A Day In The Life of a Culinary School Intern

by Jen Wanous

Chef Ross asked me to drop the mirepoix I was working on to grab crates filled with mushrooms.  Like any good intern, I quickly assisted him.  Eagerly, I watched as he fanned through cap and stem, showing me exactly how he wanted each of the three different types of mushrooms cut.  I took my knife in hand with confidence, knowing that the pizza guy upstairs was ten minutes into service and needed these mushrooms ASAP.  The mushrooms were big, ranging from the size of my fist to my forearm.  I had never seen mushrooms like these before; exotic fungi that were clean, white and utterly sponge-like.

I was moving along swiftly, thinking how uniform the slices were looking. I was going pretty fast and then–slip–the knife carved out a nice little portion of fingertip.  The shock was immediate and a loud gasp escaped my lips.  Damn it.  With many coworkers looking on, I went over to the hand washing station, all set to announce that it was fine, no big deal…but shit…half of my fingernail was gone and the blood was steadily dripping.  I wrapped a paper towel around my finger, held it tight above my head and then the tears came.  I didn’t want to be a big wimp, but crying is such a rarity for me and I wanted to be present enough to just feel the shock and pain in the moment.

When the chef came over to assess the situation, I tried my darndest to pull it together.  He quickly put on latex gloves and administered first aide.  He took on a doctor’s technical skill but still kept the bedside manor of a chef, saying sternly, “That’s why it’s always safety first.”

I was thoroughly embarrassed. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to find a small crawl space under which I could nurse my mangled finger and my wilted pride.  A ray of understanding and support came from my fellow NGI student, Marta, who is also interning there with me. When my ears were swooshing and I didn’t know what to do next, she helped me cover the basics like getting a ride home and getting my stuff.

The Chef told me that I should probably go to the hospital to have it checked out.  Ugh.  I gathered my things, feeling like I was asked to pack my knives and leave a la ‘Top Chef.’ With five Band-Aids affixed to my middle finger I gathered my things and said, “Thanks Chef, I’ll see you tomorrow.”


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ABC Kitchen is where I am doing my internship for culinary school.  The James Beard Foundation recently named it Best New Restaurant in the Country.

Oh and my finger will be fine.  I just have to walk around with it gimpy and gauze-wrapped for five days!

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3 Comments to “A Day In The Life of a Culinary School Intern”

  1. Glad you’re ok ~ and you’ll have a tough scar to show for it!

  2. sending you fast-healing good vibes. think of how fun it’ll be to “flip the bird” now with yr giant gauze finger!

  3. Jen Only the best cooks and Chefs have scars from cuts and burns in their hands and wrists so that makes you officially a good cook/chef! Daniel the New York Dominican who lives in Williamsburg asked me many times about you today! He was worried when he realized you were not in.
    Where did your bike ended up?
    Beso grande and ENJOY the next of the week! Marta

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