If you want to skip the frying pan and jump straight into the fire, learn to cook in a restaurant.
The first thing I did after graduate school was to spend the summer cooking my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This was a very sensible way of dealing with utter panic, since cooking, it turns out, is a very grounding experience and can keep you from going crazy if that’s your inclination. I discovered cooking therapy. It is an effective strategy to help you get you out of your own way.
The next thing I did was to work in a small, roadside restaurant in Big Indian, in the New York Catskills (aka, the middle of nowhere.) That's where I jumped into the fire.
Then, one day, a guardian angel in the form of French chef Eugene Bernard showed up at the back door of the kitchen. Bernard became my mentor and though he didn’t believe women belonged in the professional kitchen, he trained me and even sent me to the CIA (that’s Culinary Institute, not the other CIA) to learn pastry with Albert Kumin. The restaurant got a lot bigger and I cooked and baked and did the books and all the other stuff you do in a restaurant that is totally exhausting.
Eventually, or should I say, inevitably, I fell in love with my husband, married him, and lived happily ever after, with our one child who is now a newly minted journalist. Eventually also, I wrote three cookbooks, The Tao of Cooking and Food for Friends, published by Ten Speed Press, and recently, The Cranberry Cookbook. I am a regular correspondent for The Boston Globe Food Section and Simply Recipes. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.