I’ve been meaning to clear up something that’s been said of me in print and online a few times these past few weeks that is simply not true. I understand why the mistake is often made, but I thought it best to explain before it happens again. I have never attended culinary school here nor in France. I did spend time in France years ago as an au pair and I was responsible for shopping and cooking for the family. I became passionate about the quality of the bread, cheeses and seafood I discovered at the open air markets in Normandy. Years after that I became a food writer and went back to interview top chefs in France including Alain Ducasse and Christian Etienne. My desire to learn French Cuisine started early, but I am totally self taught. I spent many weekly trips carrying bags of cookbooks home from the Grace Dow Library in the early 90’s and when I got my first computer hooked up to the Internet I scoured it for recipes and ideas on how to recreate things I’d enjoyed in France. When I was online looking for authentic techniques on how to make croissants I stumbled across a website that was hiring someone to write and organize information on French Food. It didn’t say you had to be a chef or anything like that, but I was still very nervous to apply. What prompted me to submit my application was the fact I could be at home with my kids and do something I was already enjoying, surfing the web for culinary ideas. It wasn’t as easy as blogging. I had to know HTML and I had to learn and apply keywords, key phrases and submit to various search engines to help my site grow and earn money. The company I worked for was About.com (called The Mining Co. a first). I was responsible for writing articles, writing and testing recipes, submitting photos and videos, hosting a weekly chat room session, writing a newsletter and organizing websites I’d found online into a simple directory. Their slogan “We mine the net so you don’t have to.”
The first year barely brought in any money, but it was enough to pay for my internet and grocery money so I kept at it. As the site grew it became more and more successful and was a perfect work at home career for me allowing me to work my own hours and even travel to France. I was the guide to French Cuisine for 4 years until the company was bought out and suddenly the rules changed. Long story short, half of the 600 guides quit and moved on to our own websites or businesses.
I believe strongly in being self motivated and learning in whatever way you can to better your own life. If I had been able to attend a culinary school that would have been wonderful, but my passion and desire to learn led me in the same direction, albeit a bit more slowly. I was mostly inspired (and didn’t quite realize it at the time) by my parents. They make their own food for fun and also to eat healthier. We always had a garden, canned and froze food and my parents made things like homemade ketchup, pickles, sauerkraut, beer, wine, and they still do. My dad’s beer rivals that of any I’ve tasted at the local brew pubs and my mom has a knack for seasoning and making delicious food. How could I not be inspired by all that good artisanal inspiration?
So, no, I was not classically trained to cook in France. I taught myself and decided four years ago that I wanted to be a chocolatier. Now I am one. I’m sure I made more mistakes than someone who was taught properly in school, but you can’t let that kind of thing stop you. Youtube, Instagram and chocolate forums have assisted me greatly and I have no problem saying that. I watched and applied and learned on my own, trying to really work at perfecting what I do so I can be proud of what I create. I couldn’t be happier at creating this career for myself and I hope to inspire others who maybe couldn’t go to school or who only have minimal time to devote to learning a new craft. It’s worth it. Go for it.