Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End of the Year Update (2011): Culinary School, Jobs, and the Blog

You may want to get a snack or a drink before you sit down and start reading this, because there's a lot to catch you up on. A lot...

The weekend before Christmas, I spent three-and-a-half glorious days with my boyfriend and friends in Greenville, SC—we ate, drank, roamed around downtown, and attended a beautiful wedding and reception for two college friends (she was in my sorority and he was in John's fraternity—fun connection to have!).

Me and John at the wedding

It was the perfect way to help close out the year, except for the fact that I left for home on that Monday with a cold. I got through two days of work and last minute Christmas shopping before heading out of town to visit my grandmothers and family for Christmas. Ever since I was a little girl, we've always spent Christmas Eve with my paternal grandmother, and Christmas day with my maternal grandmother and the handful of aunts, uncles, and cousins I have on that side of the family. This year was a little different, though still a lot of fun, but, unfortunately for me, my cold transformed into a severe sinus infection, which I'm still battling now.
There were no hours available for me to pick up at Macy's this week, so I had grand plans of using this week to buckle down on my job search, cook a ton of new dinners, and try out my brand new creme brulee torch, but I can't really focus on anything for more than a few minutes and I have absolutely no sense of taste (as a lover of food and cooking, this is absolutely killing me right now!), so all of those options are out. Sitting here now in my extremely muddled up bed (I haven't really been sleeping well—I can't breathe at all through my nose), my nose red and raw and my lips dry and cracked, I figured now would be a good time to write an update post, since I'm not really able to do much else and the blog is in dire need of an update, so here we go...

On Culinary School...
Back in October, I spent a long weekend in Greenville, SC, back for my first college Homecoming. I hung out at the football game (we won, against Wofford, so that was pretty cool), dined out with friends, did a little bar-hopping, and caught up with former classmates. I planned my visit so that I'd have that following Monday and Tuesday to drive up through North Carolina and visit the two Art Institutes I've been researching and considering applying to for the culinary arts program. One school is located in Charlotte, a city I'm totally smitten with since returning home from my visit, and the other is located in Durham, a city a little further away from friends and family than I'd like but that still has some interesting sites to see and activities to do. Each school was housed in a nice building, with clean, light-filled (they had windows!) kitchens, good facilities, and an array of students. The Art Institute of Charlotte is located back in a wooded, beautifully landscaped business park, built next to a small pond and fountain and surrounded by trees. The kitchens looked a little smaller than the kitchens I take classes in now, but they had big windows that faced out onto trees and greenery, and they had viewing windows that allow people in the hallway inside to look in at what's going on in the kitchens (I got to see a chef demonstrating how to make a variety of sushi rolls and sashimi in the main kitchen, and watched students work on making apple pies in the bake shop). The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham (located in Durham) was similarly set up, but had a very unique building space—it, along with many other businesses, design firms, and restaurants, is located inside a renovated tobacco factory/warehouse, creating a really unique class space that's fresh and new (the renovations took place just a few years ago). Both schools had a lot to offer, but having been unemployed up until just a week or so before this trip (I got hired as a part time, contingent sales associate in the women's shoe department at my local Macy's at the beginning of October), and having lived at home with my parents for many months, my views on culinary school had been changing. I absolutely loved my culinary classes at my local community college—in fact, I'm taking a baking class there this spring—and I love to work with food. Food and cooking are incredibly important to me, but I've really had to rethink how I want and need to incorporate them into my life. When I first started thinking about culinary school, I think I was attracted to the idea of escaping the real world for a little longer and of having a reason to get of my parent's house (yes, a job would do this too, but I wasn't thinking about that then). I knew I would love it, and as I worked through my culinary classes, I realized that I would more than likely be pretty good at it too...in fact, I still believe that—I believe I would love culinary school and excel at it—but when I gave it real thought and considered my reasons for going or not going as well as the pros and cons, I realized that I don't want to go to culinary school, and I don't need culinary school for what I want to do. I want to be a freelance food writer, but I don't want to do that full time. I want to cook and bake as much as I can, but I don't need to go to culinary school to do that. I've taken culinary classes, so I know I'll never look back and regret not going to culinary school, because I did, even if only for a few semesters, and I loved it. I want to get a job. I want to move. I want to cook and bake in my very own apartment. I don't need to go to culinary school to do any of these things. So, that is perhaps the biggest update and the most important: I am not going to apply or attend culinary school, beyond taking classes at the community college while I'm still living at home.

