Yesterday was orientation for culinary school and while I am still processing everything, it was in many ways exactly what I expected and at the same time nothing like I expected.
First, some perspective. When I was growing up the most important thing in my family was education. I took college prep courses in high school and went on to get my B.A. and M.S. from well respected universities and most of my life has been spent in on form of academia or another. Needless to say the orientation for this small art school was very different from what I've experienced in the past.
The main messages we were given in the first part of the orientation was "go to class" and "don't procrastinate". You'd think that these were obvious lessons, but the reasons that we were given were not what I expected. We were encouraged to create relationships with our peers and teachers to have a support system. You can't create community if you aren't present in class. Also, most assignments require the creative process and when you are working in art you have several bad products before you get it right; if you wait until the last minute you can't get past the bad ideas to turn in the good ones. Also, you need time for the paint to dry.
I started to really appreciate the fact that I was in a room full of artists. The majority of the students were young, either just out of high school or in their 20s, which is why every time the staff were passing out materials they would pause by my chair and ask, "Are you a student?" Many of the 18 year olds brought a parent with them so it wasn't a bad question. There were some students my age or a little older so I wasn't alone. It was a colorful room. The creativity was oozing out of everyone and it was both inspiring and intimidating. I have never thought of myself as an artist or very creative and the more I listened during orientation the more I realized that I was going to be a part of a very different community from what I was used to.
Yet some things don't change. In college the first question asked when meeting someone new was "What's your major?" Here it was "Which program are you in?" And it was a lot of fun trying to guess and then remembering that you can't judge a book by its cover. I sat with a young woman who was tall and elegant, thinking she must be in the fashion design program. Wrong: animation and video game design. When one of my culinary cohorts was asking a fashion design student if he could sew because she needed her chef pants hemmed he pointed to an older bearded man in a leather jacket holding a motorcycle helmet (Industrial Design Program for sure, right?) and said "That's the guy you go to for sewing."
In the afternoon we split into our program groups and met our teachers. The chefs that will be teaching me have worked with some top names in the industry around the world. They expect commitment, they expect us to work hard, and they expect us to communicate with them. They don't expect us all to own restaurants or be the next Bobby Flay. Chef W said that some of us might be food bloggers, food photographers, own a bed and breakfast, or be an executive chef. I breathed a sigh of relief that my thoughts of owning a food truck weren't going to make me the joke of the school.
Now I just need to get my pants hemmed, buy work shoes, duct tape my knives, and get ready to being the adventure on Tuesday. I have already become friendly with a few other students both in my program and in others. I have a better idea of what my teachers expect of me and I am committed to learning everything I can and being inspired by the creative community that I am now a part of. And one day I hope that I can consider myself one of those "creative people".