That is an extremely good question. I was asking myself that very thing this morning as I was pulling on the most unflattering pair of checkered chef pants you have ever seen and tying my hideous-yet-sensible black nun-like kitchen shoes, part of my required uniform as a brand-new culinary student in the baking and pastry arts program at a local, respected-yet-affordable school that I'll call U of Trix.
And what does all this have to do with focaccia?
You see, yesterday, as I was making sure my chef's coat and apron were pressed, gathering together notebooks, pens, Sharpies, my knife kit, text books, and going over all of my course requirement lists and checking them twice, I had something of a panic attack: "What was I thinking signing up for this? I have no idea what I'm doing! I do not want to be in a kitchen full of teenagers! I'll feel old! I AM old!" And so on.
I realized that what I really needed to do was try to remember why I had felt compelled to embark upon this mad path in the first place. I needed to bake some bread.
As soon as I started to mix the ingredients, I felt myself begin to relax. (The glass of wine didn't hurt either.) That yeasty smell, the feel of the dough, the way my spinning brain began to slow down and focus ... these were the things about baking I had fallen in love with right from the start. I felt my courage returning.
And guess what? I needn't have been so worried. I was over prepared for class, a fairly usual state of affairs in my life, thanks to my OCD. The whole age thing didn't bother me like I thought it would. I mean, if being that young means being simultaneously bored, terrified, and extremely awkward, as so many of my fellow students appeared to be, then I'm glad to be past all of that. Besides, there's one guy in there who I swear must be at least 5 years older than I am. What a grandpa!
After listening to a lecture about baking processes, we did some straightforward leavening experiments in the kitchen, so I didn't even have a chance to make a fool of myself. (There will be plenty of time for that later, when we do macarons.) Of course I plan to faithfully record my (modest) successes and inevitable kitchen failures right here.
But what about the focaccia, you ask? What's the recipe? Is this a food blog or isn't it? I used the exact same recipe I did the first time I made it, only I changed the topping based on what I had: this time it was tomatoes, garlic, black olives, kosher salt, and oregano.
I was certainly tempting fate - if my bread had come out badly, I would have been a complete wreck for class! Who knows? Maybe I would have stayed home with my head under the covers. But fate decided otherwise, and it came out beautifully. Whew.
I know that doing something professionally is a far cry from doing it as a hobby, and I realize that I'm running the risk, however small, of ruining something I love to do. But that's a risk I'm willing to take. No, working in a frenzied kitchen is not my long-term goal, though I'd certainly give it a shot. I know that many chefs crave the adrenaline rush that comes with being impossibly, insanely slamming busy, but I most definitely do not. Is there a little Tasty Trix bakeshop in my future? Maybe. Half the fun is not knowing what the future holds.