“Would you accept making a speech from a graduating student to the graduating students?” Bob asked me last Tues afternoon (18 Nov 2008). I was a little apprehensive … I will speak if I have to, but I prefer to be behind the scene or chatting among my circle of friends. I would, I said. The topic was left up to me, and that was the most difficult part.
What shall I say? What should I say that could be relevant and meaningful to my peers and the audience? What should I say that will remain significant to myself as a graduating student?… Clueless.
Tuesday. I didn’t think about it that night as I need to plan for my mousse cake final the following day.
Wednesday. BK and I went out for dinner at House of Bowls and it was a longer dinner than expected as we bumped into Garren and David who were there with another friend Daniel, they joined us at our table and we chatted.
That night, I couldn’t do much as BK and I had a heart to heart talk … that talk did us great as it always takes some misunderstanding – misunderstanding of perspectives, and resolution to hold us closer, which was why he is my greatest buddy. I needed to get it out and resolve things before we sleep and sleep sweet, and I was glad we did.
Thursday. I remained in the Culinary Institute resource centre, flipping through the file of ACF Culinary Review issues, partly to complete my read before I leave, partly to seek inspiration. I enjoyed the articles, particularly Insider feature on the featured chef and his motivation, about the competition team and their spirit, and novel read on Flavour eg. Cupcake Couture, Unique Boutiques, and others on Wine-food pairing, travelling chef etc. At the same time, I found out that BK has gone to Galveston with my apartment keys. So it was a good time to sit down and seek inspiration for my speech. Before I left the culinary institute, I had scribbled 2 pages of notes and ideas for my speech.
Read your blog, you will know what to include in your speech, BK suggested. Indeed, my journal entry captured my thinking, the teaching, my learning, the inspiring moments in last 20 weeks… He reminded me at the right time.
That evening, we decided to have a Mexican dinner at Teotihuacan, the restaurant cafe was packed, yet the service staff remained friendly and efficient. A tasty grill we had, a Mexican beer for BK and a virgin margaritas for me, and we finished our meal with Tres Leches. This was the 4th version of Tres Leches I tried, kicked started by Chef Kris introducing us to the Mexican dessert – I had found the cake too sweet, but each time I found it on the menu, I ordered to taste, and I got to like it better and better each time – not sure if my taste bud changed or the TresLeches served got better. A lady came up to us with tequila shots for sampling, I enthusiastically accepted and soon knocked out when I got back to the apartment.
Friday – Graduation Day. 3am. I was woken up … don’t you need to prepare your speech? Yeah, … I finally woke up at 5 to put the thoughts into some words. I was to scribble another 2 pages of thoughts from my blog entry for my speech.
Before my final lesson started for the day, I completed my scripts in scribbles. During the break, I was to copied my scribbles onto clean sheets in organised thoughts.
Truth be told, as I thought about my graduation speech, I felt the reluctance more than thinking about my speech … there was this constant reminder the graduation speech signaled my final day at the culinary institute. As I reviewed my speech in my little corner at the culinary institute, I felt sad again … and I feared my emotion will show in front of the crowd. I was not prepared to face the crowd with my emotions … I spent time psyching myself to focus on completion and just speak my heart.
The Keynote Speech?
I didn’t realise I was the keynote speaker till that very moment when I was being introduced by Mr LeNotre. I was nervous, I breathed in and out hard and controlled. I focused on completion. The closer friends were wondering if I would start tearing as I speak, I was worried too – once I tear it would be non-stop and I tend to laugh too and it would be hilarious … I didn’t intend my graduation speech my most embarrassing moment! The reaction from the audience calmed my nerve, in front of me in the front row where the graduating students were seated was Krystine – the baby in my class and Jill, their presence and particularly Krystine’s laughter reassured me … and each time I felt a tinge of emotion, I just looked at her … (thanks Krystine, you may not know you helped me but you did, ‘cos your laughter calmed me and made me smile). I remained in control to completion. Whew~! ~
The Gist of My Graduating Speech:
1. A Love Affair ~ About a love affair to live lives without excuses … a love affair with the science and art of baking & pastry arts, the chefs I learnt from and the friends I learnt with … a love affair savouring each moment in Houston. Love what we do and do what we love…
2. Valuable Lessons and Inspiring Moments Beyond Learning Just Recipes – People who inspired me… Chef Sebastien ~ Never Be Late; Chef Kris ~ Misen Place and Preparedness which Determine the End Results; Mr LeNotre ~ 10 Good Advice to Be a Good Chef & his generous “Joy, my door is always open“; Chef Philippe ~ About Choice … Think about what we want to do, how we want to live and choose the way we want to do it… Simple words great inspirations …
3. Good Advice & Contacts from 2 External Chefs I got associated with at the culinary institute: Chef Charles Carroll – inspiring quotes from his book Leadership Lessons from A Chef. Finding Time to Be Great. … And his recommendation of a chef whose business model I should check out; Chef Enming Hsu – she recommended me a chef I should seek out to be my mentor chef. I am so thankful!
4. 3 Take-Home Messages: Be In Charge, Be Ourselves (Be true, Be in love), and Be A Champion in spirit and mindset! A constant reminder to myself…
5. Gratitudes ~ Mr & Mrs LeNotre – for their generosity during my time at the culinary institute and for Mr LeNotre’s advice for my career and future; My Chefs – Chef Philippe and Chef Sebastien for inspiring and challenging me to be better each day, & for their trust and faith in me; My Classmates and Many whom I called Friends – for introducing me to American junk food (hee…), and the warmth of a friendly & trusting learning environment; The Staff – many of whom I knew by first name, they made me feel so at ease at the institute … Importantly, my loving husband who is my greatest buddy and a cheerleader in my life, and who made things possible for me.
At the end of my graduation speech, Mr LeNotre presented me with a beautifully written letter … I got to read it only in my apartment, I am really really blessed indeed.
Graduation Day went past in a blur. Mentally I knew it is not the last day – I still got to attend 3 extra sessions in Chef Philippe’s class, even though we have made up the hours lost to Ike by starting at 7.30am through the past weeks. I am blessed BK was present for me, and he made it so matter of fact and easy. I am happy I got to thank the individuals who were instrumental in assimilating me into living a meaningful life in Houston.
Graduated. 21 Nov 2008.