Got to catch our breath

Avis-FeaturedBy Avis Allen

Welcome back!  Building 7 has been so busy since fall semester came to an end.  Let me catch you up on what has been happening.

Have you ever had an experience of something so exciting that you hold your breath for days, hoping not to flip out or bust while you wait for….well you’re not sure if it is going to be good news or disappointing news.

The culinary second-year students went through this in December.  I am one of those students who sat by their email for three days waiting.  I am pretty sure that the chef instructors do this to torture us.  Not really, but it did seem that way, while I waited.  There were twenty-nine students who applied for eight positions for a scholarship with an internship to France.  So you see the odds were against us in the beginning.

To receive this opportunity you have to have a 2.75 GPA or above and many other items come into play and are looked for.  Each chef instructor gets to decide who they want to vote for, for whatever reason they want to consider that makes eight students stand out to them.  The things that I have heard and been told that they look for are very easy to accomplish, here are a few of them:  wear your uniform according to policy, how you act, reactions to different situations, hard work, volunteer for extra activities, be willing to do any job without complaint, and the main thing that I got from every chef is attitude.  It is not totally about the ability to cook, cooking can be taught, having a good attitude when they are watching and when you think they are not.

The chefs’ votes are sent privately to Kari Henson, Associate Dean, tallied up, background checks are ran, and then as long as those are good an email is sent to the chefs and then sent in mass quantity to all of the culinary students, many days later.  I am sure there is more to it than what I know.

There are squeals and screams of happiness. Emails, texts, face book posts, and phone calls to friends and family saying, “I am going to France!!”  There are also tears and screaming in anger, frustration, and cussing for those who were not chosen, each trying to figure out why it wasn’t them. It is very hard to be so darn excited that you were chosen and yet try to comfort a friend who wasn’t.

It is a tough process for the chefs (and eight students) to hear the negative comments of students who were not chosen while trying to be excited and positive to those who were.  Imagine having 100 kids that you have watched grow for a year and half, and pick eight of them to have a chance in a lifetime experience.  I can’t imagine the stress.

Now, with eight students going to France it costs a lot of money.  So, where does it come from?  There are some wonderful people out there (known as the Friends of the French Chefs) who support the French Chef Exchange program and the students in this culinary program.  They do not ask for recognition, but today I am giving it to them the best way I know how.  Not by name; but by what they do.  These supporters volunteer for activities that raise money, they travel with us at their own expense, give money, eat at our gourmet dinners, eat at the bistro, and give of themselves.  I and I believe the other seven students, are extremely lucky to know a few, looking forward to meeting more of them, and very thankful to each and every one of them for their support.

Four of the chef instructors, eight members of the Friends of the French Chefs, two French chefs, one French translator, and twenty-three students went to Las Vegas to tour the kitchens, businesses, restaurants, and buffets.  It was an awesome experience as a learning trip and tremendous fun!  Thank you for taking the time out of your lives to take us on a long weekend trip.

Now back at school.  The French chefs are here teaching us.  We have been in demonstrations for a week.  Over the weekend with Chef Robert Anderson and Chef Instructor Dean Luttrell’s (Ames) watchful eyes, we (the eight students) made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of: turkey, smoked turkey, Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, pumpkin, pecan, pecan chocolate, rhubarb custard pies, and homemade whip cream.  The French chefs, Friends of the French chefs, culinary staff and their family members, and the eight students sat down and shared a wonderful meal with each other.

On Sunday the French chefs did a demonstration that was open to the public.  We worked for a few hours with the French chefs, Chef Instructor Phil Carey, and Sous Chef, Rolando Moline.  It was a huge success!  Many thanks to the chefs, staff, and audience were given for their support to our French Chef Exchange program which allows eight students an opportunity not many people get in their lifetime.

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