about what its like to teach kids how to cook at the Columbia Area Career Center.
UNRELATED SIDENOTE: We made burgers tonight with buns made from Shakespeare's dough and Goatsbeard Farm cheese I got from Jenn and Chert Hollow Farm chives from Eric. They were phenomenal. Thanks Farmers Market!
One day a few months back my mom was at the library in our hometown north of Chicago and found out Gale Gand, pastry chef extraordinaire, was talking there. I’ve always wanted big things for this blog, so I did some investigative reporting, turns out she’s a sweet woman and had no problem talking to me between her discussions as part of a panel at Robert Morris College’s Culinary Symposium on Friday, March 27 in downtown Chicago.
I’m not going to list everything she’s accomplished, a quick Google search will tell you how impressive her resume is. That’s not why I was interviewing her; in fact I generally asked her the same questions I’d ask any chef. After meeting Tyler Florence last weekend though, I was curious about the idea of being a celebrity chef and the dynamic of not only proving your prowess in the kitchen, but the ability to sell yourself too.
Does she ever feel nervous doing cooking demos, meeting dignitaries, or even have a rough night in the kitchen? Nope. Never. Ok, once, she said. It was a cooking demo really early on in her career, it lasted two minutes and then it was over.
How could she not get nervous meeting presidents and other legendary chefs? Gale Gand’s father, Bob Gand, owns a music store in my hometown, and in fact, I took guitar lessons there in 7th grade, purchased a few mouthpieces for my trombone and got all my piano sheet music there as well. Needless to say, Gand was performing on stage from an early age. She credits this to giving her the confidence to once tell President Clinton she was the most important person in the room at Mayor Daly’s birthday party. It worked, as she got to sit next to him the rest of the night.
Interview 2009 is a blog project organized by A Free Man (a Missouri alumnus now living in Australia). He assigned bloggers to come up with questions for other bloggers who would then post their answers on their own site. It’s a way for bloggers to get to know each other a little better. Our questions come from Alice, of 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera.
To get us started, I’ll ask a few questions for those who might be new to your blog, and then move on to talking about food. Where are you and why are you there?
Michael and I are in a town called Columbia, studying journalism at the University of Missouri.
Why do you blog?
Blogging is great for expressing a passion and building relationships with people who are passionate about the same thing. Plus, we’re journalists. We like to learn, and we feel compelled to share that information. When we find a great recipe, learn a new technique or talk to someone really interesting, we want to tell others about it.
Richard Grausman learned from the best at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 1967, but he says he was “too slow” to be a chef so he went into teaching. He wrote At Home with French Classics in 1988, and started a program in New York City in 1990 to teach French cooking in home economics classes. That program has grown to offer donations, training, advising and scholarships to more than 200 public high schools in seven U.S. locations. Grausman, who works from New York, let me interview him by phone earlier this month.
If Richard Grausman has learned anything since he founded the Careers through Culinary Arts Program 19 years ago, it’s not to underestimate the potential of the students who come his way.
Grausman, who heads a program that has given more than $25 million in culinary scholarships to underserved students, specifically remembers a young man who received a $4,000 C-CAP scholarship to Johnson and Wales, where an education runs upwards of $80,000. The student had a 1.7 GPA in high school, and Grausman wondered if the scholarship would be wasted.
Four years later, Grausman attended the young man’s graduation, and discovered he was finishing the culinary program with a 4.0 and an acceptance to grad school. When Grausman asked how he was able to make such a transformation, the student told him, “I wanted it and you gave me the opportunity.”
“Now,” Grausman said, “I never look at a student with limitations. You never know what you can do or say to a person that will affect them.”
Through C-CAP, Grausman is able to make a difference for many students.
“If they’re talented and they have the drive, we’re in the fortunate position to make an opportunity for them,” he said.
Pressure Cooker, an acclaimed documentary now on the festival circuit, tells the story of three Philadelphia students with talent, drive, and one heck of a culinary arts teacher, Wilma Stephenson. The film was a collaboration between Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman — yes, Richard Grausman’s daughter.
“I told her about Wilma,” Richard said. “This is a woman who saves lives every year and I don’t know quite how she does it. I get these incredible essays and vivid descriptions of their lives. Her kids have good grades, great skills, and I’m able to give them scholarships.”
Grausman said his daughter’s film gave him insight into the preparation students and teachers go through to earn C-CAP awards. They write several drafts of their essays, fold countless omelets and spend hours learning to turn potatoes.
“The first thing I notice are the students’ hands,” Grausman said. He can tell how comfortable students are in the kitchen and whether they took the time to learn the skills. Since the students are only at the very beginning of a
“The reality is that anyone can learn to cook anything,” he said. “It just takes determination, hard work and focus.”
Grausman is of the belief that cooking is “a craft that can be taken to an art” when it is mastered.
“All artists have to learn their craft,” he said. “The artist comes out later.”
With few opportunities these days to learn on the job, culinary school is increasingly a prerequisite for many would-be chefs. Grausman said that after the Sheraton and other hotels and restaurants cut back on kitchen staffing in the early ’90s, the apprentice system fell out of use.
“The Marriott started turning toward culinary students,” he said. “The approach was, ‘I’ll teach you when there’s time, but I need you to do a job.’”
So Grausman recognizes that now more than ever C-CAP is needed to level the playing field. The students C-CAP helps often wouldn’t get to culinary school on their own. The program’s scholarships, college advising and job training have helped many to break into the business.
“The doors are open for talent,” Grausman said. “You just need to know someone to help you.”
Careers through Culinary Arts Program has locations in New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Hampton Roads, VA; Washington, D.C.; and throughout Arizona. To support C-CAP, visit their website.