Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Culinary School Adventure

If you haven't figured it out by now, I am a chef groupie. I love hanging out with foodie friends and people who enjoy food as much as I do. I don't mean someone who can make 27 trips to the buffet, I mean someone who ENJOYS a perfectly prepared dish. I mean the food experience. The nuances of perfectly blended seasonings that enhance the food. The perfectly paired wine. The plating and presentation. Judging the sear on that scallop, the freshness of that raw tuna. Taking in the aroma of an exotic spice blend on a masterfully prepared dish.

So I surround myself with interesting people. Wine lovers. Beer connoisseurs. Food writers and reviewers. And chefs. I love chefs. I love getting to pick the brain of a skilled craftsman in the art of food. Cooking IS an art form, and each chef expresses themselves in a different way, in a different medium- be it baking, pastry, restaurant, seafood, sushi. I love reading books written by chefs. I have learned so much from them, even if I don't get to spend kitchen time with them. My brain is a sponge and I am always eager to learn more.

And in case you didn't know, I also love doing interviews. I love hearing what motivates people, what they feel their strong points and weaknesses are. You are often your harshest critic so it's nice to sit down and have to answer some questions about yourself to see just how awesome you really are. 

But as much as I want to learn, I just don't have the commitment to go to culinary school. Cooking classes held in my favorite kitchen specialty store, sure! Working in a restaurant kitchen is really not in my future, and while I'd love to learn all the amazing techniques and basics, it's just not something I feel is for me. 

However, I can live vicariously through my friend Deberah Tedesco-Roberts, who is currently enrolled in the culinary program at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. I have asked her to share her experience with me so I can share with you. So let's get to know Deberah!

1. You seem to be a very accomplished cook already-  so why culinary school?

I love to cook, that is no secret....I recently was made aware that I was entitled to some military education benefit that I didn't know that I still had. Having already obtained two degrees in unrelated fields, I thought "Why not?" I decided to do something that makes me happy. It's a little elementary in the start, but I'm loving it nonetheless.

2. Do you think your home cooking skill gives you an edge?

It definitely serves me in the classroom. That and the fact that I'm one of the oldest people in the class, there is definitely an advantage to having thirty plus years of cooking experience under my belt.

3. Do you plan on working in a restaurant kitchen after you graduate?

That's a tough one. I'm more the type to own my own place, but who really knows what path lies ahead. I'm a bit bossy....just sayin'.

4. Do you have a favorite local or celebrity chef that you look up to, and possibly hope to emulate their success?

I really love Giada DiLaurentis. She is the perfect blend of sweet and savory. What a hottie!  She makes it look so easy, as it should be!

5. Is there any particular cuisine that you are partial to? Any particular one that you want to master more than others?

I have a true love for Asian cuisine! I do it all, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese. I think that what makes it so appealing to me is the "mise en place"- the preparation. I love chopping all the veggies and seeing all the beautiful colors in the bowls. The most fantastic combinations  of flavors, colors- it blows my mind.

Deb does Asian BIG TIME at home
6. Is there any particular technique you have no mastered but want to ?

Sauces- it's coming next week! I'm thrilled! Also, I've decided to step outside of the box. I have always been a hot cook. I have never been interested in baking.This year I have decided to take a baking class. It's very precise.  I'm more the "pinch of this, pinch of that" girl so it's a challenge to be so exact as a baker. Stay tuned- this could definitely get interesting!

Deb's rolls made on Baking Day
7. How about a favorite kitchen utensil?

My knives, of course!

8. And what is your favorite brand of knife? I know chefs and even home cooks like meget pretty attached to our knives!

My favorite knives are Mercer.

9. Do you have any favorite ingredients to work with ? Protein? Vegetable? Starch?  Any that you hate ?

I love all foods. I have yet to develop a dislike for any ingredient. Is that weird?

Beef stew packed with vegetables and juicy beef.
10. Before culinary school what do you think was your best dish?

Mustard Braised Chicken Thighs with Melted Leeks- undoubtedly the best. If you ask nicely, I'll give you the recipe!

11. It's pretty early in the game but have you learned anything that changes what you feel your best dish is?

Funny that you ask that. I'm relearning the basics right now, I'm really surprised at the habits I have that are being refined. Little ways that I can be better. I'm humbled by the experience.

12. How did you feel the first time you dressed in full uniform?

A little embarrassed. Because of shipping issues, I didn't have time to get my uniform pressed or dry cleaned. I felt "less than." My prior military background trained me to take pride in my dress, the way I present myself. In the kitchen it's equally important. I feel proud to wear the Chef's uniform. I'm working very hard to earn the right.

13. Is there anything you dread working with or learning to cook? How about any "gross" ingredients or foods you just refuse to eat?

Broccoli could be voted off the planet forever and I wouldn't miss it. I use it in my cooking but won't allow it on my plate for a second. Cauliflower pulls a close second.  I will, however, happily eat sea urchin, fish row, anything slimy, tasty and obscure!

14. Tell me about your biggest kitchen failure- at home or in school ?

Oh that is easy- one year my husband decided he wanted a "Christmas Goose"for the holidays. Being the accommodating wife, I agreed. Of course the whole family came to dinner, and the goose was the greasiest, nastiest thing I've ever cooked. Luckily I had a backup! Tom the Turkey was roasting quite nicely in the second oven. Urgh! That was a disaster!

15. A few years ago I wanted to own my own bistro- simple menu, two maybe three options changing nightly depending on what was in season and available. Obviously that did not happen. Where do you hope to see yourself 5 years after completing school?

Some friends of ours have a B&B at the entrance to Zion in Utah. They want to sell, we are considering buying. Just a thought, might be fun, I'm just not sure I am a country girl.

Heirloom tomato salad, by Deb.
16. Do your plans include working in a restaurant kitchen or straight to ownership/management?

Definitely an owner- I don't take direction well!

17. Ever consider hosting your own Food Network show or compete on Chopped or a similar show?

I've actually had dreams of being on Chopped. I always choke. I worry about not being able to come up with an original dish. Maybe nightmares is a better word!

18. Another lifelong dream of mine that's currently in the works is writing a cook book- how would you feel about writing a cook book or maybe even an autobiography of your culinary school journey?

I'm not sure my journey is very interesting, but I would definitely contribute to a cookbook. I've got some good dishes in the cupboard, if you know what I mean!

So with that I get to experience, through my friend, the experience of culinary school. I'm so excited to share in her journey and see where her path leads her, and hopefully I will make it to Las Vegas again and can experience her cuisine!


  1. Thank you for the fun Interview darlin! I really enjoyed myself!

  2. Deberah seems so nice! I love how she was so open with sharing her culinary secrets with you. The dishes she make are absolutely scrumptious. I hope she can materialize her dream restaurant soon. She'd make a wonderful owner. Thanks for sharing that! All the best!

    Clint Shaff @ Franchise Match