Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Trash Talkin' Tallahassee

I am a new chef looking for a job.

I graduated with honors from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy.

I have worked as a personal chef in Paris, the undisputed center of the gastronomical universe.

I have read Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste twice, even though it hurt.

And I am looking for a job in Tallahassee, Florida.

I have a friend who graduated a few months before me. He is working for Chef Gordon Ramsey (most of you might know him from his uber-dramatic FOX show Hell's Kitchen) in London on the line at one of Ramsey's most sought-after dining concepts.

I have another friend who graduated at the same time as I did who is now working in the catering division of the Four Seasons Chicago, recently named the Best Hotel Experience by some swanky and reputable source.

And I am looking for a job in Tallahassee, Florida.

The past two days have been full of resume passing. Perhaps it would have been easier to throw my resume at people in say, New York, Napa Valley, or even Boston or Orlando (Chefs at Disney get a $1,000 bonus just for staying for a month). But in Tallahassee, I had nine possible employers. Nine. And every single executive chef or sous chef that I talked to in the past 48 hours had the exact same thing to say. "The Le Cordon Bleu? What in God's name are you doing in Tallahassee?"

I have to admit, Tallahassee isn't the chicest or most erudite of towns. Two things dominate the social landscape. Politics and college life. This fact, in turn, does two things: it limits the kinds of restaurants that succeed in the town (the kind politicians eat at, and the kind college kids eat at), and it limits the job field significantly. A town with over 60,000 college-age students willing to work for a pittance in the kitchen is much like the problem I would have had by staying in Chicago and working in a kitchen. Only the problem in Chicago kitchens is that if you don't speak Spanish, it doesn't matter if you ARE Escoffier; you're not getting a job.

It's true, Tallahassee wasn't my first choice, but the possibility of my attending FSU for graduate school and my ability to live here for almost nothing while I pay off my college loans was too tempting to pass up. Plus, I do believe that there is room in Tallahassee for a young, 22-year old, blonde American girl to show these down-home executive chefs that she actually can make some kind of an impact in this gastronomically-challenged town.

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