Pursuing My Passion

Life As a Culinary Student

My first two months of culinary school have been full of lessons. Always keep your cutting board clean. Hold your knife down and away from others when walking. Never leave your spatula on the stove. (Chef James will be happy to know I’m getting better at that last one.) But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of following your passion.

I learned that final lesson from my dad when he passed away suddenly last December. My dad was an accountant for more than 30 years, and while I never imagined following in his footsteps, I always knew that working with his many clients was his passion. He embodied the phrase “choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

Christen Clinkscales

In the months after his death, I started thinking about my passions and how I might be able to turn them into my career, like my dad. Culinary school had been on my mind for years, but I always found an excuse not to enroll. I was too busy with work. It was too expensive. It would cut too much into my social life. Would I even be good?

To be honest, I wasn’t a good cook growing up. I set off the fire alarm just heating canned soup. My college roommate tried to teach me some simple techniques, but those attempts always ended with her shooing me out of the kitchen. It wasn’t until I moved to New York four years ago that I started to love cooking. No matter how long and exhausting my work days would be, I loved nothing more than coming home and preparing a nice meal in my Polly Pocket-sized kitchen.

There were many failed attempts, and my roommates were saints for putting up with all my kitchen messes and smoke outs. Slowly, I started to get the hang of things and looked forward to my evenings spent in the kitchen. I’m sure that my decision to enroll in culinary school was a surprise to many people. It was even a surprise to me! But now I know that life is too short to be afraid to take risks—and I knew that if I didn’t act this year, I might never get the courage to do so again. When I took my first step by attending an open house at ICE, it felt like the right place for me.

Culinary School Chef and Student

Starting school has had its challenges. I have a fast-paced job in media consulting, and I wasn’t sure I could balance work and school. Finding that balance hasn’t been easy. But being a student at ICE has opened my eyes to the possibility of turning my passion into my career.

Working every day in a test kitchen or in food media used to seem like a distant dream, but with an education from ICE, I know now that it’s a real possibility. I look forward to learning more in class and to determine, through my externship, the path to take after graduation. Overall, I’m excited to see where this new venture takes me.

The best way to summarize how I’m feeling is something Chef Sam Kadko said to my class on our first day in his classroom: “Each day should be a test of how much passion you have for cooking.” Since my dad’s passing, I’ve come to believe that everything happens for a reason. I take Chef Sam’s words as a sign that my dad would approve of my sharing our story with the ICE community. He was always (embarrassingly) a big fan of my writing and the ultimate proofreader for all of my assignments. So this one’s for you, Pop! I hope to make you proud both on the page and in the kitchen!

To learn more about ICE’s professional Culinary Arts program, click here.

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