Around the second quarter of 2006, I began looking into culinary schools in the area. By that time, I was living in Hicksville, Long Island, New York. It was tricky, simply because the schools I had contacted before landing at the Culinary Academy of Long Island (CALI), required that I must work with pork and alcohol as part of the syllabus. This was a complete no-no as my religion forbade working, and associating with, these two items, let alone handling them or cooking with them even if consumption was not necessary.
CALI however, were very accommodating. The moment they agreed that using the above two ingredients was not necessary (and they understood some restrictions that many others have had before), I decided to go ahead and enroll. I have never regretted it ever since. Classes were held 5 times a week, 6 hours a day, for several months, culminating with 3 months of internship, ending with the final process of creating a menu, inviting family and friends, executing a full service in a mock restaurant setting, and orchestrating the entire process from prep to cooking, service to clean up. By August of 2008, I was an official graduate of the Culinary Academy - something I never dreamed of - having passed with flying colors, and well on my way to explore this amazing, exciting, and wonderful world of food. (It is sad to note that the CALI finally closed its doors in November of 2016, after 37 years in existence!)
Interestingly enough, my friends were quite fascinated with a culinary school graduate among them, for it was unique within our community for anyone to take that route. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants, and even journalism were mainstream career paths - but being a trained chef was entirely different.
And finally, the journey began.