Sharpening My Mind and My Knives: Culinary School 101

The countdown is on! In less than two weeks, my first semester of culinary school will be behind me. I haven’t written about school since Week 2, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share a little of what I’ve been up to, along with a few pictures from the kitchen and our garden. I’m having so much fun and learning more every day. 

My classmates and I weeding early in the morning.
My classmates and I weeding early in the morning. Nice face, Mary.

On some days, rather than beginning class with a lecture, we start the day in the garden at 8 a.m. weeding and checking on the plants. We grow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh herbs, all of which we harvest and cook with in the kitchen. In Savannah, Georgia during June and July (the heart of summertime), it gets real HOT, real quick, so I’m really thankful my professor allows us to dress in common clothes and not our long sleeve uniforms.

Taylor and Johnnie working to make our garden prettier!
Taylor and Johnnie working to make our garden prettier!

Back in the kitchen, I’ve been gaining some mad knife skills! Rule #1: Always keep your knives sharp. The tourne, a French word literally meaning “turn” has been the hardest classic knife cut to perfect. It has seven sides, flat ends and must be 3/4 inch in diameter and 2-inches long. We have a special knife just for this purpose. After going through a few 5-pound bags of potatoes, I think I’m getting the hang of it. RIP Russets. The tourne is an oblong-shaped cut for vegetables such as carrots, potatoes or squash that provides a distinctive and consistent appearance to the food item being served.

At left, the model of a tourne, at right, my practice cut. Getting there!
At left, the model of a tourne. At right, my practice cut. Getting there!

Here’s what the kitchen looks like. I’m still learning my way around. There are times I feel like a lost puppy, but we’re all lost puppies together. As we move through the ranks, it will be fun to look back on these times.

My classmates get hands-on experience practicing classic knife cuts.
My classmates getting hands-on experience, practicing classic knife cuts.

There are several knife cuts we must be able to execute–we have to know the dimensions of each one and its name. Thankfully, we have model kits to practice with, but come test time, bye bye model.

The fruit of my labor.
The fruit of my labor. From left: Pairing knife, tourne knife and chef’s knife.

These are the knife cuts I produced in class. You can see my steady progression on the tournes. Some are too skinny; some are too fat; some aren’t tapered on the ends. They all need a little finessing. Practice makes perfect! The middle, curved knife is my tourne knife. It’s pretty cool though that these shapes all begin as a potato. Wish me luck on my knife skills test this Friday!

After using the kitchen, we clean. And by clean I mean, thoroughly clean and sanitize EVERYTHING. I’ve learned what scrubbing the deck means–mopping, using a squeegie and dry mopping. We move the tables in and out and wash, dry and put everything back in its place. Mise en place is a term I hear often as a student of culinary arts. It refers to the set up required before cooking. It’s all about organizing and arranging your station and work space to ensure efficiency. The term literally translates “everything in its place.” In other words, have yourself and your tools in order at all times.

Cleaning the kitchen is intense. There’s no standing around. Everyone has a task and we’re always doing something–whether it’s drying and putting away the dishes, taking out the trash, mopping, folding hand towels or wiping down the tables. Rule #2: Do not stand around with your hands in your pockets. Typically, either the Chef Instructor or a designated sous-chef will holler out orders, constantly providing direction on what needs to be done next. It’s loud, exciting, constantly moving and fast-paced.

Next semester, I’ll really get to roll up my sleeves and get my apron dirty. I’m taking Principles of Cooking in addition to Principles of Baking and I can hardly wait. We’ll have a three-week break between semesters, so come August, I’ll keep you posted on my progress. If you’d like to keep up with my culinary school journey, be sure to follow this blog and connect with me on social media. You can also check out my food column, which runs every other week in the Lifestyles section of the Statesboro Herald. It’s going to be fun, y’all!

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Rebekah-3Let’s work together! Email me

Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC TV’s “The Taste,” she is the Statesboro Herald food columnist and past host of the program “Statesboro Cooks.” Lingenfelser is a student at the award-winning Culinary Institute of Savannah. To learn more, visit or connect with Rebekah on social media by following Some Kinda Good on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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