Sunday, February 16, 2014

I share my greatest failure with you.

As everyone who knows me is aware, I went to culinary school during 2011-2012.  I received my certificate about a year ago, four months after I completed my program. 

I first got the idea to attend cooking school in 1997.  Since the kids were in school full time, it was time for me to make that dream happen.

I got so much out of it.  I learned a huge deal and I felt very, very accomplished for completing the program.  I suspect I was second in my class, but I have no proof of that.

I have different talents than those of my classmates.  My niche is comfort food and baking sweet things.  When we started on our cake classes, I was the one my fellow students came to for advice.  I  was the only one to make an Italian meringue frosting come together on the first attempt.  The pastry instructor who was assisting my teacher in checking our work gave me high praise.

(Italian meringue frosting is made by whipping eggs for a loooooong time until they become high in volume and fluffy.  Then a simple syrup is created by boiling water and sugar together, twice as much sugar as water.  The hot syrup is poured into the eggs while the mixer is going.  The last step is to start adding in butter until it reaches the correct consistency.  This stuff is sweet and very buttery.  Sinful and decadent.)

Armed with my certification and my year of experience interning at a local cupcakery (thanks Amy!) I started applying for jobs.  I applied to bake cupcakes at a local company who popped an ad up on Craigslist for half a day.  Out of literally hundreds of applications, mine was pulled out along with exactly 5 others.  I wasn't selected, but I was assured the decision was a difficult one.

I found a position at a grocery store looking for a baker.  I went through an extensive interview process and I got the job!  I was super excited to learn more and have a source of income that would include benefits and discounts on anything I purchased.

I did two weeks of training at a different store than I'd be working.  My role at this store was to do the early morning frying of donuts, baking muffins and bagels then setting up the display case for the opening of the store.  Then I assisted the lead baker with breads, rolls, cookies and cakes.  I pulled the frozen product for the next day and stored the product that had arrived that day.  I was told I had done well.  I felt good about how I'd do. 

When I got to the store where I'd be working, things were very different.  First of all, the staff was short by three people.  With a staff of eight, this is a significant shortage.

I was excited to be working with the manager as he had trained in Switzerland.  I knew I could learn a huge amount from him simply from watching.  I was ready to take on this challenge.  

The manager put me on early frying and doing ALL the baking for the day.  All of it.  I was doing the job of two people.  I worked from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days a week and I still wasn't cutting it.  I was going home sobbing every single day.

Then there was the manager who yelled, called me names and questioned out loud why I'd been selected for the position.  He didn't give me guidance for my first few days, just let me leave loaves in the proofer far too long, wouldn't tell me to put toppings on the loaves or tell me where to find them.  And, then he would yell at me.  I can take constructive feedback, but telling me he was told I was smart but I acted like a stupid person is another thing.

And the kitchen was filthy.  I mean filthy.  Like, the sugar glaze for the donuts and other pastries wouldn't get stored properly each day and bugs would get in it.  Baking sheets were left dirty instead of being washed.  I wasn't shown how to work the giant dishwasher or how to drain the oil in the fryer, which was a gross dark brown.

I seriously played with the idea of just not showing up on my fifth day of work.  I was miserable.  I was failing. I was failing epically as my son would say.  The money was good.  But my soul was dying.  I gave exactly one day notice.  Then my son's school called to say he had a fever.  It turned out to be the flu and I'd have to stay home with him on what would be my last day.

I went home and cried.  I cried for hours.  I had failed.  I had failed like I'd never failed before.  I'd created chaos, stress and difficulty for other people.   I had crashed.  I had burned.  I had burned up to a crisp. 

I was discouraged and wallowed around in negative self-talk telling myself I'd been fooling myself that I could make a career out of cooking.  One of my classmates had landed a job at one of the highest rated, white tablecloth restaurant in the city.  The one other female in my class was running a kitchen at a local bar and grill.  Another was managing a take out place near campus.  Yet another was working at a fancy resort and had been quickly promoted.  And I had just fucked up a job at a grocery store.   I was still cooking at home for my kids, who begged for Hamburger Helper and Ramen noodles.  Wow, I was really putting that year of training to work.

I took a couple of months break and started looking again.  On a whim, I applied at my local location for a major coffee chain.  The hours could flex around. I could go in early , but not 2 a.m. early.  I could leave in time to pick up my kids.  Being a big corporation, massive overtime wouldn't exist.

My background is in customer service.  I can work a fast pace.  I learn quickly.  I told this to the store manager and I was hired.

I've been there for about 10 months and I'm doing great. I'll blog about what I do another day.

Today, I'm going to make rosemary and garlic infused pork chops with a berry compote accompanied by mashed potatoes for Sunday dinner.  I'll bake up some brownies to have with ice cream.  Then I'll go to bed early so I can go to work tomorrow at 4:15.

And I tell myself that it's fine what I'm doing with my life.  And I'm trying very hard to believe that.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  In the winter time, you'll need to exfoliate more often due to the dryness heaters cause.  When you scrub more often, use something gentler, like baking soda with your facial cleanser.  And up your water. 

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