Very, very well done and congratulations. Now don`t take this the wrong way - but- going to cooking school when one is over 30 takes immense courage and I am in awe of that.
Remember that this board is a two way process - many may ask you questions from which you will learn as you THINK about the question and discover the answers either through research or practise. Equally, whilst you are at - now - you see I don`t like the term cookery school, I prefer to think of you as a "chef in training", remember to ask us questions.
Training can be a competitive business and having a sounding board for ideas which you may have to present/complete in the kitchen can be a good thing. The only problem is that everyone else on your course may be doing the same thing. Still, when I lectured in food, one of the first things I did was to get each student 16-20 in a class to make the same dish to exactly the same recipe. Yes, you`ve guessed it - at the end of the session there were 16- 20 dishes made to the same recipe but each tasted different. My favourite dish for this exercise was to make each student cook mince/ground beef. Now, I suppose a modern equivalent would be to give 16 students the same recipe for making a Ragout Bolognese or a Tarte Tatin.
The thing that I could guarantee is that I got 16/20 different dishes. There would be those who couldn`t control the heat, didn`t know what to do and wouldn`t ask so the dish had burnt brown flecks in it - make sure you are not one of those! There would be a couple or three who would not taste as they cooked so showed a reluctance to appreciate how important it is to taste a dish as it cooks/develops and this resulted in the insipid (ugh) (dishwater) or inedible because it was too highly seasoned, e.g., salt with mince/ground beef - taste is a balance of flavours. Every now and then, there would be a student who had a natural flair, tasted, checked and moved on or asked a question becuase s/he wanted to learn. At the end of the day there would be 4-5 dishes that were edible - I made sure no-one knew whose was which. No student should be ridiculed at this, or indeed at any stage of their learning.
Tracy, I do wish you well and I`m also deeply envious. I would love to go back to school. At the same time, I believe there are three principles to learning how to be a chef and these must be repeated every day as your mantra:
Practise - do it;
Record - keep notes;
Reflect - think about what worked, what did not work, how it might be improved;
Practise - do it - check out the improvements;
Record - keep notes;
Reflect - think about what worked etc.,
Tracy, good luck, I do think you are brave and keep in touch,