Wonderful Story

Decide What to Be and Go Be It...On to the Next Chapter By Tara O'Keeffe

Pictures are worth a thousand words, aren't they? The two I've featured here represent the beginning and end of one of the most exciting and rewarding adventures of my life-studying Culinary Arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. If only I had a picture for all the emotions, experiences, burns, cuts, and lessons learned in between! (If you look real close at the picture on the right you can see a bandage covering up my best burn yet, appropriately earned during my final exam.)

The woman on the left was excited, nervous as all get out, and hopeful that the decision to quit her job in Florida, pack up her life and move to New York City to pursue her passion for food would be one she wouldn't regret. The unknown is the scariest part about change; a million questions run through your mind about whether you will like the change, if you can handle the pressure, if you can survive in a huge city, if you have what it takes to be successful. I didn't have any of those answers, but what I did have was conviction and determination and that would have to be enough.

Culinary school wasn't easy. From day one you're put in your place and learn that the foundation of culinary education starts with the basics, and from there you build. Three long nights a week I sweated over hot stoves, chopped vegetables until my knife skills were just right, butchered fish, carried heavy pots and pans, got splattered with chicken guts, and watched over sauces crossing my fingers that I did everything right. Each night was an adventure; some left you feeling triumphant, others defeated. Regardless of how the night ended, I always felt like I learned something, not only about cooking, but about myself, and at the end of the day, that's what education is all about.

The woman on the right is smiling because she knows that she made the best decision of her life and has seen her hard work payoff. There is a strange, peaceful calm that comes over you when you know things are the way they are supposed to be, when all of that fear and doubt washes away and you are left with clarity. I have that now, and even though I can't predict the future and have no idea where it's going to take me, I know that it will be somewhere doing something that I love.

Now that the culinary school chapter has come to a close it's time to put my degree to work and show the food world what I'm all about. I'm going to be doing some freelance work at the Food Network in April and have an exciting new opportunity on the horizon for May, which I will tell you all about as it gets closer. I'm going to work on growing and enhancing Fun Fearless Foodie, brining you a new look with more recipes, adventures, and mouth-watering photos that will hopefully broaden your knowledge of food and inspire you to get (or stay) in the kitchen.

Thank you to all of you who have been so encouraging and supportive of my journey, your notes, comments, and kind words really mean the world to me. I want to leave you with lyrics from one of my new favorite songs by The Avett Brothers. The song "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" is one of those songs that the minute I heard it I just felt like it was written for me, perhaps it will speak to you too.

"Decide what to be and go be it There was a dream, and one day I could see it Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it And there was a kid, with a head full of doubt So I'll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out"

Tara O'Keeffe is the Weekend Warrior columnist for MarcusSamuelsson.com. A version of this post originally appeared on her website FunFearlessFoodie.com.