Cooking Under Pressure – Honey Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

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Thanks to my readers for welcoming me back!  I’m glad you’re interested in hearing my tales of surviving Culinary School!

One of my friends/readers asked whether I thought my -er, ahem- apparent age was what caused my instructors to be initially somewhat dismissive.

Good question! While I’m sure my age had something to do with it, it was probably more the fact that I flounced in, bejeweled, carrying a giant Louis Vuitton bag, having virtually no idea what Culinary School actually entailed. I vaguely knew that cooking was somehow involved…

I think I was temporarily deranged by grief.  I’m glad I was even admitted. However, I do believe I wasn’t expected to last more than a few weeks.

Again, this wasn’t primarily because of my age. The dropout rate for Culinary School is astonishingly high. Our summer class of close to forty, which was already small because we were summer starters, was down to twelve by the semester’s end.

This wasn’t college like I remembered it.  The attendance requirements were non-negotiable.  You showed up for every class session on time, prepared, dressed in a clean uniform, and ready to work. If you didn’t satisfactorily complete online homework assignments beforehand, you weren’t permitted to attend class.  Two absences and you were out.  People dropped like flies.

My age and job experience ended up helping me. I’m used to showing up on time and working insane hours under less than favorable conditions. I must confess that I actually like it.

But let’s go back to the uniform for a minute.  Chef’s whites – the only garment less flattering than a bee suit!


I may look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy most of the time, but the uniform is comfortable and functional.  The deep pockets of my Chef’s pants have even replaced my big Louis purse!

Well, I’ve gone on and on, and could go one even longer, but I’ll save some for later.  Instead, I’ll share one of the first recipes we prepared in class:  Honey Poppy Seed Vinaigrette.  It’s fantastic on both fruit and greens, and it’s made with honey!

Honey Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

  • 1/2    cup canola oil
  • 1/2    cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3    cup honey
  • 1    teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2    tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1    teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1    pinch salt, to taste


Briskly whisk all ingredients or shake in a small jar with a tightly fitting lid.




My Brilliant Culinary Career

I’ve been AWOL for five months now.  My sincerest apologies to all who have tried to reach me without success.  The reason is singular – my complete immersion in Culinary School.

The good news:  my bees are flourishing!!  They’ve never been healthier!!  I’m not sure whether it’s because of the idyllic summer we’ve had in Ohio or the fact that I’ve left them alone to do their own bee thing.  Maybe it’s a combination of both. In any event, they’re in the best possible shape to enter the winter season.

The bad news:  my garden is a mess!  It’s amazing how quickly things will descend into rack and ruin if neglected for even a short period of time.  My neighbors have been incredibly tolerant and understanding.  Perhaps they understand that it’s more painful for me than it is for them!

I’ll give you a flavor of what the past months have been like for me. Then I’ll go back to posting about beekeeping, gardening and cooking with honey.  With some culinary anecdotes of course!

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As some of you may know, I’ve been a corporate lawyer for many years.  About five years ago, I added “writer” and “consultant” to my list of job titles.

In 2012 I added “blogger” to my list.  So how did I end up as “Culinary Student”?

Probably because the best way to motivate me is to tell me I can’t do something.  I’ve always been that way.  It’s the reason I became a lawyer.

There were other factors too. I’ve always loved to cook.  I come from a family of great cooks, both self-taught and professionally trained.  I’m one of those people who owns hundreds of cookbooks and reads them for fun.

And then my best friend died unexpectedly in April.  I was devastated. I was desperate to find something to get myself out of my head and distract me from my grief.

In any event, shortly before the summer semester started in May, I found myself enrolling in Culinary School.

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In truth, I didn’t know whether I just wanted to take a few classes or do something more.  I figured taking cooking classes would be fun, keep me busy, and would help me with my writing.  Beyond that, I was clueless.

It was apparent to my instructors that I hadn’t thought the whole Culinary School thing through. I had no idea what school was like. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my training.

The Administration tactfully suggested that I might not be willing or able to handle the six hour cooking labs and other requirements of the program.  That’s when my motivation kicked in.  I immediately became sure I wanted to pursue a Culinary Arts Degree.  Hey, I might even get a Pastry Arts Degree while I was at it!

The first three weeks of school took their physical toll on me, big time.  I was in good shape when I started, but I wasn’t used to being on my feet cooking for five or six hours at a pop.  I hurt all over.  I started carrying a plastic baggie full of Advil around in the pocket of my chefs’ pants.

And then there was my age. I was older than everyone, including my instructors.  My fellow students avoided me, and I was frequently mistaken for a faculty member.

I hated it.

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Then, around week four, something happened.  I got used to being on my feet for so long. I realized I was really good at professional level cooking.  I stopped caring what people thought of me.  I looked forward to my classes.  I began to think the whole Culinary School thing might work out for me after all!

One thing I never doubted was what type of food I wanted to cook.  I wanted to prepare glorious, adventurous food made from fresh local and seasonal ingredients.  That meant working at an independently owned, fine dining restaurant.

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In Cincinnati, there are many exciting new fine dining restaurants in the Over the Rhine area downtown.  In June, I was lucky to find an apprentice position in one of them.  Thus began my true journey…

That’s enough for tonight, I think.  I hope I’ve left you anxious to hear more!!

I’ve missed you all, and hope you’ve missed me a little too.

More tomorrow….