As we mentioned yesterday, the results of our contest “How did the Natural Gourmet Institute change your life?” are in! Meet our second winner, Carolyn Gilles, who graduated from our Chef’s Training Program in 2005. It’s an inspirational and heartwarming story . . .
In 2004, I was living in Savannah, Georgia and had begun to cook for clients and parties. I felt I had finally found something I was interested in enough to start a career. (Until that point, I had collected a lot of “jobs.”) Being vegetarian at the time, I had zero interest in learning to cook meat, so upon searching for a culinary school, my primary criteria was that it be vegetarian (at least mostly). Much to my surprise, I found the Natural Gourmet Institute via Google. I researched the school, got a few recommendations, and took the biggest and most rewarding leap of my life to that point.
I blindly rented an apartment in Murray Hill that was available for the exact 4 months I needed it with an unknown roommate, signed up for the Chef’s Training Program, and was on my way in only a matter of a couple months. (Ya gotta follow your gut!) My program (CTP 119) started on February 1, 2005. I was 24 years old and excited about everything the world had to offer: I was truly soaking it all up.
The instructors and fellow students made the Natural Gourmet everything amazing that it was for me. The support and general sense of care was evident in every classroom and office. I never felt intimidated or scared, only supported and encouraged to try new things and push myself to grow and learn. Being a young woman, alone in a new city, I also really appreciated the weekend field trips some of the instructors would organize. It was a safe way to get to know the city and all it had to offer.
I came to the school thinking I knew healthy food . . . and that was turned upside down. I learned more than I had ever known about industrial agriculture and Annemarie Colbin’s wisdom shared in “Food and Healing.” I remember the excitement of learning all of this new information and knowing very clearly that my life would never be the same.
After graduation, I was not ready to go back to my life in Savannah. Not only did I know I had more to experience and learn in NYC, I had fallen in love with one of my CTP cohorts, Schot Hannan. We lived in Brooklyn together for 4 years after the program and in 2009 we moved to my home state of Kentucky, where he could attend medical school and get a taste of life as I knew it . . . a little bit slower paced.
With Schot finishing up his 3rd year at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine hoping to pursue a career in endocrinology and pediatrics (addressing childhood obesity), we recently got engaged and hope to be married later this year. In May 2011, I opened a small teaching kitchen here in Lexington, KY called The Wholesome Chef. I am teaching average everyday people here what real food is and how to prepare it. It is the most rewarding career I could have imagined for myself, and every day I am grateful for the experience I had at NGI and in NYC in general. Perhaps someday Schot and I will be business partners, treating his patients with good food and teaching them the skills they need to empower positive change in their own lives.
Should Schot and I find our wedding happening in New York, I’ve always dreamed of buying all the FND seats and having our rehearsal dinner there . . . back to the place that brought us together and changed our lives for the better!