Despite having a couple recipes to share with you here, today’s post is slightly different. A little more personal, I would say.
When I first considered going to culinary school, in late 2013 after having a sincere moment during a walk around Edinburgh, I signed up for a cooking demonstration from Le Cordon Bleu while still living in Moscow.
During this demonstration, apart from being sure that working as a Pastry Chef was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, people from school were saying that the months we would spend there were to be the best of our lives.
I remember this particular moment with a very honest thought to myself. For me it sounded like a very cheap sales pitch. It would probably be a great experience, but not the best of my life.
However, it looks like their pitch was completely spot on and I was enormously wrong. Going to culinary school in Paris was not just great. It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.
During this time I’ve learned so much, had so many life-changing experiences and fell in love with a craft that takes more than lots of butter, sugar and flour to be made: it also takes lots of patience, care and love to make it perfect each time. It was definitely the time of my life.
After finishing my studies and making my way back to Canada, I felt like something was missing inside of me. I missed waking up early in the morning at my cozy apartment at Issy-les-Moulineaux, opening up my window and hearing the birds sing every day. I missed the smell of freshly baked croissants from my favorite bake shop. I missed walking for hours alone around the city to explore it, without plans, without maps, just absorbing all that it could offer me. I missed picnics at the parks. I missed having wine and funny conversations with my friends until late at night. I missed my runs. I missed the metro. I even missed the fact that I needed to do all my Sunday grocery purchases until 1:00 pm, otherwise I would starve until Monday morning. But most of all, I missed who I was during those months, the people I met and the experiences I had.
And somehow it became unbearable to even remember all that. I would skip all the songs in my playlists that would remind me of those moments. I would try to avoid seeing pictures or movies showing the city. I would stop browsing the pictures of my cakes from the school, or even the pictures I randomly took while living there. I just couldn’t handle it.
Then, out of a sudden, today I felt like I needed to reconnect with it. I started listening to those songs again. I browsed some early pictures and laughed at how ugly some of the desserts I made back then looked. It still hurts, but it’s not painful anymore.
I think I’ve finally realized that all these things, from the most significant to the little ones, made me who I am today. This is all part of me now. And that I honestly should be grateful for having had those experiences, not sad because they are not a part of my daily life anymore. Now I can finally move on.
Today my pay slips say I’m the Pastry Chef of a very nice French restaurant here in Toronto. Today I can make tough calls on what to serve in somebody’s wedding, and I know why I’m making these decisions. Today I feel comfortable enough to train cooking apprentices. Or even to redesign with confidence the restaurant’s new menu with ideas that I had while still in school — and being praised by them. This is all consequence of these past experiences. Now I finally realize that even though I’m not there anymore, it all lives inside me and it goes to each plate I make during dinner service.
If you’re reading this and are somehow related to this period of my life — thank you. This has probably been as amazing as it was because I had the most awesome friends around. You are part of this too. And I’m happy to say that most of you left an important mark in me as well. And for that, I’ll never be thankful enough.
So finally when a colleague came to talk to me earlier this week, saying she was considering going to culinary school this year, I couldn’t help myself but give her the very same advice I’ve first had when going down this path: “Dear, you should go. It will be the best thing you’ll ever do in your life”.
This may sound cheap. But it’s the absolute truth.