When Things Come Full Circle: Finding My Culinary Path Posted December 20, 2017 Celine Beitchman, NGI Chef Instructor & Director of Nutrition Education City-As-School (CAS) figured prominently in my career. I was always an independent student who loved learning, but I had a passion for the kitchen at a very early age that I wasn’t sure how to feed. I had worked in summer employment programs which gave me the confidence to seek out and apply for jobs throughout my early high school years, but aside from peeling pounds of shrimp in a catering company near my home, I couldn’t get more than a foot in a professional kitchen. Chefs wouldn’t take me seriously. Everyone kept telling me I was too young. Someone in my circle of friends told me about CAS, how they were taking classes at the New School for actual college credits and interning in an actual professional environment. So, as I approached my last year of high school, having completed all of my required high school credits, I opted not to enroll in AP classes and stay put, but instead transferred to CAS. It was, by far, the best decision I ever made. Over that year, I took four college-level classes at the New School, and apprenticed in two of the kitchens that would help shape my whole life. The first was at Chef Thomas Keller’s high-end restaurant Rakel’s, and the other was with Dr. Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D, at a small culinary school she had started called The Natural Gourmet Cookery. I was acknowledged, given responsibility, and treated like the adult I was burning to become. I was also able to get a real taste for the cooking business and build my first resume with two major players at opposite ends of the culinary scene. Fast forward some thirty years later, so many apprenticeships, internships, and jobs under my belt, and only a few credits shy of a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition, I’m now proud to say that I’m a full-time faculty member and the Director of Nutrition Education at the Natural Gourmet Institute (formerly Natural Gourmet Cookery) right where it all began. I often remind my students that as cooks, we stand on the shoulders of giants. That our work is a testament to the paths that have been well-worn by our mentors – whether we have been lucky enough to be in their presence or not. And, that as we bloom into our careers to be aware of our own role in helping to shape the next generation. Be an inspiration to others, culinary is cumulative, I say. For me it all started to take form thanks to CAS.