This weekend we attended the commencement ceremony for my daughter Karina. She graduated from the baking and patisserie program at Le Cordon Bleu. It was a grand event with speakers who talked about passion and working your butt off, both essential elements of the culinary industry. She’s very proud of herself, and she should be. She has dreamed about being a baker since about the 7th grade.
Since she’s my baby it’s also another milestone for me. She is out from under the wings of academia and all alone in that cold cruel world. It doesn’t seem like such a big change for her. Part of the program requires an extensive externship experience. Karina found a job that hired her and was happy to do the externship paperwork on the side. She’s working as the lead baker at Brasa in St. Paul. (http://www.brasa.us) It’s a restaurant that prides itself on using local and seasonal ingredients. They cater to accommodating the gluten free crowd so she’s learned a lot about that. The deserts turn over seasonally, along with the sides, but she’s not leaving school to go find a job in her field. She has one.
Actually she has two jobs in her field as she’s also waitressing at Fat Lorenzo’s a pizza and Italian eatery in South Minneapolis (http://www.fatlorenzos.com). She loves being on her own in the kitchen, but she also enjoys the social aspects of front of the house work. Karina has visions of someday opening her own bakery and I’m sure this experience will help her.
My little girl has always been a go getter. I remember her as a toddler always eager to help out. Always wanting to do more. Of course she had to do more than many kids her age because she had a brother with special needs. I used to whisper to her as a babe in arms “You will walk, you will walk early, and once you start walking you’ll never be carried again.” Since I stuck to my guns on that one she became very adept at charming other adult friends into picking her up and hauling along. Those early social skills and charm continue to aid her in her new adult life.
I didn’t believe her when she first started talking about wanting to be a baker. Her brother is a morning person. He’s up at the slightest hint of morning with a smile on his face and eager for what the day brings. Karina has always been more like her mother the night owl. Getting her up in the morning for school was a chore and getting her to go to bed at a reasonable hour even worse. She never had a problem on those special occasions (like New Years) when she was allowed to stay up. In fact she would start looking for reasons to get an exemption to bedtime. I suspected the reason she got into choir was as much for the evening concerts, and subsequently delayed bedtime as it was for the music.
So when Karina first started talking about being a baker I did the most horrible thing a mother could ever do. I laughed at her. YOU? You know that bakers are up and at work at 4am don’t you? You really want a job, a life, that requires you to be functional at that ungodly hour of the morning? You’ve got to be kidding! She told me quite succinctly that she could sleep when she got off work and meet the morning from the end of a late night. Then she turned on her heel and slammed the door of her bedroom. I eat my words as I listen to her rattle off her intentions to be at work early at 4am or that she over slept and didn’t get in until 6am. I also note that she does agree to go out dancing knowing that at 2am when the club closes she can pack a change of clothes and head over to work for a really early start.
When she decided to go to Le Cordon Bleu we knew there would be a mad dash to find the money. Karina entered a cooking competition, culinary rather than baking. She won a scholarship. She found jobs in the industry. She worked with financial aid. She got another scholarship based on recommendations of merit from her employers and teachers. She hustled, took out student loans, applied for pell grants and managed to get through pretty much on her own. The experience of juggling the money for her education will also be a huge benefit to her when she decides to go into business for herself.
As much as she’s done on her own, Karina still gives me credit as an inspiration. I cook. I’ve cooked for dinner parties. I’ve cooked to save the budget from the expense of eating out. I’ve cooked for weekend conference events. I’ve even brought Karina along as my assistant in the kitchen. She’s got a precision that I lack, which is why she’ll be a better baker than I ever was.
I think, part of the appeal of baking is the competition with her mother isn’t as great. In baking she’ll have to take on my father, the north woods king of bread. A loaf of his gets $50 in the DFL fundraising auction they hold every year. My mother is no slouch as a cook either. I tease that their retirement home is really a bed and breakfast because they host so much company.
My sister sent a card to congratulate Karina. Hands down it was the best. The card is unremarkable, it’s what my sister wrote along with her love. “Finally there is someone in the family who REALLY knows how to cook!”