Friday, May 29, 2009

2nd Semester

Only three days of summer school have gone by and I'm already counting down the classes and waiting for them to be over with. Sure, I'm finally finally FINALLY in baking which I have been looking forward to since the day I decided to attend culinary school, buuuuut waking up at 7 AM four days a week and sitting through hours of lecture, trying my best not to fall asleep, is really hard!
On Wednesday I had baking. We started out going over the syllabus and then proceeded onto some of the basic principles and laws of the bakeshop (i.e. we call them formulas and not recipes) and then came the fun part...going over the history of bread starting from 10,500 years ago and working our way to present day. Yeah, let's just say that on page four my page has a mark from where I drooled on it. Haha yes, I fell asleep in my very first summer class right as we were talking about Baron Zang introducing the poolish pre-ferments into French bread production. Although I did fall asleep or fight sleep most of this part of class, I still learned quite a lot. As Chef Easter says, "bread is life, bread is power," and the history of bread is very evident of this. Next after a short break to allow us to properly wake up from our naps, Chef took us into the kitchen and started going over the basic tools we would be using for the day in our production of baguettes. After having a slight problem with remembering how to use a baker's scale, my partner Katie and I completed making our dough by hand and placed it into the proofer before going off to lunch. Upon returning we were instructed to do certain folds at certain times and to allow rest in the proofer for various lengths of time. While we waited, Chef Easter demonstrated the various parts of a grain (endosperm, germ, bran) using his finger and a table covered in flour as his white board. We learned about patent and clear flours and the various other types of flours extracted all from the same grain. Our dough completed its necessary proofing time and then we scaled it into 18oz pieces, rounded it into three rounds, allowed it to rest, then formed into the actual baguette shape, panned, slit the tops, and finally handed it over to Chef as he put it into this fancy stone hearth oven. The result? Amazing baguette bread that my family all devoured within the same day. Only had time to drop off my baguette, change, eat lunch, and then drive to work.
Thursday I had Food Prep 2 class in which Chef Carey simply went over the syllabus and then Chef Anderson came in and we talked about Boys State for a long time. After he left we had to read a whole chapter to ourselves and it took forever, everyone was falling asleep. Afterward we went over what we read and discussed the conversion formula used to shrink or expand recipes. Luckily we got out of class around 11:30 so I was able to come home, eat lunch, take a nap, and then go to work (after a slight delay due to no oil in my car).
Today (Friday) I had Menu Planning from 8-11:15. It is going to be a VERY intense class as we have to construct our own business plan which is about 12 pages minimum and then we also have to create a menu with a minimum of 29 items in which we have recipes for and have evaluated the cost of not only the total end product but also supplies. Chef Carey said it's going to take about 40 hours a week outside of class to work on.
So 28 hours a week for classes. 40 hours a week for "real" work. and then another 40 hours a week for this project alone. Are there even that many hours in the week!? Sheesh- I really hope I survive this all.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

With power comes responsibility

Ever since turning 21, I’ve been given a lot of responsibilities. Way more than I ever could have imagined in fact. I had no intention of ever becoming a manager, and it never crossed my mind even when I constantly joked with Matt that I could take over the whole store. So it’s been over a month since I’ve been one of the managers at our store. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface in everything I need to know. I want to know how to do every single aspect of the store and I wish I knew it all already! I grow impatient with myself just as much (if not more) than Ryan already does. So I guess I was doing a pretty good job working over in the café and, when Laura quit, Josh asked me to take over her position as well. So goodbye market side of the store- hello café! I live there six days a week now. It is a completely different atmosphere and I like it at times (when Ryan or one of the chefs isn’t yelling at me or I’m not screwing up orders). On Thursday I ran registers in the café for the first time and boy was it stressful! I had constant lines of like 10 people and I’d take their order (pretty efficiently) but then wouldn’t have time to pour their glasses of wine so they’d get that really late or a smoothie for example. Ryan was managing that night and he had to come over to help us for awhile and he kept getting mad at me saying “strike one” or “strike two.” I gave up trying to be perfect a long time ago so I was just like “is it possible to strike out in one night?” Oh this was also the night I got in trouble for Tuesday night when I locked the doors five minutes early and Debra ratted on me. Ryan said that if it happens again I’ll no longer be a manager. I tried to explain the situation but as Matt told me later on, not the best idea. I guess Ryan doesn’t like to hear explanations; he just wants to hear “okay it won’t happen again.” And Matt was also telling me that when he came back from Campbell’s that people were out to get him and he related that to how Debra is trying to sabotage my manager job. I feel like I’m bending over backwards for this place and it is never good enough for them. There are moments when I feel accomplished and proud and there are other moments that often outweigh the good ones, when I just want to bawl and walk out. And in a few short days I will not only have all this loveliness but also summer school to deal with. Let’s pray for survival, shall we.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moving up up UP