On Getting a "Real" Job...
While I do want to do some freelance work as a food writer, that's all it would be: freelance. Not full time, not stable. I want to do it for fun and this blog is a good place to start. To be honest, my dream job would be to work on a food magazine, but I'd be happy simply working on almost any sort of small publication (preferably not newspapers though—not a fan of that style of writing). I'm also interested in publishing (it would be great to get involved with book publishing—it's changing so much now!) and I'm considering other options, like PR and Advertising, and I'm researching beyond even those possibilities. Being an English major is hard, because it doesn't lead you toward a particular career, but it's great because it gives you options because of the skills you learn for that degree. My biggest hang up with this whole job thing was deciding where to go—my boyfriend, John, is in law school in Memphis, but I wasn't too excited about living there on my own; I love Greenville, where I went to school, but there aren't a lot of jobs opportunities relating to what I want to do there; and really, all I knew was that I wanted to be down South. After a lot of thought, and discussion with John and friends and family, I've decided to look primarily at Charlotte, NC and look a little bit at Charleston, SC and Greenville (hey, something may just pop up there...who knows.). I was really impressed with the Charlotte area when I visited in October—there are a lot of job opportunities there, it's close to friends and not too terribly far from family, and I think it would be a great place to start off. I've been to Charleston many times and love it (except for that intense humid heat in the summertime)—I know a ton of people there, it's a great city, and John and I have both talked about living there someday when we're married because it has so much to offer, but I'm thinking Charleston will come later in life. So, this is what I know: I want to focus my job search on Charlotte (and check out Charleston and Greenville too; I'm also open to other places if I find a great opportunity) and I'm primarily looking at jobs in the publishing industry and jobs involving small publications.

On Updating the Blog...
When I first started this blog, I envisioned it as a place for me to share recipes, restaurant reviews, and cooking tips, with room to grow and incorporate the "reading" and "writing" in the title by possibly including book reviews and the occasional literary-themed post. What it turned into was a collection of recipes and a few random non-recipe posts, and looking back on that, it makes me feel a little disappointed. Yes, my readership has grown and I've gotten positive feedback, but I want to give my readers more. I've been busy with work and class, but not so busy that I can't find time to update more than once a week and add in some new posting topics. My new goal is to start branching out and posting more often and about more things. I want to have at least one, maybe two, "theme" days that will hold me accountable and ensure that I post every week, even during the weeks when I have no time or energy to cook. I love the idea of a "Techniques Tuesday," a post with cooking tips and techniques that would go up every Tuesday. Recipes are great, but if you don't know how to properly handle food and employ common cooking techniques, you're going to have a hard time recreating recipes and creating your own. I continue to educate myself in the kitchen each time I cook or bake and I think it's important to educate my readers. I also want to share a little more about my life. I don't want my blog to be "me, me, me" because, frankly, I don't like blogs like that, and I don't really need my readers to know every little thing about me, but I do want to share personal anecdotes a little more often—just a short post here and there to break the monotony of recipe after recipe (though you should still check out the recipes!). I also kind of like the idea of incorporating in some sort of book reviews or something like that to tie into the rest of my blog title, but I'm still working through what I want to do, if anything—review food blogs? Or food-related books and magazines? Or any sort of book that I read? I'll figure it out. So, you, the reader, should expect more updates in this new year and more variety in my posts. It's going to take some time to make the change, but I really want to improve my blog, and in turn, improve my writing and my cooking skills.

Well, I've written entirely too much and, during the time I've taken to write this, my nose has decided to accept that it really needs to drain, so now I've got this great runny-stuffy nose thing going on, and I think a bubble bath might be just the thing I need right now. I'm not sure when I'll be over this sinus infection and able to cook again, but you can bet there's going to be a slew of new recipe posts in the next few weeks after I'm better. Be on the lookout for more baking recipes, because I'll be learning a lot in my Bake 1 class, and stay tuned for those "Technique Tuesday" posts and maybe another themed post. Thanks for all of the support and please feel free to Like my Facebook page or add yourself as a follower directly on the blog.

1 comment:

  1. Time from Knoxville to Charlotte: 4 hrs
    Time from Knoxville to Charleston: 6 hrs
    Time from Knoxville to Pittsburgh: 8.5 hrs

    I just thought I'd help give you some perspective about how great it would be for us to get together more often!