Moving from the graduate seminar room to the culinary school kitchen, one of the biggest adjustments for me has been learning my place in the kitchen hierarchy–at the bottom. The professional kitchen is not a democratic place. When the chef de cuisine ask you something, you respond: “Oui, Chef!” There is little room for discussion, and most of what a cook does is follow orders. Creativity and innovation are not for the chef de partie, and most certainly not for a culinary student like me. Part of my apprenticeship is learning to follow orders and execute them quickly with precision. There was not much of this mentality in the participatory graduate seminars that I ran at Boston University. Sure, I was in charge but my job was to encourage everyone to share their thoughts and insights. These last two weeks, I have encountered another form of teaching and learning that is very different from my norm.
Not only is the professional kitchen reshaping my way of thinking, it is changing my way of doing. I am learning that it is sometimes best not to think too much. Trusting that my body knows how to julienne carrots rather than pausing to consider the historical origins of this culinary term was a stepping stone in reprogramming my mind and body this past week. Being thrown to the bottom of the pile and moving outside of my usual ways of doing have been a little disorienting but this experience is also teaching me new ways of understanding and communicating. The view is different from here and I have to learn on the line.