My friend Heather posted some great questions in the comments section of my blog a few weeks ago, and I totally didn’t see them until today. Whoops! So I wanted to take some time to answer the questions she asked, as well as do a general update. I’ll start with the update.
My last post was kind of depressing, wasn’t it? I was feeling like a bit of a crazy person earlier in the week, but I am happy to share with you that I have spent the last few days really working through my feelings and emotions. I appreciate the kind words sent via text, email, facebook, and on my blog from many of you – it means a great deal to me to have your support and I am truly appreciative of you reaching out and sending your encouragement. So, many thanks for that!
The past few days have been much better. I have leaned on the support of new friends in Charleston who have really helped me in my adjustment and I feel like I am developing a good support network here. I also am trying to be more conscious of working toward some lofty personal goals, namely, trying to take things more in stride, trying to be more relaxed, and trying to appreciate each moment for what it is no matter what the challenge. I am determined to get better and improve my skills. Each day brings its own set of madness, so I am trying my best to stay as positive as possible – easier said than done, I know, but I’m working on it.
I think that’s a good bit of perspective for now. On to Heather’s questions.
First, my new digs. I’m renting an apartment in the part of Charleston known as James Island. It takes me about 30 minutes to get to Main Campus in North Charleston, 15 minutes to Palmer Campus Downtown, and 15 minutes to Folly Beach. This location is one of the main reasons why I chose this apartment. My apartment community has a pretty eclectic mix of people; my immediate neighbors include two families with children in kindergarten (who tell me about coloring and recess) and a mix of twenty-somethings who run the gamut of professions. They’re all friendly so it’s nice to come home. And I love my landlord – she’s so sweet, helpful, and an avid baker herself so I love sharing my baked goods with her and getting her feedback. It’s nice again to have a place to call my own.
Second, my school. The Culinary Institute of Charleston is part of Trident Technical College, a primarily two-year institution offering an array of associate’s degrees and certificate programs. It’s state-funded so tuition is fairly cheap. One of the main reasons I chose to move out of state to go to school is because my tuition here is so affordable, even as an out-of-state student. It’s less than half of what it would have cost me to go to Penn Tech in Williamsport, PA, for example. And with everything else Charleston has to offer, it made complete sense to make this move.
Like a more traditional four-year school, my classes are all 3-credits. They vary a little in terms of the time commitment. My Nutrition/Sanitation Course meets for 3 hours on Wednesdays. During our in-class hours, we focus on Nutrition; the Sanitation component is mainly at-home and includes a decent amount of reading, online assignments, and online quizzes. This course culminates in taking a national exam to become certified in ServSafe Sanitation. My grade comes mainly from the Sanitation exercises, but there are a few Nutrition exercises as well.
My cakes class meets on Mondays from 11am-5:30pm. Each week I execute one cake from start to finish; I am graded on my cake each week as well as the effort I make throughout the class period. Chef occasionally gives in-class pop quizzes, which include questions about culinary terms/processes or the recipes themselves. I’ll have a written midterm and a written final, similar to the quizzes. In addition, I’ll have a final practical exam, where I’ll turn in my own cake recipe and execute the cake during a designated class period.
My artisan breads class is a fast forward class, meaning it meets for the 1st 8 weeks of the semester. That is why I have this one Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30am-2:00pm. In this class, I am graded on the breads we make each day. I also take written quizzes and have taken a written midterm exam. Again, the quizzes deal with concepts/processes used in class. For example, one quiz was to list and describe the 11 steps of yeast bread baking, which is the process we use every single day. Next week, I’ll be working on my artistic “dead dough” project – lots more on this next week – and on October 12, I’ll have a final practical exam, where I’ll have to make 3 baguettes and a surprise bread during the class period – the surprise bread will be something we’ve done during the semester.
My bakeshop class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:40-7:10pm. This class is an introduction to all different elements of baking as well as many of the different types of baked goods. Each week, I have assigned reading in my textbook, which coincides with workbook exercises and online quizzes. Each week I also have to complete two costing sheets, where I determine how much it would cost to make the recipe and how much it can be sold at wholesale or retail prices. I’m graded on each day’s product and process and I’ll have a practical final where I’ll make cream puffs and éclairs for a grade.
On October 14 (also known as my 29th birthday), I’ll start another fast forward class on Laminated Doughs and Pastries. The magical world of puff pastry, butter, and sugar. This class will take the place in my schedule where artisan breads currently is, so my actual daily schedule remains the same; my advisor did this so I could take 15 credit hours for the price of 12. Good times. I’m excited about this!
And finally, Heather asked if I have to bake things at home. Technically, the only baked goods I am graded on are the ones I do in class. However, I do practice certain things at home, and will be doing much more of this in the next few days and weeks. I’ll be practicing baguettes to prepare for my breads final and I’ll be experimenting with my cake recipe to prepare for my cake final in the coming days. I also love the fall ingredients like pumpkin and nutmeg and I’m feeling inspired to try some new ideas and recipes.
I hope that gives you a better perspective on my week to week life here. I can’t believe I’ve already finished six full weeks of school. It’s going by so quickly! I promised my friend Ben that I would take some photos of the bakeshop I have classes in and post them to show you what my world looks like; I haven’t forgotten this promise, I just forget when I’m actually in class. Hopefully next week I’ll get that rolling. And like I said earlier, next week is going to be really excellent if I can execute my dead dough project. I hope you’ll stay posted!