For those of you who don't already know, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend The University of Alabama and graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Restaurant and Hospitality Management. I graduated in May of 2008 and jumped right in to Culinary School at Virginia College in Birmingham at the end of June. I participated in the "Fast Track" 9-month program and graduated with honors in March of 2009. Now don't get me wrong......I loved almost every minute of culinary school, and like I've said before, if there was such a thing as being a "professional student" and if I could make a living by attending culinary school for the rest of eternity, I would be all over it. I love love love school and learning and being tested and challenged on a daily basis.
BUT.....the way culinary school is structured does not allow every student to get the full scope of knowledge they offer. Did that make any sense? Here it is in plain English: Each school day has a title ("Cajun Day" or "Beef Tenderloin Day" or "Ice Carving Day"), and each day has a handful of recipes that go along with it. The students in the class are broken down into groups of two or four. The recipes for any particular day are split up among the groups. Therefore, on "Cajun Day" when the recipes are Rabbit Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, and Red Beans and Rice and our class is split up into groups of four- one person prepares the Jambalaya, one person prepares the Etouffee, one person prepares the Gumbo, and the fourth person prepares the Red Beans and Rice. SO, each person really only gets 1/4th of the information from any particular class (unless you are skilled at watching 3 other people meticulously prepare their dishes while preparing your own!) I thumb through my Culinard recipes from time to time, and think to myself "Ugh! I never made that recipe! Where did this come from?" and then I realize that my partner or group-mate must have prepared it, while I prepared another recipe.
For those people who attend culinary school simply to get the diploma so they can be more competitive in the hospitality industry, this probably didn't bother them. But for those people like ME, who wanted to learn and soak up as much knowledge as possible so that I could be the best chef I can be.....I was a bit disappointed. Yes, I have the diploma. Yes, I graduated at the top of my class. Yes, I am a classically trained chef. That's all well and good....but did I get everything out of it that I hoped to?? Nope. So that is why I have decided to start my own mini-culinary school called "The Chef Next Door Academy."
My goal is to reach out to those who don't have the time, the energy, or the money for such a HUGE commitment as culinary school. The perfect example of someone like this is my mom. While I was gearing up to start culinary school, she thought "Hmm, I might like to go, too. But I only want to go on certain days. And I don't want to have to go when it's something that I'm not interested in learning. And I don't want to do homework and take tests. So basically, I'd like to look at your curriculum and pick the days I want to go. Oh well."
Well THIS is exactly what I offer. Build-your-own Culinary School, basically. I will assess your skill level, then we will build a curriculum just for you....based on YOUR skill level, based on YOUR preferences, located in YOUR home kitchen, and based around YOUR schedule. Don't eat seafood? We'll skip it. Already a whiz with a knife? We'll blow on past Knife Skills. Have no interest in baking or already a pro at it? No problem, we'll focus on other things.
As of Friday, September 10th, The Chef Next Door Academy is open for business. (Blog posting about Trent Clinton's "Skill Test" session to follow.) Thanks to my incredible family for nurturing my dreams, my amazing soulmate-Taylor- for pushing me to follow them, and my wonderful clients for making them come true.
The Chef Next Door