Today around 9:50 AM local time, I received maybe the most life-changing phone call to date. I have been admitted to the Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts program at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio location. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined I’d be going to culinary school, much less America’s premiere school for the culinary arts, but here I am. Life sure has a way of throwing us curveballs, doesn’t it?
I know, this is a very interesting development for someone who started cooking from scratch out of pure necessity a little over a year ago (due to being diagnosed with Celiac Disease). I grumbled about it initially, only to find out that I was naturally good at it (it must run in the genes – my great-grandmother could cook like nobody’s business and my mom is a pretty damn good cook herself). The discovery that would follow as I cooked more scratch-made meals was twofold: not only was I naturally good at it, but I also loved doing it! I could always count on an evening in the kitchen to release the day-to-day stress incurred by my current day job as a crane lift engineer (a career that I never found satisfying in the almost 5.5 years I’ve been in the business).
As I embark on this exciting new journey starting in early May, I can’t help but draw some parallels between my new career and a TV show I recently started watching, as it’s quite parallel. For those of you who have seen The Good Doctor, I’m sure you recall the many instances in which Dr. Shaun Murphy has all these images that flood his head for a particular case, thus coming up with some quite radical and unorthodox, yet most often highly effective, solutions for surgical patients. In this series, it’s quite obvious that Dr. Murphy’s diagnosis of Autism confers a unique benefit over his colleagues – he’s willing to go where they are not, he’s very thorough and misses absolutely nothing, and he’s just better at his job because of it (his difficulty with bedside manner notwithstanding).
It took me a bit to realize it, but the way Dr. Murphy’s brain works with medicine/surgery is exactly the way mine works with food. I can visualize a certain flavor profile I’m aiming for, and can reverse engineer pretty much all of them by identifying the ingredients that will give me the flavor combination I am looking for. Sure, I’ve had a few flops (I am human after all), but I get it right way more often than I get it wrong. Combine this with my ability to hyper-focus, create workflow routines, among other job-related skills and I might just be a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen (despite the challenges I will face with table-side manner, which will be a thing and I know that going into it).
Sure, I might be good at what I do now, but there’s just no passion there, and there’s very limited ability for me to be the positive role model/influence on the world in this role. As I look to my new role, I hope to turn more outward, offering kids on the Asperger’s/Autism spectrum a new message, one of hope and optimism rather than the doom-and-gloom that the pathology model of Autism loves to preach. I hope to share my gifts with the world, offering flavorful food, and especially to show the world that gluten-free food can be just as flavorful (and, in many cases, more flavorful) as gluten-inclusive food. This new avenue will give me a better opportunity to be the change I wish to see in the world, and that is an opportunity I cannot pass up in this healing journey of mine.
And that, my friends, is what makes this new chapter so exciting: getting that much closer to fulfilling my Dharma.