a new chapter…

Posted on Jan 20, 2012 in Career

I had one of those infamous lightbulb moments a few months ago. I was deep in the middle of a bout of winter-related blues (which, thankfully, have been all but erased thanks to my light therapy box) and I decided it was time to do something about it instead of wallowing in my unhappiness. I started thinking about what really got me excited in life and what hobbies and interests I wanted to have as part of my day going forward. I figured if I focused on those, instead of my case of the blues, I could pull myself out of the funk. While thinking about what I love to do, I landed on an obvious truth: I’m passionate about real (mostly healthy) food. I love eating it. I love writing about it. I love looking at it. I love creating it. I love sharing it with my friends and family.

And I realized, I could be doing a lot more to explore this passion.

Writing this blog, and focusing mostly on food and recipes, has given me an amazing group of opportunities related to food. I started writing about my wellness journey as just a way to get out all the emotional yuck that comes along with a major lifestyle change. But over the past 18 months, writing BTHR has unlocked something inside of me that I didn’t know existed. Sure, I was always a foodie. I grew up in a family of foodies. We bonded over shared meals and recipes. I knew I loved creating in the kitchen, but it wasn’t really until I started sharing those creations here that I realized this was something I wanted to make into a gig (and possibly a future career).

When some big companies and publications began to recognize my passion and ask me to work with them, a thought formed in my head that maybe it was possible to live in a world where someone actually paid me to play with food all day. And just the thought of that made a smile creep across my face.

So back to that lightbulb moment, I’m not sure why it took me so long to make the jump from a career in food to necessary education, but one day a few months ago a thought popped into my head: culinary school. I started to research the possibilities and suddenly got incredibly excited about the prospect of getting professionally trained in my hobby. I was nervous to tell Babyface because it would be a big life change, but the second I mentioned it, he turned to me and said, “I absolutely love the idea of you in culinary school. I can’t imagine anything that’d make you happier.” And that was that.

I’m going to culinary school!

After a lot of discussion about the best program, I chose to attend Ivy Tech Community College. The price was right, the proximity was right (I can literally see the campus from my back door) and I’d heard amazing things about the program from graduates, especially because Ivy Tech focuses on the non-traditional college student (read: me). There are a ton of great resources for students who work full-time, having families and haven’t been in school in a while. I’m excited to get the most out of my program, and I think my family and I can both thrive during my program at Ivy Tech (without going into debt, woohoo!).

The process will be slow—I’m going part-time so I can keep my awesome day job—but I’m giddy with excitement to get in the classroom and kitchen and learn proper techniques and training. I’m also looking forward to the doors that having a culinary arts degree will open for me. I don’t think I want to be a restaurant chef (although, interning in a working restaurant kitchen is part of the final semester), but I do want to be an authority on all things food for BTHR and any future opportunities I get. Ultimately, I’d love to be a professional recipe developer, creating flavorful dishes for major brands and publications and maybe even write a cookbook! But that’s probably a bit down the road. I’ll focus on my training first and enjoy every second of learning about my passion.

I started classes last week. I’m beginning my program with two primer classes on nutrition (fun) and food safety (not so fun, but important). Speaking of nutrition, the program I chose is a classic culinary arts tract. Which means it’s full of a lot of butter, meats and flavorful yumminess. Eventually, I’d like to find a certificate program—there is a great one through Cornell—that gives me more education about real-food nutrition. I’m not interested in going the traditional registered dietician path (I don’t agree with the concept of nutritionism, and that is mostly what is taught in today’s RD programs), but I am interested in learning more about how to fuel our bodies properly.

I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to go back to school. I took one graduate class in 2009 and it about killed me, but before that, I hadn’t been in school since 2005. It’ll definitely be an adjustment fitting in school, work, freelance projects, BTHR, family and, you know, the ever important episode binges of The Vampire Diaries. But I tend to thrive when I’m busy, so hopefully this will end up with me thriving. One thing that will be changing (and you may have noticed it already) is that my posting schedule will adjust for BTHR. Instead of my normal 12 posts a week, I’ll probably be knocking down to around eight a week, without any posts on the weekends. The weekends are pretty dead here on the blog anyway, and it’s a great time to catch up on homework and spend time with my favorite ‘faces. I hope that the content on BTHR will remain strong. And definitely expect a constant update on what I’m learning and doing in my program.

Thank you all so much for supporting me and giving me the confidence to pursue this. Without your encouragement, it would have never even occurred to me that a career in food was possible. Thank you, from the bottom of my food-loving heart. <3 I hope you’ll stick around to hear about my adventures in culinary school!

Have you ever thought about going to culinary school?

52 Comments

  1. OMG That is so perfect! I’m so glad you decided to do this for yourself! So exciting!

  2. Congratulations Cassie! Realizing what your dreams are can be difficult, and actually acting on them can sometimes be impossible. Good for you!

