By Danielle Marullo
ICC Student, Professional Culinary Arts
Greetings fellow foodies! My name is Danielle Marullo, and I am obsessed with good food and entertaining. I am a graduate of Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management and am currently the Assistant General Manager of the Todd English Food Hall in the iconic Plaza Hotel. I ran my own baking business at the age of 13, appeared on Anderson Cooper Live! where I won the “Chopped Challenge” moderated by Food Network’s Ted Allen, and most recently I was the third place winner on Spike TV’s new culinary competition “Frankenfood.”
In June, 2013 I started my very own website “Got Room For More” where I share my original recipes, food articles and instructional cooking videos. My dream in life is to be the next big television chef, like my idol Mr. Bobby Flay (an ICC alum), as well as become the best restaurateur I can be. As of May 2014 I am now a student in the amazing Professional Culinary Arts night program!
You may be just like me, someone who works a very demanding full-time job, so you’re thinking how can I possibly go to culinary school and still keep my job so I can pay my bills. Trust me, if I can do it you can do it!
I will admit, that the first month was not easy. I will always remember how I felt the first few days of class. I was stressed, anxious, hot, exhausted and a little bit out of focus. By the 4th week I had my routine down pat, and my body began to adjust to the long hours on my feet, the high temperature of the classroom, and the high-pressure environment. I like to compare this transition to learning knife skills: when you first get the knife in your hand it feels awkward and even a little heavy, your feet are clenching in your leather clogs from the tension, and the stress of the instructor hovering over you makes you feel like as if the blade will slip any moment and catch your finger.
After a few weeks of practice your body begins to loosen up, your hands become one with the knife and the blade slides thorough the vegetables with ease. Each stroke of the knife starts feeling organic and effortless… not to mention your julienne carrots finally start looking like julienne carrots. That’s exactly how the transition from Restaurant Manager to Restaurant Manager PLUS Culinary Student felt. Here are some tips to ease your stress and to ultimately help you succeed at both:
– Get into a routine. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I know I have to leave work at 5pm in order to get on the subway, and make it to the school with enough time to change and have a few minutes to get my “mis en place” together. It will take a few days of trial and error, but you will find the exact time you must leave work in order to get to ICC safe and sound…and not leave work so early that you anger your boss/coworkers. If you have the time before you begin the program, do a practice run of your commute so when the first day of class comes you will feel a little more comfortable.
– Send out your laundry to be washed and folded for you. Yes, this costs some money and maybe this isn’t in everyone’s budget, but I truly feel during the 6 or 9 months you are in culinary school it is worth it! For someone with a tight schedule, you know doing laundry is just another arduous task you have to tack onto your work week, so eliminate it by sending your chef whites out to be cleaned for you once a week or on a need to basis to free up a few hours!
– Pay attention and take notes in class! For someone like me who has very limited time to study for the exams, it is crucial that you jot down information during lecture. The chefs usually put the information you will be tested on on the front board so be sure to take down these notes or even snap a picture on your phone to ensure you have it all down.
– While you’re on the subway or commuting from work, take that time to read over the recipes for the class that day. This will help you to make mental notes about what you need gather on your station when you get to class and also move at a faster pace because you wont have to go back to your notes a tremendous amount of times to see which step comes next.
– Get to know your classmates. There will be days when you have a hard day at work and cooking for 5 hours in a 90 degree kitchen is not exactly what you want to do that evening, but if you make some friends in class you will have that sense of support and love you need to keep yourself motivated and positive.
– Bring plastic tupperware to class everyday! You will have many opportunities to bring the food you cook home with you, so make sure you are prepared! You can eat these leftovers on the days you don’t have class to free up some time in your schedule to catch up with friends and family. You can also show off your skills by giving your friends and family a taste of the amazing dishes you created in class. Trust me their reactions and praise are enough motivation to keep you going!
In conclusion, balancing work, school and your personal life is not a piece of cake (pun intended), but with the right preparation and attitude you can do it and succeed at it! I have been having the time of my life at ICC and feel the skills and techniques I am learning will get me exactly where I want to be!
Learn more about Danielle’s class: Professional Culinary Arts