From Cubicle to Classroom

What’s your occupation?” the bank teller asked. 

Huh? Occupation? My mind had gone blank. “Oh, uh, student” I finally managed. And that was when it hit me. After nine years in the land of cubicles, I’m a student again. I’m carrying a sack of books, a stuffed 3-ring binder and a notebook around New York City. I’ve finally braved up and left the corporate world to pursue my passion.

I’m a student but not just any ol’ student. I’m studying health-supportive culinary arts at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. So I’m also excitedly lugging around a chef’s jacket, a bag of aprons and side towels and these ridiculously too big, black-and-white checkered pants. And don’t tell the people crammed next to me on the subway, but I have a rather large Japanese knife in a carrier in my purse. (Yes, I need to work on my knife skills this weekend.)

I’ve just finished week one of the 600+ hour program. One week and I’ve already learned more than I did in my last two years of studying the connection between health and food on my own. One week and I already know that although I quit a great job, left my plush Swiss life behind and my loving husband (miss you, Honey!), I made the right decision.

But one week and…I’m exhausted. Seriously exhausted.

NYC and student life are kicking my butt. I thought after years of working demanding jobs, being a student would be a cake walk, like a mini-vacay (don’t tell the Chef I said this). But let me tell you the truth: I don’t remember the last time I was this tired. A part of my brain that hasn’t been used in years is being forced to awaken from a long slumber. Time to read, memorize, study. And it seems that all of my years of sitting in a cubicle have not prepared me well for kitchen work (Huh. Who would’ve thought.). I call myself an athlete, but navigating Manhattan for a week with arms full of books and uniforms has been a true test of endurance. And the thought of being reprimanded for doing something wrong in class is keeping my adrenaline turned up a notch.

There are rules. Lots of them. No gum. No mobile phones. Full uniforms required. No jewelry. Short nails. No hair showing. Hands washed. No eating off your cutting board. Walk with knife by side. No talking while chopping. Points deducted if you’re late. There are lectures, quizzes, tests. There is cooking (lots of cooking!). And lastly there is scrubbing dishes (lots of dishes!).

Times have changed since I was last in school!

But typical school, this is not. And for that reason, I love it.

I love that we spent an entire morning learning about vegetables. I love that we got to taste every type of green, and squash, known to man. I love the discussions on the connections between food, health, healing and happiness. And I love what I’m doing: pursuing a career that will enable me to help people change the way they eat for the betterment of our bodies, our minds, and our planet.

Oh, but I don’t love knife-skills class. Four students sliced their fingers on Day One. So now I chop slower than I ever did before the 4-hour Japanese knife skills and 4-hour French knife skills courses. I’m going to need to do a lot of chopping to prepare for the knife skills test in a couple of weeks. 

I hope you’ll keep following my culinary student life in Manhattan at I look forward to sharing my adventures, learnings, flounderings and delicious recipe discoveries with you, my fresh-loving friends!

Eat Fresh. Breathe fresh. Be fresh. 


7 Responses to “From Cubicle to Classroom”

  1. Todd says:

    Mom and I like the photo of Chef Elyse!

  2. Jessa says:

    love this. started my Monday morning off reading and now my whole week off to a good start. thx chef sissie

  3. Caren says:

    Good luck and hope you still have all your fingers at the end of the program!

  4. Stephanie Tucci says:

    Hi Elyse!

    I came across your site and I have absolutely loved reading your posts. I love that you followed your dreams to pursue culinary because this is exactly what I am doing. I will be attending the Natural Gourmet in April and I cannot wait. I’m looking forward to your post’s and you never know, we may run into each other in the future :) All the best.

    • freshabits says:

      Hi Stephanie – Thanks for your sweet comment! You are going to love NGI. I’ll definitely see you in April. Come say Hi on your first day.

  5. laurence says:

    Love the photo of Chef Elyse too, love reading you :)

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