Mirror Mirror on the Wall

“Who am I and what am I doing here?!” This question was raised by a former running mate of a former presidential candidate.

I hear it echoed constantly from students enrolled in culinary school, particularly career changers who have risked everything. They’ve laid down their Blackberries, gilt-edge securities and taken up pastry bags and palette knives. Every so often, though, waves of panic crash over them and they begin to doubt their decision. They ask themselves that age old question…”Am I nuts?!”

The feeling passes swiftly when once again they glimpse that elusive ray of hope that propelled them into the land of cupcakes in the first place.

I just saw such a Eureka moment alight on the face of a student. He is an older guy, (old in the culinary school world means anyone who can remember the name Ross Perot, who was the aforementioned former presidential candidate.)

This “older” student had a former life as an investment banker working at the top echelon of a recently-crashed bank. He was earning a mighty impressive salary and making decisions about billions of millions. In his spare time, he liked to bake cookies. And decorate them. He graduated to bread baking, cakes and pastries. He prowled the aisles of the specialty food trade shows and restaurant and hotel trade shows. He devoured food magazines. He was addicted to the TV Food Network. He attended food festivals with the ardor of a dedicated foodie. Then. Suddenly. He had a “Road to Damascus” moment. He was struck with the idea he must give up everything and enroll in a professional school.

That’s how I came to meet him.

He was experiencing a moment of self-doubt but he had a class project to complete. He had to write a profile of a famous person about which must has been written. Not everything has been complimentary. Rumor had it that I knew her. I did. So do many others. I recommended other sources of information. He persisted. He was well-prepared. He came armed with dozens of questions. I declined to answer. He persisted. I answered.

That’s how I came to suggest he would be a great interviewer. He could transfer the research skills he had acquired as a financial analyst to become an on-camera interviewer. He would need in-depth culinary knowledge and the technical vocabulary to guide the interview authoritatively. With this ability and his professed passion for writing, he could extend his on-air food people interviews to the print media. He could write a Dead Beat column…obituaries of famous expired foodies. His contacts with the top tier of gastronomy would enable him to know where all the bodies are hidden.

I suggested he start immediately by writing a blog, as the thing almost all of us like to do, is to talk about ourselves. I was confident he wouldn’t have any trouble making contacts. His universe of food folk interviews will include not only celebrity chefs, but also the director of the purchasing department on the Queen Mary 2, the scientist who devises the food for NASA astronauts, SaltWorks, the entrepreneurs who traffic in truffle salt … he could even talk to cooking school teachers.