Lessons Learned: What Next?

It's amazing what can change in a year. 

Exactly one year ago today, I began my journey as a pastry student at ICE. I stepped into checkered pants and slip-resistant black kitchen shoes for the first time. I buttoned my white chef coat from collar to bottom and covered my curly hair with a commis hat, having no idea the scope of what I would learn in the nine months of class and three months of externship that were to follow.

The question most students leave ICE with is “What Next?” It's the natural evolution of going through an educational and vocational program that inevitably leads to a change in the course of your career path. For me, when I started the program, my goal was to use my experience as a way to improve my ability to advise students who were going through the same thing. Of course, I was also looking forward to learning how to make a tasty pastry! Through it all, I promised myself to take my own advice and be open to anything that came my way. As much as I warn students that it happens, I truly can’t believe how much my goals and plans changed. In the past year, I fell in love — with working with my hands to create something that others can enjoy, with the thought of having my own food business and with a boy. All of a sudden, my goals and plans changed.

As a Career Services Advisor, I always believed that what I spoke to students about was much more than just their job — what you choose as a job and career path needs to fit your lifestyle and make sense for your career goals and life goals. Last week at the James Beard Awards, I listened to one of the winners as he quoted the saying, “If you love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It made me realize again just how much of an impact your job can have on your everyday life. I do love my job. I love to meet chefs, listen to their passion for creating a certain type of food and experience and then have the opportunity to taste their expression. I love going to restaurants and watching how well a service staff works in making sure each guest is refilled, cleared and reset. I love sitting down with students and seeing their eyes light up when they verbalize their dream of opening a bakery, working with a chef they've looked up to or discovering that there are so many other options in the industry outside of a kitchen. I knew this experience would inevitably change me in some way. What I didn't know is that I would essentially become one of the students that it is my job currently to advise. I would become the part-time student with a full-time job who has a dream in the industry that I want to fulfill. I would become the student that wants to learn more and gain more hands-on experience now, rather than waiting for that right moment that usually never comes. I would become the student that struggles with the decision to leave a full-time salaried job with benefits for an hourly, temporary position with no benefits. I would become the student who worries about how it will all turn out but knows deep down it will.

Next up: My personal journey continues as I experience life as a pastry graduate. In two and half weeks, I’ll be escaping the hustle and bustle of NYC and heading to Maine to work as a bakery assistant at Quisisana Resort and hope to open a business in the near future. It was a difficult decision to leave ICE. I say this to students all the time, but sometimes you just have to trust your gut, even if a choice makes no sense on paper. Much like a year ago, I have no idea what the next year will bring. In all honesty, I’m scared, but more so, I’m excited at the doors of opportunity that I know will open as I close this part in my life. I hope that you have all enjoyed reading about my journey through ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program, as much as I have enjoyed experiencing it first-hand. My experience at ICE both as an employee and as a student has been life-changing and as much as I have learned about the culinary and pastry world, I’ve learned even more about myself. Thank you.

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