Foodportunity event “From Pitch to Publish” on April 26

At the beginning of my second quarter in culinary school, I had the opportunity to know Keren Brown as an intern for Foodportunity. My fellow interns and I had dubbed ourselves Foodportunists. It was a month of lessons, notes, tasks, emails, PSAs, and phone calls. I started a little black notebook in which to write my thoughts, lessons, and bits of advice that I’ve gleaned from our meetings, emails, and conversations. It’s fourteen pages, and I only started at the end of March. Now, you may wonder, how¬†much did Kimberly really have to record? Well, when I started the internship, I went into it determined to learn as much as I could. When I’m in sponge mode, I write down about 70% of what the individual says, especially if she starts by saying, “Let me tell you what I did (correctly or incorrectly) so you can learn from me…” When a preamble like that arises, I whip out my pen and write down the story and the lesson.

I’ve heard that good leaders know how to identify their weaknesses and know how to surround themselves with those who have those strengths. While I won’t boast about my leadership skills – you’d have to ask past subordinates of mine – I will say that I try my best to surround myself with individuals who will sharpen me and seek to help me grow. I look up to the bosses and CEOs who lead by example, working and living in such a way as they would like their employees to work and live. Maybe that’s why I’ve surrounded myself with artistic friends, like my dearest friend in New York whose heart is in Europe or a close friend who still serves in the military. I know that my strengths are not art, or politics, or music, or counseling. Therefore, I surround myself with the friends and co-workers who possess those strengths so I can learn from them and rely on them. I hope they can rely on me for something that I can do well.

The same concept applies to school. We have all come from different backgrounds with greatly varied strengths and skills. I had a classmate in my first quarter of culinary school who spent his non-school hours in a well respected kitchen. He could brunoise and julienne like I couldn’t believe. So I tried to stand next to his cutting board as often as I could so I could study his technique. Even emulating the actions helps teach me something.

Another classmate has spent years teaching and cooking. She has an instinct for food and a passion for life that helps me focus on what I’m at school to learn. I like to get feedback from her about the food I’ve cooked – the flavor, the texture, even the cooking method – because she provides constructive feedback that helps me improve. She also encouraged me a few times over the quarter when I felt that I’d completely botched a dish or project.

Anne is teaching me to make really tasty fried chicken.

Since I have a nutrition background, it would be so easy to zone out in some lectures. This quarter, I’m trying hard to keep up with the readings, taking notes and noting questions to ask the Chef. I try to get his perspective on things from the book and try to hear from his experiences. Just like my Foodportunity internship, I am trying to maximize on the time that I have to learn from this individual. I mean, why not?

I’ve also been surprised at where the sources of knowledge are. One classmate already owns an ice cream business, and he’s really familiar with the ups and downs thereto. Other students in the program know well how it is to work and take classes. Even others also bear the responsibilities of parenthood in addition to classwork and paid work.

Our instructors come from a variety of backgrounds and educational levels, including education backgrounds, prestigious schooling, and lots and lots of kitchen experience.

My favorite barista, of whom I’ve been a fan for a while, is actually a chef who has worked hard to put together cooking classes – called Community Kitchen courses – and after-school cooking classes. Even though he’s zooming all over Seattle teaching different cooking lessons to adults and children, he has always taken the time to give me advice, perspective, and a little more hands-on training if I feel that I’ve missed a detail somewhere.

Ryan showed me to write everything down. Here he’s making modifications to a recipe.

Another source of wisdom is the former director of the food program at the Senior Center where I spent a year volunteering. She was very familiar with attempting to build a nutritionally sound program for senior citizens using a bare bones budget and donated food products. And the meals were actually quite fresh and filling.

Potential lessons exist all around me. It’s great being in school – but for the homework part – and I’m trying to remember to constantly be in student mode. It doesn’t really matter what I already know. Reinforcing the known and learning new is a great thing.

 

Angela taught me about proper tea preparation