  3. YOU GO GIRL!!

  4. This is a really fabulous idea! I’m glad you’re getting the opportunity to explore your passions! My kitchen habits are not career-worthy, but culinary school has always seemed like such a fun dream for someone whose grown up watching cooking shows. SO looking forward to future updates about what you learn in class. Have fun!

  5. Congratulations! I hope you have a great time with your classes!

  6. I was going to ask you about this! I saw it on your about page here the other day and wondered if I missed the post where you said you were starting school again. Now I know :) Good luck with it! Your plan sounds fantastic and I know you’ll do a great job!

  7. That is awesome! Congrats! I love how babyface is so supportive!!!!

  8. CONGRATS!! oh man, this sounds like such a good fit for you. can’t wait to hear all about it!

  9. I think you’ll be perfect for culinary school. I’ve debated going to culinary school for most of my life, even while I was in college. I just got accepted to the CIA for and AOS in baking and pastry but I’m trying to find a school that is more affordable/will allow me to work part time while going to school.

  10. I’ve thought about it since one of my passions i cooking…but, I’m not sure that Culinary School is the right life-outlet for me. So, until I figure that out, not applying! Congrats on the decision and have fun!!

  11. Although the thought of going back to school is scary this is obviously a passion of yours so it should be fun (even with the work).

    I’ve thought about culinary school to help me adapt recipes for my allergies. However that’s not the track most programs take. I’m going to take some college classes instead I hope.

  12. Congratulations! I know it is a hard decision to go back to school-I took the plunge last year to get a new degree and it was/is a great decision. I have no doubt that this opportunity will open a ton of doors for you in the future. I commute down to the same campus, so if I ever see you I’ll be sure to say hello! And although there will be times where it’s hard, it will always be worth it :) Good for you!

  13. Yayyy!!! Congratulations! That’s such awesome news. Good for you :)

  14. You are going to kick ass at this. :) How’s the work/school/home balance going?

    • Pretty good so far. I’ve established one day a week as “school night” and it’s on a night when Babyface always works late. So I don’t do anything but school. :)

  15. This sounds like a really great decision you’ve made! Good luck with the schooling and have fun!

  16. Congrats! Sounds like a perfect fit for you!!!!

  17. THIS IS SO AWESOME. So proud of you. I have another friend who is doing the same thing right now! Also have another friend who works in the test kitchen for a major corp testing and creating recipes and LOVES IT.

  18. Fabulous news! Can’t wait to hear bout your adventures in Culinary School! I did some work experience in restaurants and can honestly say it is not for me – I prefer to cook for family friends :)

    • I definitely think the restaurant practicum is going to be the hardest part for me. I have no interest in being in a hectic, crazy kitchen for a career. But it’ll be a good life experience! :)

  19. Congratulations, Cassie! That is super exciting. I can’t wait to hear more about this new experience!

  20. I did think about going to culinary school…Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, but it was something like $60k, and their sales pitch was high pressure, and then I found out all this stuff in the news about mismanagment of money, false promises about future jobs, etc. So, I decided to skip it. I love food and would love to take food classes someday/way, but like you, have NO desire to work in a restaurant kitchen. SUPER big congratulations on going after what you love!!

    • I felt EXACTLY the same way about Le Cordon Bleu. It felt like more of a time-share sales office than an educational institution. There is another high-profile school relatively close to us that is really, really incredibly, but costs $30k a year! I want to do this, but that’s just unreasonable. I’m super happy with my compromise to go to a state school. :)

      • My Roommate went to Le Cordon Bleu and is so dissatisfied with it. Unfortunately, he only cooks at home these days as his day job is to build cabinets. He’s still passionate about food, but Le Cordon Bleu kicked the culinary school drive right out of him :(

  21. Congatulations on pursuing your dream! I’m happy for you and jealous at the same time..lol. I’ve wanted to go to culinary school for a long time, and I still hope to one day achieve that goal. Best of luck to you!

  22. Congrats! That sounds like a great opportunity for you.

  23. This is so exciting, Cassie!! I’m thrilled for you…I work with a woman who is also attending culinary classes at Ivy Tech…she really enjoys it!

  24. Wonderful! Congratulations :)
    After helping the husband with his photography blog/business and working on my blog, I feel like I want to either add a more serious creative hobby, or consider changing careers – I just haven’t decided what I want to do…..yet!

  25. Congrats, Cass!! Time to add a tag that says “college”

    If you need help with D2L, let me know :)

  26. This is awesome, I am so proud of you! I can’t wait to hear about your time in school — it’s something I’ve considered so it’s awesome to know you’re going through the steps while working a fulltime job! Go you!

  27. I’m so excited for you! Also for me!–>to eat even MORE delicious food that I steal off your site. Can’t wait to hear more about what you learn! I’d also really love if you did a post about your feelings about nutritionism.

  28. This is AMAZING!! Congratulations on your new endeavor! You’ve always been a great cook! I think it’s genetic! :) I can’t wait to hear more about it!

