May 2, 2014

Intimidation

By: Ryan Hodros, Pastry and Culinary Arts Student

We all have things we’re inherently intimidated by.  Not necessarily afraid of in the way that we’re afraid of the dark, or heights, or spiders, or whatever else people might be afraid of.  But things where, given the choice, we’d rather avoid them, but we can’t.  For me in the kitchen, that’s the deep fryer.

I don’t know exactly why I’m so hesitant to use the fryer.  Maybe it’s because of all the news reports I’ve read about how the deep frying food (while delicious) is unhealthy.  Maybe it’s because I’ve gone out of my way to learn so many different ways to fry, sauté, sear, or otherwise prepare food in ways to avoid deep frying.

Or maybe it’s because a vat of 350 degree oil is just inherently scary?  It’s hard to say really.

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I bring this up because today and tomorrow are the point in our curriculum where we learn to use the deep fryer, and I’m going to go out of my way to use it on one of those two days.  Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn, pig-headed, and a glutton for punishment, but I have a tendency to look at something that intimidates me and say “I’m not going to be afraid today.”

It’s a terrible thing to live in fear.  We’ve all done it, and it’s always so much easier to live safely.  It’s easier to stick with a job you don’t like because it’s guaranteed money.  It’s easier to pick a job field that’s in high demand because other fields might mean a harder life.  It’s not as intimidating to stay out of harm’s way, lay back, take it easy, and wait until someone else does it first.

If I sound a little more confrontational in this entry than I usually do, it’s because I’m more than a little jacked up on adrenaline this morning.  I’m going to be on pins and needles all day, until we sit down for sensory analysis and the fry oil is back to a safe temperature.  And before anyone points it out, yes, I’ve already used the deep fryer to make donuts back in pastry class.  But it’s still intimidating, and it probably always will be.

I decided a long time ago that I was going to walk a harder road than most.  I spent 19 years in Springfield, Ohio (not the Springfield you’re thinking of—a smaller Springfield that isn’t on most maps) playing it safe.  Doing what I was told, and waiting for life to happen to me.  This continued into college, where I attended a school that was a little over an hour’s drive away from my parents’ house.  I made friends and met people, but aside from reading and studying, my life consisted primarily of waiting.

My junior year, I started working for a YMCA summer camp on the urging of my friend Lauren, and it changed my life.  Up to that point, it was the single most intimidating, difficult thing I had ever done.  Surrounded by strangers (which is still terrifying), most of which were not from the United States, and in charge of a cabin full of wild, shrieking children, I was the proverbial wide-eyed mouse.  Locked into a responsibility, I eventually powered past this challenge and was a better person for it.   I settled back into college life and started waiting again, but now I was wildly unhappy with it.

I was eager for more.  It was in this year that I decided to become a professional writer someday.  I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know how, but it was going to happen one way or another, no matter the consequences.  I dropped my education degree and took up a degree in religious studies because I wanted inspiration, which I achieved almost entirely in my senior year.

After two more summers at the YMCA, this time in Southern California, because I wanted to gain travel experience, and in my head, California was as far away as one can travel from Ohio.  One of these summers, our camp was almost destroyed by a forest fire, and I decided it was time to gain even more experience and joined the Navy.  In the time I worked as a sailor, I’ve seen much of the country, including Hawaii, and spent a month in Beijing as an exchange student.  I’ve given presentations to high ranking officers and had my work read by presidents.

Talk about intimidation.

I’m not talking about all this because I want to brag.  Every single person has the potential to do significantly better than I’ve done in the past three decades.  I only mention it because if I had let intimidation rule my life, I would’ve never done any of these things.  I would still be rotting away, waiting for life to happen to me.  I would’ve never met my wife Tressa, who is easily the best thing in my life.

Intimidation2

I’m not usually one for inspirational essays.  I personally think that inspiration has to come from within, and the purpose of the inspirational is to help people recognize that it’s there rather than create it from nothing.

But if you’re on this website thinking about attending Auguste Escoffier, you have that splinter in your mind.  You want to do something most don’t.  You have something in you that you want to let out, but maybe intimidation is preventing you from doing so.  Maybe there are voices telling you it’s a bad idea.  Maybe they’re saying the industry isn’t in the right place.  Maybe you don’t think you can hack it.  Maybe you’re just afraid of the unknown.  Trust me, I’m familiar with all of them and more.  Sometimes, these things are so intimidating that you feel ill and just want to lie in bed all day long.

But if you truly do have that inspiration inside of you, it’s worth confronting.  Trust me.