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One Millenial Speaks Out: Why I'm Enrolling in Culinary School

Posted: 08/27/08 01:22 AM ET

I am a Millennial, born between 1980 and 1994, and therefore, according to a conspiracy of journalists, sociologists and assorted pundits, a spoiled, overachieving, techno-centric brat.

So to fly in the face of all that, I'm enrolling in culinary school.

Let's pull back a moment. I've been trying to place my decision to enroll in professional culinary school (though I have ambitions neither to be a professional chef nor open up my own restaurant) in some useful, redemptive context. I love cooking, worked my way through Jamie Oliver's books (and still have no idea what a "nob" of butter is), worship Ruth Reichl, and find myself somehow counter-intuitively glued to the Food Network while at the gym. (I maintain that I gain calories while watching Paula Deen as I run.) But why not take an amateur class, save the money and time, and cook for fun on the side?

I chanced upon an article about me and my fellow Millennials right after I'd impulsively enrolled at culinary school, and there was the answer, screaming at me from the print. I'm ambivalent about being part of generation Y," the "Echo boomers," the "Internet generation."

More to the point, as a Millennial, I'm also an outlier. Let's take our traits, one at a time.

1) Millennials feel indispensable, and act like it. The only time I would ever, conceivably, feel indispensable is if someone desperately needed a quick exposition of how the New Yorker developed into a political paper during the Depression (the topic of my senior thesis). And if this happened, I would feel absurd, not indispensable.

2) Millennials are coddled. A lot of the literature on my generation singles out
our "helicopter parents" who hover over us and make sure we're as pampered as can be. (Though I'm not sure this is specific to our generation. Cavemen parents hovered over their children, too. It's what parents do.) We always get a part in the school play, and however horribly we perform, are told how spectacular we were. I have never gotten a trophy. I played piano for a few years (my only "scheduled" extra-curricular activity), and joined the jazz band in high school to fulfill my arts requirement. The band included one boy who could only play a low G on the slide trombone, so the charts had to be rewritten before each class. My parents dutifully came to each performance, but giggled about the "barnyard band" as we walked home.

3) Millennials are tech-savvy. We are the "internet generation," born with a silver iPod in our collective ear, immersed in gadgetry and technology, the generation that communicates through email rather than risk a face-to-face encounter, that navigates the Web with ease, that receives its news online. We have enormous social networks, but no real friends. I own an iPod and joined Facebook, but still yearn to slow the rapid influx of information streaming in at me through websites, televisions, etc., so read as many articles as possible in hard print. I enjoy getting my fingers dirty on the New York Times.

And as for my ease navigating the techno-sphere, I'd say I'm a far cry from Mark Zuckerberg, the techno-wunderkind of the Millennials. A few months ago, on a job hunt, I joined "LinkedIn," an online job-networking tool. I signed up, created my profile, and clicked a button that said "Connect with your friends!" Within seconds, I had sent out the message "Hi! I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn!" to everyone I'd ever emailed. Ever. This meant not only my friends received this email, but also my ex-boyfriend, three old college professors, two people who had recently rejected me for jobs, and forty people I had never heard of. I routinely call the USB cable the "UBS cable" and when my computer refuses to connect to wireless, I nonchalantly try to hold it higher, up towards the ceiling. I feel this will make a difference.

So I find myself wanting to run away from this tech-savvy world where people sit at computers in their offices and communicate with others, three feet away, through G-chat. I need a real world, not a virtual one. (Yes, I write this in the form of a blog, but this seems inescapable in today's age. And sue me. As a Millennial, I'm apparently also quite adaptable.) I need to burn my fingers and cut myself and slice off chunks of skin while braising a lamb chop. I want to be scarred from a hot skillet, not from carpal tunnel syndrome. I need to be screamed at by a mad chef because I didn't chop my onion perfectly, not told that my Excel layout is lacking. I want to say ta-ta to my high-falutin' education, to the fundamental differences between Foucault and Habermas, and produce something that will satisfy the most basic of all human needs: a roast chicken and a side of truffle mashed potatoes. And most of all, I want to avoid the fate of my peers who have rushed off to Wall Street in these bleak economic times, only to be turned away. No one will ever turn away a roast chicken and a side of truffle mashed.

So join me as I track my way through the next months. I promise you disasters, loonies, hilarity, and if you're a devoted reader who occasionally responds, a perfectly made soufflé by school's end, in June.

It takes a lot of energy to stay an outlier. At least I know that if this decision doesn't work out, my parents will still tell me how precious I am.