10/16/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The First Five Things You Learn at Culinary School

1) A chef's uniform may not be the most flattering attire, but it's practical: Black-and-white checked pants with an elastic waistband make me look like a pear dressed up for Halloween as a picnic table, but they're durable. I wear a skull-cap, of sorts (one more thing Snoop and this Jewish girl have in common), and it keeps my hair safe. But what's with the neckerchief? I asked the instructor. He responded, "To keep your neck sweat out of the food." Yech. My neck sweat? Has sweat been pouring off of my neck into every meal I've ever cooked for unwitting friends and family? I vow to wear a neckerchief whenever cooking and advise everyone reading this to do so as well.

2) Eating in a restaurant is phenomenally dangerous: We swiftly ran through all of the viruses and bacteria that we open our bodies to upon walking into a restaurant. My favorite? Shigella. Look at those first three letters. Yes, ladies and germs (pun intended), Shigella is a bacteria caused by human feces. You get Shigella, you've eaten shit. Literally. From 2000-2004, Shigella caused two of the top ten largest food illness outbreaks reported to the CDC. I found this information on, an extensive blog published by Marler Clark, LLP, a law firm filled with Shigella lawyers and attorneys. (Ok, I'm going to say it: their jobs are really shitty.) You can link to from this site, and from there read a posting entitled "celebrity barf." Ah, the beauty of the internet.

3) A French accent is key to sounding like a professional: There's the rondeau, the sauteuse, the chinois, the brunoise, every pot, pan, slice, dice, technique, and procedure has a specific name, and when my instructor speaks quickly, stringing these words together, he appears some sort of a culinary God. This holy halo disappears every time he refers to the sponge as "le scrubby."

4) No towel snapping, but man, can chefs talk smack in the locker room: I was diligently tying on my neckerchief nice n' tight, to avert a sudden outpouring of neck sweat, when a bunch of students from an advanced class walked into the locker room, mid-conversation. "Can you believe that girl?" I heard one say. "First, she tosses a clove of garlic in the garbage" (one student sitting next to me shook her head in disbelief and muttered "Jesus. H. Christ") "and then, she tries to rehydrate her vegetables... ok, are you with me?" (vigorous nodding from everyone else)..."she tries to rehydrate them with olive oil." (Shrieks and screams all around.) Blasphemy.

5) I am a hazard to myself in the kitchen: I've been told that you can tell a lot from the way a person chops. Headstrong individuals wail away at an onion, while calmer people are more precise. I was the first person to cut myself in class. How? I sliced my knuckle open when taking the knife out of the knife kit. Shortly thereafter, while listening to my instructor tell us about various cut and burn injuries he has seen, I nearly fainted and had to excuse myself to sit on the floor of the women's room with my head between my knees. I leave it to you to determine what this says about me.