BY KIEU TRAN, NYC: This will be the year. We all make New Year’s resolutions, I know I do. And with every promise, I am gung-ho that I’m going to follow through.
The other night, walking home from class, my friend Emily said, “Let’s all make New Year’s resolutions.” Without really thinking, I sarcastically blurted, “I’m still trying to work on this year’s resolution.”
I’ve promised year in and year out to lose weight, to always look presentable, to say yes to living life, to chase happiness, to get a 4.0 G.P.A. every semester and to figure out what I wanted to do. All, of course, failed by the time Mardi Gras rolled around. But, it recently dawned on me that I’m actually following through on this year’s resolution. My goal was to chase my dream of becoming a pastry chef.
In the midst of chasing my dream, an encounter with Chef John Besh enlightened me to something important. Something that has veered this month’s blog away from school. I volunteered at the Food and Wine John Besh Oyster Bash in October. There, Chef Besh told me that school is just a very small portion of the experience.
Experience. Why didn’t I think of that? But, more importantly, what I heard was to relish every moment, that I’ve been given an experience. It is an experience that goes beyond school, it’s a New York experience, a culinary Mecca, the sponge waiting to be soaked up, and one that will help me become a great pastry chef one day.
This past month, I’ve done a lot of experiencing. I’ve walked out the subway and saw a huge Ronald McDonald statue with a man frantically shining the shoe. People were crowded around with cameras out and the cops asking the man if he needed to go to an emergency room. I realized then that I was in the presence of something weirdly awesome. It was the famous street artist Banksy’s Shoe Shiner piece at play.
I’ve watched the sun rise atop the Williamsburg bridge. I’ve tasted oysters shucked and prepped right in front of me by Todd English. I’ve learned the romantics in dining for one. I’ve explored Central Park and climbed rocks on my date day with New York! I’ve had the New York staples of Shake Shack and a Salty Pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream. I’ve strolled almost every inch of the Lower East Side and wandered Chinatown, walking in and out of shops and restaurants and found myself feasting on pho and spring rolls. I’ve found my “secret hiding spot” in my dorm. A terrace that overlooks Soho that I escape to witness the peacefulness that is New York’s unknown gem. I’ve made friends that I know I’ll keep for a lifetime.
I’ve volunteered alongside Chef Besh, saw him cook, and listened in on his love and thirst for good food. I’ve tasted tripe because Chef Besh cut and handed me a piece and I’ve learned to try everything at least once. And you just don’t say no to food given to you by John Besh.
I’ve volunteered for Chef Kelly Fields, who inspires me in ways she’ll never know. I’m learning from her the ways of being a badass in the kitchen and to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve watched her hold her own next to the culinary guys, and bake without recipes. I’ve realized that that’s the kind of pastry chef I want to be. That’s the kind that I will be one day, mark my words.
I told you I experienced a lot this past month and I can’t wait to chase some more. I don’t know what I did to be lucky enough to be here, but I won’t take one moment for granted! I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I will be spending it with my family, and baking of course!
Until the next escapade,