to). There seems to be this great marketing campaign going on telling everyone that it's never too late to start over. But what if it is? What if those stupid mistakes you make when your 19 and you don't understand anything except the rules of Beer Pong really do fatally impact the rest of your life.

Until recently I've never been a defeatist. I've lived my life the Scarlet O'Hara way believing that Tomorrow Is Another Day. But after 28 years of tomorrow I'm starting to feel like my window of opportunity to turn everything around is in serious danger of being sealed permanently shut. And that having an actual life plan that makes sense may not mean anything when it's come ten years too late. I hate feeling like I've wasted any part of my life, let alone an entire decade of it, and I think that's why I've had so much anger towards myself lately. I can see so clearly all the wrong decisions I made and all those times I ended up at Frost's damned Diverged Roads and took the wrong one.

I'm not going to let Chef Boulud completely bring me down or cause me to rethink everything again but there'll be a wariness to my actions now and an acute understanding that I'm starting back at the beginning means not being the youngest, fastest prodigy on the block, a position I probably enjoyed for too long anyway.

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