Thursday, May 16, 2013

I'm a graduate!

I didn't go to college traditionally. In fact, I railed against college, thought I was way better than school and moved to New York for the first time when I was 19 years old. It took me about a year after to realize that maybe I shouldn't be so stubborn and I should try it out. I swear, it had nooooothing to do with the fact that I worked at a prestigious talent agency at the time that wanted to promote me but only if I had a 4 year degree... I decided to move back to Georgia and try school out mainly to prove myself right, that school was for suckers and I needed no part of it. Well, it took me 5 years but I eventually got my Associates degree and decided that I was right and felt no need to go back to school traditionally again.

Deciding to go to culinary school a year ago was a huge thing for me. I had an amazing job, an apartment perfect for me and a life in New York City that I spent 7 years building. To leave all of that behind in pursuit of a dream seemed a) insane and b) impossible. With the undying support of my friends and family, I took off on a journey that has forever totally changed my life. I am without words when I think of the adventure.

I finished my program in October last year complete with a graduation at ALMA amongst my schoolmates, parents and sister. It was a joyous, memorable evening and I will never forget it:
To add to this remarkable journey, it turns out that my alma mater, ICC, decided to hold its first ever formal New York City graduation for our program at Carnegie Hall! After wrapping things up in Italy back in October, I definitely didn't think we'd have something else like this to look forward to. When I got the initial email announcing graduation, I kept thinking there's just no way I can afford yet another trip back to NYC right now after having gone back twice already in less than 6 months of living in Denver. For goodness sake, I can't seem to move on with my life in Denver when I keep returning to where my heart is in NYC! After about two seconds of thinking this nonsense that I couldn't go back, I snapped out of it and booked a ticket immediately. 

What a special weekend. It was a very fast trip, fast enough where I didn't even make plans with anyone but Allison, but I relished in every moment. Allison and I spent all of Saturday together talking, laughing, sharing...spending much needed quality time together and it was awesome. For those who don't know, Allison is kicking ass in wine school right now studying to take her first two exams for the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers. I got to hear all about it and she even did a personal tasting with me and sure did teach me a thing or two. She's gonna be a wine badass, y'all. 

Come Sunday, I met Trisha, Mo and Dalila for coffee before we had to be at Carnegie Hall and it was so very good to see them. Although I was missing Gavin and John, it was just awesome seeing those three. What's funny is that all four of us were in the exact same spot in feeling incredibly nostalgic for Italy recently. We reminisced and talked about our journeys and it blanketed me in warm, sweet feelings. It's hard to put into words. 

When it was time to head into the waiting area at Carnegie Hall, we proudly donned our chef whites and got ready for the ceremony:
I was honored to have Allison, Stacy, Colleen and Shameer be there to share in my special day. Four people who mean the world to me. Four people who have a part of my heart and who bring an uncontrollable smile to my face when I think of them. Especially Allison. My culinary journey started as a thought, then a dream, then a possibility, then a reality. All with Allison by my side, cheering me on, picking me up when I fell, encouraging me when I burned my practical exam dishes in school...she has been my rock, my confidant, my supporter, my friend and my biggest cheerleader. I was so very happy to close this journey out with her where she'd been all along, by my side.

The ceremony was lovely. It was inspiring and moving, just like my entire culinary journey had been. How lucky am I to have had the ever so talented Colleen Putman capture my moment on stage:
Yep, she kicks ass. After the ceremony, she got this shot of me and the famed Cesare Casella, dean of my program and personal friend of mine:
SO awesome.

Sisters in the city, equally as awesome:
We all went for some snacks and drinks afterward and then Colleen decided she wanted to snap some photos in the park of us and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to her for putting the finishing touches on the day and my entire culinary adventure:
I adore you, Shameezle:
Colleen, you're just so damn talented. You capture the moments that matter and I get to have these memories forever. Thank you for that.

So, that was my weekend. Doesn't it look awesome? It was. It really was.

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