When I was younger, I didn’t have many aspirations other than being a superhero. Not surprisingly, being a kid meant that future dreams were outlandish and impractical. Even throughout highschool, I had no idea where I was going to college and even less of what I was going to do. My classmates had their futres tenatively in order, or at least a clue of what to begin with, and I was still slumped.
As most Missoula teenagers, I stuck with the easiest choice and decided to stay in town for college. With so many degree choices, I took a chance on myself and my education and decided to enroll in the culinary program at the COT. With just a basic knowledge of the culinary arts and a lump in my chest being around people twice my age with much more experience than me, I stepped into a path that I knew was going to be exciting and equally challenging.
I learned a great deal in just a year under Thomas Campbell and came to a stron understanding that my newly learned appreciation for ccooking wasn’t in a professional kitchen. I transferred to the main campus and enrolled for Marketing, knowing that I enjoyed being in a kitchen surrounded by friends and family, and not customers, where my interest for food became a passion.
Watching and learning from many chefs whether it be from television, online shows, cookbooks, or travel writing, I grew to understand the depth and complexity that cooking can offer. So many people restrict themselves without knowing it, underselling themselves to their own abilities. Much of cooking isn’t very hard, it takes a great deal of organization (mise en place) and timing, the rest is getting to experiment and test yourself.
While to most people it may feel daunting being in a kitchen, it takes just a basic understanding of the principles until you can get to a position of comfortability. I encourage you to just take a look in your spice rack, spend a few more minutes at the supermarket looking at what produce and proteins are available. There’s an infinite amount of possibilities at your disposal and it just takes you stepping out of your comfort zone.
- Making Mistakes
Part of the joy of cooking is learning from your own mishaps. I can’t count how many times I’ve planned dinners and expected shock and awe from my peers, only for myself to ruin just about every element. Overcooked steak, mushy vegetables, burnt sauces, dry/salty/bland/etc. It’s the one thing that shoulkd encourage you to try harder, because one of my biggest flaws is giving up on myself when I refuse to grow from my mistakes–like anything else, it takes practice.
- Technical Aspects
When you begin to learn at your own pace, you’ll find yourself improving without even realizing it. Branching out and attempting different cuisines lends its own set of talents to other types of food. There are many interchangeable techniques from french cooking, to mexcian, indian, italian, asian, etc. that will make you mroe confident and ambitious. Along with the techniques you learn, you get better at timing, temping food, knowing flavor profiles, what goes well with another element, should the dishes have complementary or contrasting flavors?
You’ll find that the more you understand the basics, the more adventurous your palate will be. Not to mention how much smarter you will feel when you have a brilliant idea of what to add to a dish, something unexpected, but it feels that you’re making a complete dish.
- Making Memories
All of the above I’ve mentioned are great reasons why cooking is such a fantastic hobby, and whether you like or not, you have to be mindful of what you put in your body. But ultimately the reason I left culinary only halfway through the program and why I love cooking more than anything perhaps other than music is because of the joy I recieve in making others happy. Being able to spend time with friends and family in a fun, casual setting and creating something that other people love is all the gratitude you need.
I’m not saying every meal has to be extraordinary, but so many meals can be simple and great with just a little effort. Being known amongst my friends as the “chef” of the group is something I take pride in, because as all people know, others have talents you don’t, and having something you excel in is rewarding and warm inside. You feel a sense of accomplishment and self-worth that you’ve done something you’re proud of. There’s not quite a feeling as spending time with your loved ones and sharing intimate memories, and something as simple as sharing a meal can bring people together in a way that makes you appreciate life and those close to you.