Culinary school requires a lot of time, money and pressure, so we asked culinary students for their No. 1 "ah-ha!" moment or takeaway from class so you can benefit from what they learned — without enrolling.
Culinary Student: Larisa Alvarez
School: French Culinary Institute, January 2012
Confession: I think that we live in a very nonstick-pan-driven society, and the household that I grew up in was no exception. I've seen proteins, vegetables, sauces and soups cooked in nonstick pans for as long as I can remember. For a long time, I wondered: Why would anyone use anything else? During my nine months at FCI, we used nonstick pans on two occasions: omelet day and crepe day. Don't get me wrong, there's a time and a place for nonsticks, but in most professional kitchens, they are the exception rather than the rule. My "aha moment" was more of an "aha yearlong process," but I finally learned that I don't need a nonstick; a hot pan and a small amount of fat will keep the majority of my food from sticking. The transition was rough at first, and I still cringe when placing a piece of flaky fish in a normal pan, but the benefits are worth it. I can get a great sear, stick my pans in the oven when necessary, and I am not confined to wooden tools or a certain temperature level. Because, let's be honest: What is cooking if you're never allowed to turn the flame all the way up?
For more on the high-pressure ups and downs of culinary school, tune in to The Freshman Class every Monday at 10:30pm ET