  29. Congratulations! I’m so excited for your new chapter! It takes a lot of courage to decide what you want to do and go for it! can’t wait to read about your experience.

  30. How exciting for you!

  31. Congrats! That does sound awesome for you! I’m super excited to follow your experiences through school! I would love to get some kind of culinary training one day, but not in the near future so I know I’ll enjoy hearing about your experiences :D

  32. Congratulations, Cassie! I’m sure you’re so excited. When it’s the right move, you just feel it and you know it. I recently made a decision to become Pilates certified and going through my training right now. Good luck with balancing your work, blog, life, school. I know it can get challenging at times, I’m in the same boat, but I’m sure that your passion for what you love will drive you and keep you going. It’s so important to pursue our goals and not just dream about them! I’m excited to read about your journey, and see all the new techniques and skills you pick up from your training.

  33. Congratulations! That’s so wonderful. I’m glad that you’re following your heart and doing something you love!

  34. I think you and your hubby are such a neat couple. His response brought a tear to my eye!! Good luck to you Cassie! I can’t wait to read all about your new adventure!

  35. This is so awesome Cass! Congrats on taking this step. You better keep us updated with what you’re learning. I can’t wait to read all about it!

  36. Omg Cass i am so happy and super proud of you!!! You are going to do wonderful in Culinary School:) What an exciting time this is going to be for you and all the awesome stuff you’re going to learn. I look forward to hearing all about your school adventures and everything you’re going to be learning and teaching us as well. Congrats hun:)

  37. Congratulations, Cassie! I’m really looking forward to reading about how your classes affect your recipe development. And I’m really happy to see how excited you are. I think this is a great move. Must admit I immediately skimmed to the end to make sure you’re keeping your day job, at least for the time being, because I’d miss you. This is so awesome!

  38. Wow, congratulations! I’m excited to see what you learn at school. So happy for you :)

  39. Congratulations! This is super exciting and I can’t wait to see more of your new recipes!

  40. Congrats Cassie! What an amazing step! I feel ya – I just started school again myself (10+ years after graduating high school) and feel slightly overwhelmed. But enough about me – this is fantastic! So excited for you!

  41. Congrats! You go, girl!!!

    I’ve considered going myself but then again, there are lots of other things I would like to do as well and I just can’t make up my mind where to begin.

  42. Cassie! Been reading here for six months or so, and never commented, but wanted to say how much I love your blog. You’re a fantastic writer, an amazing cook & your photos are absolutely gorgeous. I’m so impressed at how professional your blog is considering how short of a time you’ve been working on it. And I am so excited for you about culinary school — it just sounds absolutely perfect for you. :) Best of luck, looking forward to reading about your journey! – Meg

    • Aww, thank you so much, Meg!

  43. OMGOSH!!! I literally applauded when I saw you’re going to culinary school! That is sooooo awesome! You’re already an AMAZING chef! And the whole experience will make you even MORE amazing and skilled and knowledgeable and help you make those connections to get the work you want! Boo-yah! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!! :)

  44. I would LOVE to go to culinary school!!! I have such a passion for cooking it would only make sense. Good for you girl! I hope it’s everything you want it to be.

  45. As a registered dietitian, I wholeheartedly disagree with your opinion that most of the programs teach “nutritionism.” In fact, I had never heard that term and had no idea what it meant until I read that ridiculous Wikipedia article you linked. You do realize that Michael Pollan is a journalist, not a registered dietitian? Most people don’t realize that. And most dietitians are irritated that he’s become the ‘expert’ on food and nutrition.

    Every dietitian I know chose this career because of a love of good food cooked well. It’s a little insulting to suggest what we do, and the massive amounts of education that went into it, isn’t valid.

    • I absolutely realize Michael Pollan is a journalist, but a lot of his (and those with similar mentalities) philosophies make a lot of sense to me. In fact, reading one of Michael Pollan’s books was the single pin-point moment I can identify as changing my dietary life. I absolutely respect RDs and the nutrition field. I was simply saying it wasn’t right for me and how I approach my food and diet. I have done a lot of research on nutrition programs in my area and have yet to find one that well-aligns with my food beliefs, but I still 100% believe that you guys do a lot of awesome work and I commend you for it!

  46. Haha, we’re opposites! I went to culinary (well, pastry) school, but now I’m at university in a program that has a lot of focus on graphic design! Good luck! Culinary arts is a tough but rewarding field. It ain’t for everyone!

    My interests (and the recession) eventually led me away from pastry school, but I do not regret one single second of it. I became more organized, better able to think on my feet, a better leader, more assertive, and more adept in the kitchen. Remember: mise en place, and clean as you go!

    It also opened up an area of interest that I’m really hoping to move forward with: food justice. I’m working on a blog that will hopefully address issues of food justice and also be a practical cooking blog. I dunno. :) Here’s hoping.

    GOOD LUCK!

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