Culinary School | Day One

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Culinary School

Day One

Today marks a new season for my family and I:

After ten years, and swearing I'd never return to school, I will be walking back into a college classroom this morning. This story is a fun, whirlwind one and since I've had a few requests from friends to share my journey publicly, here it goes. :)

About three months ago, Tommy and I returned from a week long, ten year anniversary trip to Chicago, where we spent the week indulging in more ways than one (but most notably for this blog post, food). I was feeling ready for a change -- something in my life had to change.

For as long as I can remember, I have battled with food, diet, and healthy lifestyle choices. I've chronicled a little of it here in the past (anyone remember my failed Paleo challenge? Oh, I do!) and if you've been reading my blog since 2014, wow, thank you!

I've never enjoyed exercise, always had an addiction to sugar, and I constantly wavered in between "This is just how I'm made, I need to be at peace with it," and "Get it together, Liz. You're killing yourself."

So - when I was feeling ready for a change, part of me thought that it didn't matter what I did, I would certainly end up back at square one. I mean, any other pervious attempts I've made to "be healthier" have all dwindled. Why would this be any different?

I was texting with my friend Allison, whom I had been observing participate in a 10-day Shred challenge on a monthly basis for over a year. I knew there was another Shred coming up (because she so patiently invited me on the regular to join her) and I decided on a whim to go for it.

I mean, we can do anything for ten days, right?

If anything, this could help give me that reset I so desperately needed after a long, indulgent vacation.

So, the Shred10 started on a Wednesday (June 6th, 2018). The night before, I prepped my kitchen by putting away my Keurig, setting out my smoothie machine and electric kettle (for herbal tea), and finally sharing on social media that This. Was. Happening.


I'll spare you all the details, as the next 10 days were honestly a very spiritual journey for me... but the decision to jump in on the Shred was a catalyst for me. I had motivation like never before to stick to a new (even if temporary) lifestyle... this was actually happening and I was actually succeeding.


On Day 4, I packed the girls up for a trip to Charlottesville (about an hour away) for a Family Day Picnic with Tommy's work. Any other time in my life, this sort of event would've warranted a "cheat day" on a challenge, but not this time. I packed a lunch, snacks and drinks for myself so I could complete the Shred as well as possible.

Who am I? This is so out of character for me.

By Day 5, I decided I would be giving up coffee for the rest of my life (or until I felt led to bring it back into my life). Recognizing it as a trigger for me (with all the cream and sugar I use!), I realized it needed to go if I was being real about changing my life.

On Day 6, I was meal prepping for the week ahead while my family watched Master Chef Junior and I thought to myself "I wish I knew how to cook well. It could change everything for me and my family." Let me make it clear that my mama TRIED to teach me how to cook. She is a fabulous cook and knows a lot about food - but I used to say "can I just do the dishes, instead?" Ha. (She's thrilled for me that I'm finally going to learn!)

On Day 7, unbeknownst to me, I had a local Culinary School graduate in my studio for a fun photo project. By the end of our time together, she had given me the scoop on where she attended classes (spoiler alert: CVCC!) and what all she learned.

By the end of that same day, I had researched, budgeted, and inquired with Tommy about possibly attending Culinary School myself. After his enthusiastic approval (he said, and I quote, "Culinary is an art - you are an artist - I think this would be really great for you."), I enrolled into two classes the morning of Wednesday, June 13th (Day 8 of the Shred).

What. Was. Happening?!

I completed the Shred with success... felt great... and overall, it seemed like such an out-of-body experience. I think the last time I really finished (without cheating) a diet challenge was 11 years ago when I did my first 3-day Juice Fast with my sister. It was so empowering to recognize that I could take control over what I put in my body and I continue to long for more self-discipline in my life. I plan to continue participating in monthly 10-day Shred Challenges indefinitely to help me grow in this area of self-discipline and to give myself a regular reset. In fact, I'm starting another one today!

While all of this was going on, I had also started attending a brand new gym in town. I can't really explain what it is exactly about the gym, except that it works for me. I crave the workouts. I love the coaches. And honestly, I think the music is really what makes it all click for me! Ha! It's just really FUN - even on the days I am feeling kind of crappy. I know that no matter what, I can show up, put in half the effort (if I'm feeling tired or run down), and still be leaps and bounds ahead of where I was three months ago. All I have to do is show up - and I am always so glad I did.

Back to Culinary School.

This morning I begin classes at our local community college which boasts a $2.5M kitchen and two program options: one year Certificate Program (what I am currently pursuing) and a two year Associate's Degree. I will be taking two classes per semester, to finish out the one year program in the summer of 2020.

I have no intentions of pursing a culinary career. I'm doing this for myself and for my family. I know I could learn how to cook from an online class or by reading some books, but honestly, if I took that approach I probably would never learn. I need and crave the in-person accountability and coaching that comes with college courses. Plus... I mean... that kitchen!!! I am SO excited about that kitchen! :)

But most of all - I am really looking forward to providing my family with delicious, healthy meals that help set us up for wellness success. In addition, now that my girls are obsessed with kid's cooking shows on TV, they are also eager to get in the kitchen and learn how to make their own delicious meals. I look forward to creating a lot of memories with them in that space. This truly was a family-centered decision and I am really grateful that it can be beneficial for each one of us!

Oh - and if you are wondering where I am going to get all of this time to fit a new project into my life (I mean, I was wondering, ha!), both of my girls start school today as well - five days a week, full-day programs. This is the first time, since having children, that I will have so many hours in a week to myself! 

So... here we go! It's 5:30AM and I'm about to hit publish on this post and begin a new chapter in my life! My first class is this morning at 9AM. I am so... very... excited! 

Liz Cook

Liz Cook is a wedding, birth, and motherhood photographer based in Central Virginia. Her intuition and creative perspective allow her to connect both professionally and personally with her subjects, and thus, her portfolio is saturated with authentic emotion. Whether she's sharing her story with fellow entrepreneurs or enjoying quality time with her husband and two daughters, Liz is both present and passionate about capturing and celebrating life. Her work has been featured by O "Oprah" Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Glitter Guide, Essence Magazine, domino, Rue Magazine, among others.