I did pretty well at the CIA. My GPA put me near the top of my graduating class, and generally, the food I put out seemed to be pretty good.
But I dodged a bullet while I was there: I never did any real line cooking.
Every student works in two of the CIA’s campus restaurants. This means virtually every student will do some line cooking. Line cooking is a skill, something you get trained to do, and a lot of my peers were trained to do it, and do it efficiently. Most of them had some real experience at it anyway, either working in restaurants before they came to school or at their five month externship midway through their studies. I didn’t. I was a prep cook at my externship and, while I was at the two CIA restaurants, I was a prep cook at the first, and prepared the staff meal every day at the second. I didn’t mind; I got decent at butchering chickens and filleting trout, and preparing mass quantities of food that the other students ate before they were line cooks for the evening. I had also decided that my own shining path would lead to cooking privately and doing catering. Catering would be like having a pop-up restaurant every time you did a gig, and cooking privately seemed an idyllic way to cook for a living without the inhuman hours. No getting screamed at. No severe hierarchies. And much better money...
So when I realized I wouldn’t be doing any line cooking, I was a little wistful that a whole skill set was getting away from me, but I figured ultimately, it didn’t matter that much.
But then again, maybe it would. To be a skilled line cook means you have speed and precision on your side. If you have speed and precision, you can do some pretty complex things in a very short amount of time. You can manage many tasks at once, and each one will be performed well. I had gotten infinitely faster than when I first walked into school, but probably not quite fast enough. Nor quite as precise.