My ten-year-old self never dreamed of becoming a pop star, a gold medalist, or the first kid in space. Nope. I wanted to study cooking in France. I envisioned myself swirling around a kitchen, my nose powdered in flour. Beret-clad, baguettes rising from my bag, I would pass the Eiffel Tower on my way home to whip up crème brûlée, coq au vin, or a juicy pear tart. But life got in my way. My parents required I graduate from middle school. That turned into high school, and before I knew it, I was graduating with a business degree from the University of Southern California.
The bad economy encouraged me to accept my first job offer, selling life and disability insurance; so instead of pursuing my dream, I folded into corporate life -- studying complex products, forming client relationships, and becoming a young professional.
And then, the golden handcuffs: my first bonus check. Every four months, extra money appeared in my checking account. And it felt good. But I didn’t splurge on a pair of Jimmy Choos or replace my old Explorer. Each bonus went straight to my savings.
For the next five years, I received promotions and raises, and the corporation groomed me for a leadership role. I worked for a wonderful company, I believed in the products we sold, and I loved my colleagues and clients. But I started to question what my ten-year-old self would think of me now: I knew I would wonder why I hadn’t gone to France. I couldn’t shake that little voice in my head, so I decided to leave my job, and catch a one-way to CDG.
But what would I do about health insurance? What if my laptop got stolen? What if, what if I was walking home after a few French 75s, and I got accosted by gypsies?
Each day after work, I researched cooking schools, culinary experts, and WWOOF hosts (WWOOFing is a worldwide network of organic farmers who host travelers in exchange for labor). My excel spreadsheet expanded to eight tabs. I sent emails to every culinary school I could find. And then I pushed the button: I wired my first deposit to a school in the south of France.
The last half of 2014, I will travel and study in France. Solo. I want to absorb their culinary mystique, their culture, their joie de vivre. I will attend professional courses at Gastronomicom International Culinary Academy and Le Cordon Bleu Paris; I will live with and study under Susan Herrmann Loomis, the renowned author of On Rue Tatin, culinary expert, and award-winning journalist. In between, I will earn my room and board working on various farms and vineyards to cultivate their crops, and bottle their wines.
Come with me into the vineyards of Provence, the streets of Paris, a Mediterranean cooking school, and the fervent kitchen at Le Cordon Bleu as I discover recipes and techniques to unlock the French savoir-faire.