September 29th, 2008, by Francesca
The last term at school gave me some time to reflect on what I've learned, what I want to learn, and how this culinary program fits me. You may be surprised to hear that this morning I handed in my letter of withdrawal from school. In retrospect, I think I took an academic term to give myself the time to think without the stress of a regular cooking term. Even though I was taking three classes, academics are a lot less demanding physically and psychologically.
Various reasons combined to convince me that continuing with this program would not be in my best interest. For one thing, the cost is excessive for someone who is not pursuing a restaurant career, and recent changes in the way the program is structured and managed have made the money/value ratio even less appealing to me. Classes are getting more and more crowded and even the best chefs cannot undo the damage caused by management. It's really a shame, because I loved my chefs and learned a lot from them, but how much can you get out of a class with more than 30 students competing for stove space and equipment or an academic class with 40+ students, half of which are either talking or eating or texting or taking and making phone calls?
The other big issue, and probably the most compelling, is that I have become interested in baking – and more specifically bread baking – and there is none of that left in the rest of the culinary program. I considered switching to the baking program, but only a small part of that is dedicated to bread; most of it is about cakes, pastries, chocolates, plated desserts and so on. In the end, if I really want to learn more about making bread, I'll have to do that somewhere else.
As a start, I signed up for a few workshops at the San Francisco Baking Institute and will be taking my first 5-day class in December. In the meantime, I'll practice as much as I can to make the most of my short stays up north.