When speaking to aspiring chefs, I often hear them say, “But I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it through culinary school.” Make it through culinary school – come on now. When considering attending culinary school, this should not be a question that crosses your mind. How can you survive culinary school? You can accomplish this by changing your mindset. Instead of asking how you can survive culinary school, ask how you will complete culinary school. Here’s the answer: the same way countless chefs have completed their schooling, you just do it.
When I began my culinary training, I maintained a mindset that said, “No matter how hard this gets, or how bad the 2-hour commute sucks, or how much I get yelled at by these aggressive French chefs, “I will finish culinary school.” There was no doubt in my mind. Once you remove that sense of doubt and tell yourself you will succeed, your mind is free to focus on more beneficial areas.
Allow me to tell you two brief stories that emphasize the point I am attempting to get across:
Prior to April 8th, 1954, it was universally believed that no human was physically capable of running a mile in less than 4 minutes. Similar to the first perfect 10 in gymnastics — before the 1976 Olympics, it was so widely accepted that no gymnast would ever score a perfect 10 that the scoreboard was not even programmed to display a “10.0”. When Nadia Comaneci achieved the first perfect 10, the board read “1.0”:
In both these cases, the universal belief was that these achievements were simply not possible because they had never before been done. But then Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile, and Nadia scored a perfect 10 (with many more to follow). Since these events, many people have completed the 4-minute mile, and many gymnasts scored perfect 10s before the system was changed.
What changed? After these feats were accomplished, they were no longer seen as impossible. The mindset of the masses shifted drastically. One could argue that humans are continuously evolving, becoming bigger, faster, stronger and smarter. But not at this rate.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
Culinary school is definitely intimidating at first. But think about it – what’s the worst that could happen? You’re human, just like all of the other students who have conquered culinary school. You will probably be pushed to limits you never thought you were capable of reaching. Think about how the Marine Corp operates, for example. I would never disrespect the Marines by comparing their boot camp to culinary school – I simply wish to point out how we as humans survive rigorous training when we have serious doubts that we can endure.
It all comes down to mind over matter. Don’t aim to survive – aim to succeed. Aim to be the best in your class. Why is that so far-fetched?