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Essays

An Ingrained Memory of Culinary Education

It goes without saying that certain experiences from one’s childhood can become so mentally ingrained that they directly influence one’s behavior later on in life. Food writing is a relatively new hobby for me. It was not until just a couple of years ago that I decided to start writing for Gusto as a form of creative expression. The hobby itself is somewhat fresh in my personal history, but the idea bloomed from a core childhood memory. When I was five years old, my mother enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miramar, Florida. She chased after her passion in an educational capacity, which is something I have always admired. My mother studied at Le Cordon Bleu for two years, earning an Associate in Science degree by the conclusion of her culinary education. A significant memory that I have is attending my mother’s graduation ceremony at the age of seven, with my younger brother Daniel and two of my mother’s close friends.

Although distant from the stage, we held a clear view of the graduates as they received their diplomas. Families in the audience erupted with screams and cheers as they heard their loved ones’ names being called, one by one. Even though I was very young at the time, I understood the magnitude of my mother’s accomplishment. 

After coming home from school at around 2:45 p.m. every day for two years, I would watch my mother return from Le Cordon Bleu in an exhausted state. Sometimes she would even bring samples of what she learned how to cook during a specific lesson—I vividly remember her bringing home a container of freshly-made sushi one day. This exhaustion, however, never hindered her from devoting all that she had to being an incredible mother. I will never forget how proud I was of my mother as I waited for her to walk across the stage at a dimly-lit auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Nova Southeastern University.

When the name Denice Recupero was called, my mother’s two close friends, Daniel, and I shouted with excitement at the top of our lungs. We wanted our voices to be heard; we wanted fellow audience members to know that my mother had our utmost support. I recall making sure that I cheered for her as loudly as I could, since we were standing at such a far distance from her. When one meets a goal, it is understandable to desire support and admiration from people you love. Reflecting on the ceremony as a college student, I have further recognized the persistence and bravery it took for my mother to undertake culinary school while being an attentive mother. Throughout the years after she received her degree, I have asked my mother many questions about her culinary school experience. I’ve learned that the food industry is tough, to say the least. From critics, to stressful cooking environments, to time constraints, to long and strenuous hours in the kitchen, to extensive recipe memorization, being a culinary student is draining. I have watched shows on the Food Network for the majority of my life, and I thoroughly enjoy them, but they reveal that the life of a chef is far more complex than television glamor. Beneath the surface, the life of a chef is grueling, detail-oriented, and mentally taxing.

Seeing the smile on my mother’s face as she received her diploma was nothing short of heartwarming. That image has been fixed in my memory since then, and it always brings up happiness and pride for my mother. This moment motivated me to start writing essays for Gusto, as it made me recognize the nuances of culinary arts that are often overlooked and underappreciated. I have no one else to thank but my mother for inspiring me to utilize stories as a medium to communicate my fascination with flavor and technique in the kitchen.

Cover photo courtesy of LeCordonBleu

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