Chef David Nelson's Letter to a 5th Grade Student
I received an email from Nichole, a 5th grade teacher from Texas requesting a professional chef write a letter to one of her students whose "only dream is to be a chef."
Teacher Nicole hoped this letter would motivate her student to work a little harder and get more interested in her schoolwork. She wanted her student to understand the importance of graduating high school as a requirement to getting into culinary school.
The first person I thought of was my friend Chef David Nelson, co-founder of Chef4Students.org, a foundation raising grant money for individuals going to culinary school.
Chef David and I are currently working on a ReluctantGourmet.com grant for Chef4Students in April of 2008 but I will provide more details as we get closer.
Here is the letter Chef David sent to the student:
I received a wonderful note from your 5th grade teacher, Ms. H. She told me that you have a dream to become a great chef some day. That story touched my heart, as I too had a dream to become a chef when I was your age. My Dad passed away when I was a young boy, so I helped my mother cook for my younger brother and sister. At first I thought it was a chore, but then found I really enjoyed cooking. I couldn't wait to help. Cooking as a chef is a very creative and honorable thing to do and it can bring many rewards to you.
I must tell you that while it looks easy to cook at home, cooking as a professional chef requires a lot of hard work and training. You must have good basic skills like the ones you are learning right now in school. You will need good communication skills like you are learning in English class, as you will have to write recipes. You will need to have good basic math skills too, so you can convert a recipe for four up to one hundred or more. And believe it or not, even your understanding of history and other cultures will be important as cooking food professionally is a global skill influenced by chefs from around the world.
One piece of advice I have for you is to study and work hard in school now, as that will teach you discipline and good work ethics. My wish for you is that you graduate high school with good grades so you can then go off to an excellent cooking school to learn all the skills you'll need to become an excellent chef. You will need good grades to do that.
One other thing I will ask you to do. As you help in the kitchen at home, take some notes and write down recipes that you learn. Keep those recipes in a safe place. Ask your family members for recipes of food that they may have prepared for you and keep those too. Some day in the future, you will be able to share those recipes and notes with your own family and show them that if they stay focused and work hard, they too can fulfill their dreams just like you did.
I wish you all the success in the world and happy cooking.
Chef David Nelson
I would like to thank Chef David for taking the time to write this inspirational letter and hope it helps Carol understand the importance of finishing high school. I would also like to thank Teacher Nichole for taking the time to reach out to me for one of her students. I can relate because of a similar experience I encountered in high school, I was fortunate to have a teacher reach out for me resulting in my getting into college.
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.