05/07/2012 12:05 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2012

The Beginning of the End, Part 9: Have You Ever Dreamed of Going To Culinary School?

With our next post, this culinary journey will come to an end. I've met some truly inspiring people along the way, and I'd like to take this time to tell you about them.

Dorothy Cann Hamilton, an entrepreneur who passionately believes in culinary excellence across the globe, founded the International Culinary Center in 1984. She has launched more than 22,000 careers, including many of America's most prominent chefs. She has also served as Chairman of the Board of the James Beard Foundation and is considered one of the leading forces shaping the American culinary landscape today. She is a true visionary, and the school she founded is a reflection of that spirit.

Back in high school, I stumbled upon Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged. This book started my love affair with reading and the universal power of writing. In the novel, John Galt delivers the author's extraordinary philosophy for living on earth -- a philosophy I felt to be very much alive at The International Culinary Center: "The concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." Rand may have been controversial, but her character's philosophy has been my companion for much of my adult life.

I was struck by the passion of each chef I encountered and the heart and soul of the student body as a collective. I wasn't surprised when Chef Candy Argondizza was named best cooking instructor by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. I always felt she was cheering me on from the sidelines, in cooking and writing.

In my class, the Serious Amateur Series, Chef Ray effectively taught to varying culinary levels of skill and independently pushed each of us to find our personal best. I was blown away by the class. The pictures that follow are of my dishes, and I do feel I can now cook restaurant quality food in the comfort of my home for family and friends. He definitely helped me reach my personal best in the kitchen and on paper.

PHOTOS: Culinary School In Pictures

The Beginning Of The End Of My Culinary School Adventures

The level of professionalism, the state of the art facility and top shelf ingredients also speak to this philosophy of productive achievement at The International Culinary Institute. The organization strives for perfection. In this tech-driven age, when everyone is plugged in 24 hours a day, we risk burn out and seem to be losing sight of the most basic human connection. The art of talking, listening and learning is very much alive here.

As for me, I guess it's time to say Au Revoir, at least for now. I've made 84 recipes and spent over 100 hours in the kitchen in five and a half weeks. I did it against my better judgment -- and at the risk of my marriage (Con Ed turned my electricity off twice), my children's well-being and in the face of turning 40... but I did it! I'd like to think it's a success for over-committed women everywhere who juggle the roles of wife, mother, daughter and friend; for every woman who has ever dared to dream of squeezing in a personal dream or two.
It certainly was the most difficult, boldest... even badass thing I've ever done.

On the evening of my last class, I walked through the school, emotions swirling like they were in a blender. I stumbled upon a structure made of pulled and blown sugar put together by the evening Pastry level III class. A colorful roller coaster reaching up to the heavens with beautiful balloons in red, green, yellow and blue. A Ferris Wheel with red and white chairs like peppermint candy and a sign that read "Sugar High."

And as I walked out into the crisp night air, I couldn't help but think about my time spent at the International Culinary Center and all of the memories I made there. This feeling of accomplishment has given me a "Sugar High" that will last a lifetime.

We want to thank Camilla Schmidt for understanding our vision as well as Agnes Hansdorfer for helping us coordinate the day to day. I also want to thank my best friend and partner on our website, dishinoutbeauty, for the years of love and endless support and the courage to tell her story (or parts of it) about dealing with life, love, divorce and children. To Becky Berowski for keeping the site running with her awesome writing and my mother and father, cheerleaders, food stylist, babysitter and editors at large. A special thank you to Arianna Huffington for believing everyone has a story and giving us all a place we can go to tell it.

Most importantly, to my husband, Jon, my very own John Galt, who I hope will follow his own dream of going to culinary school one day.

Tune in Thursday for Cyrano and to learn the fate of Lisa's date. For more posts from Heidi Brod on culinary school, click here.

Heidi Brod and Lisa Stolov have a daily newsletter/website that focuses on health and beauty from the inside out.