In case you missed this little announcement, I’m going to cooking school! More specifically, I will be starting the Pastry & Baking Arts program at SF Cooking School on January 2, 2019. Baking has been my most consistent hobby since I was a kid, and it’s surreal to think that I’m taking the first step to turn that hobby into a profession. It’s been a journey to get to this point, but I’m pretty darn proud of myself for the courage and hard work it’s taken.
For those who don’t know, I left college (or rather, “took a year off”) after my freshman year and got my first real job. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that path to everyone and it’s not for the faint-hearted, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Once I started working, the idea of stepping out of my career for school seemed silly so I spent years working full time and finishing school in my free time. I spent two years in banking and another six at an investment management firm – right up until one year ago today. My last year or two in finance I struggled to find the excitement I had when I first started and one day I realized that I would be doing this same job (more or less), in the same environment, for the next twenty five years. That really bummed me out. Don’t get me wrong, finance is a great career path, taught me so much when I was young, and for many people is really exciting work. While I had an aptitude for it, I knew that I would never be as successful as someone who felt the passion and excitement that I lacked. On top of that, there are so many things that I love doing so why not spend my time on those?
Years into a perfectly laid career path, I quit my job and started working at a young baby food startup. I’ll never forget the confused looks I got and the genuine concern that I was ruining my life. I knew that food was the thing I was the most passionate about, so I was aiming to move into a company whose mission I felt strongly about. I spent 2018 managing events and brand partnerships as part of a small but mighty marketing team, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I’ve learned so much about building a brand, marketing a product, and growing a business. Ultimately the time spent as part of a small and growing company only gave me more courage and inspiration to do what I dreamed of.
Time spent in the kitchen has always been my favorite and I’ve dreamed of a scenario where I could justify spending all my time testing recipes and creating delicious experiences for other people. Baking as a profession seemed impractical at this point in my career and far too hard to be successful in, so I wrote it off. But earlier this year, as I argued the reasons why I couldn’t live out that dream, my husband said “well you could if you want to”. And of course he’s right, I can do anything I want. I didn’t take the decision to apply to cooking school lightly because it costs a whole lot of time, money, and effort. I chose SF Cooking because they have a really unique program amongst a sea of traditional culinary schools. Of course my main objective is to learn every skill from the ground up and gain confidence in my abilities, but SF Cooking also offers an amazing network of support. They allow me to become immersed in the thriving Bay Area food scene in a way that I can’t imagine doing on my own and they offer a community of like-minded people who want to help their students succeed. When I talk about cooking school, people are either genuinely thrilled at the idea or (more commonly) they sort of politely smile and nod along. I have a lifetime theme of making decisions that others question, so it doesn’t bother me, but I’m excited at the idea of being surrounded by people who believe in the dream as much as I do.
The first question I’m always asked is a confused “but what will you do after school?”. To be completely honest, I’m not sure and I’m perfectly comfortable with that. I’ll be exposed to so many different areas of the food industry over the next six months, so I’ll let that guide me in finding what is the best next step for me. I won’t necessarily choose a new job in a restaurant six months from now, but whatever I do will be a learning experience to move me in the direction I want to go. I have always wanted to own my own business, so maybe one year, five years or fifteen years from now, I’ll be opening the little bakery and cafe that Paul and I refer to over the years as “Cafe Jill” (don’t worry, that’s just a placeholder). It’s impossible to say what the future holds, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never stop buying flour in massive quantities.
If you’ve made it this far in this blog post, congratulations, it’s almost over. The point of writing this was to give a little background leading up to cooking school and to say that I plan to share the process! My goal is to write weekly blog posts sharing my experience and what we covered in school that week. For some people, that may be terribly boring content, but I’m hoping that it’s interesting to those who want a peek into the culinary world or possibly even helpful to those who are considering culinary school (or SF Cooking specifically!) themselves. Stay tuned and hopefully I’ll see you next week!