October 31, 2014

Finishing Strong in Culinary School

By: Ryan Hodros, Culinary Arts Student

There’s a debate in my head that’s been going on for years as to whether or not my time playing football in high school was well spent.  On the one hand, I now have issues with my shoulders, knees, and ankles, not to mention the head injuries sustained in a sport where you’re basically encouraged to use your skull as a bludgeon for hours every day.  But on the other, the lessons learned while in football—teamwork, determination, follow-through, mental and physical toughness—have all served me well since I graduated high school and left the gridiron.  Still, when I get out of bed on a cold day and my shoulder seizes up on me, it’s hard to tell myself that it’s all worth it.

Finishing strong

But during times like this, with the Culinary Arts program winding down and our culmination dinner looming close on the horizon, it’s hard to argue that one lesson I learned in football wasn’t worth all the pain, aggravation, and heartache, and that’s “finish strong.”

This was one of Coach Phillips’ mantras.  We’d be out doing 100 yard interval runs in the rain, or pushups in sweltering summer head, and he would be shouting at us:  “Don’t limp across that finish line!  The finish line should be afraid of you!  Finish strong!”  At the time, I hated it when he said these kinds of things.  My muscles would be aching, my lungs would be burning, and my back would be crying out (because all that football gear weighs about twenty pounds) and he wanted me to work harder?  That’s nuts!

This past year has been a tough one.  Since April, I’ve been writing an article per week for 303 Magazine, which includes interviews, research, and photography sessions, all of which really eat into your week.  I’ve also been writing for this blog twice per week, which is a lot of fun, but also takes up precious time in a schedule that’s already pretty packed.  Add to that the 30+ hours of culinary school every week and the normal chores associated with living on your own (no living in squalor like in college when you’re 32 and married), and the amount of relaxation time I had was fairly limited.

Finishing strong2

However, I can see daylight at the end of the tunnel!  My externship is set up and waiting for me on the 10th, and my grades haven’t suffered that much because of my hectic schedule.  Class time is nearly complete.  All of the hard work of the past year is about to pay off.

But let me tell you, it is seriously tempting to start limping.  There’s only a week left, surely it wouldn’t hurt my grades too much if I skipped a day.  After all, I’ve been working hard, I deserve it.  Just take a hooky day to play some video games, read a little, and enjoy my time before diving into a new career.  What would that hurt?

Then I hear Coach  Phillips’ voice in the back of my head:  “Finish strong Hodros!  Don’t you slow up til you cross that finish line!  You’re better than that!  Finish strong!”  It sends shivers down my spine, but it is good advice to this day.  I won’t be skipping.  I won’t be slowing down.  The finish line is afraid of me.

Because the fact of the matter is, this “finish line” is only in my head.  The work won’t stop just because I’m graduating.  It’s still going to be long hours at work, long hours writing this blog, long hours working on my book, doing chores, and just being alive in the 21st century—there’s always a ton to do, and if I don’t do it, it won’t get done.

Finishing strong3

I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way, and if you’re reading this blog and considering going to culinary school to try your hand at one of the toughest job fields there is, you wouldn’t either.  We enjoy the challenge of blasting through a shift where the customers just keep coming.  We like it when our back’s to the wall and we have to figure out a way to get it done.  We enjoy the struggle because it makes the triumph all the sweeter.

After all, nobody writes biographies of people who sit around playing video games all day.  Nobody looks up to someone who lives a life of leisure.  Who, as a child, dreamt of growing up to be some guy who does just enough to get by?

This all sounds nice in writing, but when you get out there and are neck deep in the struggle, it is tough to keep going, particularly when it seems like there’s no end.  But the triumphs are there.  I can’t wait to hear what people think of our culmination dinner.  I’m looking forward to Chef Eric’s critique.  I’m eager to start my new career.  I can’t wait for the next challenge.

I want to finish strong.

Finishing strong