I’m easily overwhelmed.
I don’t always hold up under pressure.
I only assert myself when pushed, and even then, it’s not nearly enough.
And I have this nasty habit of not believing in myself.
That’s all to say that I really don’t have what it takes to be a good chef.
At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I rushed back and forth between my stovetop and workstation at school the other night, all under the critical eye of the chef who would eventually be judging my performance on a scale of one to 100.
“It’ll be fun,” I kept telling friends and family about my starting chef school this fall.
Fun isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe that first night. Terrifying is a bit more apt.
I was yelled at for using the wrong sink. I chopped too much onion and not enough leek. I spilled water on the gas burner and burned my finger on the oven rack. I stuttered when talking to the chef. And I got a $40 parking ticket at the end of it.
I couldn’t sleep later that night – just kept tossing and turning as I ran though every single screw-up, obsessing over how I could have done things better or whether or not the chef thinks I’m just another spastic 20-something going to chef school to “discover herself.”
It wasn’t a total flop, though. I made my chicken stock, then my soup, cleaned up my station and went home at the end of it. I learned what sink to use and where not to park. I learned that yelling “hot behind” when you’re carrying a hot pot isn’t nearly as embarrassing as it sounds, and that as much as I may want to pack it up and go home halfway through, I can stick it out and do just fine.
This experience is testing me, and will continue to test me over the next two years. It’s exposing my weaknesses, questioning my talents and thrusting me out of my comfort zone, into a competitive arena of people who are faster and better than me.
I’m not okay with it, but I’m going to have to adapt. I’ll always be the person who falls behind for stopping to help another student out, and I’ll probably never achieve the perfect brunoise. But I will learn to trust myself, and to keep my cool under pressure.
And at the very least, I’ll learn to cook with confidence.
Here’s one of my grandmother’s recipes that I’ve adapted, inspired by this amazing orange cranberry scone I had when I was in Ottawa last month with my mom and dad. And if you’d like to check out another of my grandmother’s recipes, check out my most recent post on Clean Eating magazine’s new blog!
Orange Cranberry Bread
My grandmother’s original recipe called for raisins instead of cranberries, so feel free to experiment with a variety of dried fruit, or try swapping out the orange for a large lemon.
1 medium orange, zested and juiced
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups white all-purpose flour, scooped and leveled
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan and dust with flour.
2. In a 1-cup measure, add orange zest and juice. Add enough boiling water to fill cup. Transfer to a small bowl and add cranberries.
3. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Stir in egg and vanilla.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and stir until just combined; do not over-mix. Fold in orange-cranberry mixture.
5. Transfer to prepared loaf pan, smoothing top with back of spoon. Bake in centre of oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in centre.