Some questions and answers about cooking

Folks have written asking some questions about how I'm making the transition from geek to chef, and rather than reply individually, I thought I'd do a little public Q & A to share with all.

I am curious what steps you took to make the change. You're cooking in the kitchen of a good restaurant?
When I first arrived on Nantucket I met the owners of Fifty-Six Union through my aunt. Over the course of the summer, I talked with them about my interest in cooking and spent some time hostessing during August. Peter, the chef, recommended that before I head to culinary school, I spend six months working in a kitchen to see if I really wanted to do it. So I asked him if I could work in his kitchen, and he generously said yes. And yes, Fifty-Six is a good restaurant, and Peter is a graduate of the CIA.

[H]aving spent my formative years slaving away in a hot kitchen for my parents' Chinese takeaway, I can't imagine what on earth you like about it!
I like the energy of the kitchen, of being on my feet and being active. I love the way I get consumed in what I'm doing, almost lost. Last night I looked at the clock and it was 7 PM, a little while later (it seemed) I checked again and it was nearly 10! I'd just been in the moment, making salads and apps and desserts. I love the short life-cycle of a kitchen day. Unlike a software project that takes weeks to months to years (to even never!) to complete, in the kitchen the order comes in, you prepare it, and it's gone. By the end of the night, the "project" is over and the battle is won. I love the satisfaction of making something people enjoy. I made an apple tarte tatin for last night's dessert special. I plated an order and thirty minutes later, the server told me, "They loved the apple tart and were raving!" I love doing lots of things at once and figuring out the most efficient way to do it, and I love to be under pressure and make it all happen and get it right. I love sending out a perfect plate.

I just wanted to ask how you got into cooking.. did you need to take any formal training, or was it primarily on the job? did you take a pay cut?
I've always loved cooking and baking, ever since I was little. During college I always had food service jobs (made ice cream, worked in a pie shop on Cape Cod, etc.) and learned some skills there. And I've just been a passionate home cook, reading and learning as much as I could from doing and watching Iron Chef and other cooking programs. I've realized that I knew more than I thought and also that I have a long way to go. And yes, I took a pay cut. Cooks with no professional experience do not make the same salary as software engineering managers with 10 years experience.

If you have further questions, feel free to write! Obviously I have less time for posting than in the past, but I'll try. And soon too, a post about my first impressions…