<--- the fam at Easter

Ah. To blog with no motives. Such a great and new thing for me.
I have officially been out of school for a week now and I'm starting to go crazy. Sure, I work 6 days this week, but what about all the other time I'm not at work. I need a purpose to my life and sleeping in until 11 is great, but I feel useless (as I have been recently told I am).
*Note to self: never ever EVER call someone useless.
Anyways, so since mid-April I have been acting as a manager-in-training at my store Gateway Market in West Des Moines. This just means that on one or two nights a week I close the whole store. So I check employees out before they leave, I stock and face everything, maintain the appearance of an exceptional store, answer questions (or redirect them to another manager at a later date), and take care of all the cash and sales of the day. At first it was overwhelming but it's beginning to become easier. It can be tough at times, when fellow employees turn on you, but for the most part I'm very blessed to be in this position at such a young age. Today I also found out that I will become a cafe supervisor. So this means that my jobs include the following:
-MOD (manager on duty)
-cafe clerk
-cafe supervisor
-market cashier
-catering server
and I still have a lot to learn. It's a very stretching experience but will be very beneficial in the long run.
School starts May 27th- let's just hope I can maintain 10 units and a full-time job during the summer :-)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

not so Umami

Did you know that aside from bitter, salty, sweet, sour there is also another sense on your taste buds called Umami which just means overall savory.
Anyways, this blog is twofold, or bittersweet in terms of sensory glands.

This week I had one last final which I got a A on. The same class (Food Prep 1) lab part of the class I ended up getting an A as well. Now this is the class final lab that I thought I absolutely failed miserably. I ended up getting a B on that! A miracle, I know. He said the only problems with my products was that my biscuits were tough and my cheese rarebit was too thin. Oh and I got 50 points deducted for being late in turning in my product. I am so happy right now because I seriously thought I had failed.

*I never did tell the story about the final exam, did I? Well I had two hours to complete the following products:
-broccoli with cheese rarebit sauce
-chicken a la king
-baked custard
I was so elated not to have the godforsaken Orange Charlotte on my list, I can't even explain.
So I started cutting up all my vegetables and putting stuff in bowls so I could just dump them in when needbe. I ended up cooking my baked custard first and then it got to cool off in the fridge the rest of the time so that was no problem. Then I fabricated my chicken (woot woot) and started simmering it while I made my biscuits. I cooked my biscuits and took them out after about 15 minutes and so those were complete now too. I then made my rarebit sauce and let it sit on the double boiler as I worked on my chicken a la king now. Somehow the 30 minutes til service called turned into the "you have five minutes before I take what you have" call. Yeah-NOT a good sign. I threw everything together, not even measuring anymore since Chef was out of the room. I threw a few sprigs of herbs on for a garnish and presented my products. Seriously, I don't know why I have the inability to complete tasks in time! And it only seems to be for the important days like midterms and finals. Every other day I'm fine- but not on the most important ones. So needless to say, I thought I had failed because he said four people were okay and three were not. And I was the third to last person to turn my products in. WHEW! but I made it!

Then this week I've had two certification exams. One was for ServSafe (or Sanitation and Safety) and one was for ManageFirst (or Nutrition). Both were actually pretty decent so I think I find out in a week how I did.
Today I went in to school at 12:15 and just had to clean for an hour to get an easy 100 points for lecture and I am officially done with spring semester!!!!! I have finished my first semester of culinary school! And now I have 21 days until it all starts again.

So that's my good news.

On the other hand, my dad had some tests done last week because they found a suspicious spot. Today we found out that his cancer has returned. After battling it for the past year and then being cancer free for a few short months, it has returned...worse than before. He was in stage 3 last year and now it's in stage 4. My mom says its sovereign timing because she no longer has a job so now she can take care of him and take him to his chemo treatments once a week. What happened before was that he had cancer in his appendix and it burst. So technically he doesn't have an appendix to have cancer, but all the yummy juices of it are still floating around in what the doctors call like a balloon.
Last time he was taking chemo he ended up having bleeding in his brain and had to have a really serious brain surgery. So there are all these questions of if it will have the same negative effects it did last time or if they would have completed the chemos the first time around- would it have come back? I try not to think about it, but to just accept it. It's hard. Harder then I make it out to be at times.
So that's my update as of now. I know it wasn't public knowledge to all my friends before about my dad's situation, but this time I'm realizing it helps to have people know and not keep all these feelings to myself.

jen žít

Monday, May 4, 2009

The long awaited fabricating story

The four pictures you see above are the last ones ever from food prep 1 lab. Since I am about a month overdue in my blogging, I'm cramming them all into one blog. I apologize, but as my old boss always said "it is what it is". Oh, speaking of my old boss- I went to a new restaurant the other night with my friend and it turns out it's in the exact same place where I used to work (Kin Noodles Pasta Shoppe). It was weird at first, but it's a really fancy Thai place now and I hope they do well, unlike us.
So since I last posted we've been diving into the meat section of the course with full force. After the dry heat section (kabobs in my previous post), we moved onto moist heat, poultry, and seafood. In the moist heat lab I prepared the last picture (bottom right) of stuffed yams that I made a pecan streusel for and leg of lamb. This was my first time tasting lamb, let alone cooking it- so it was an interesting experience and I actually liked it. Oh and my yams were bomb!
The next section of lab was the start of poultry and in this lab I made chicken kiev (bottom left picture). Got to use the frier for the second time after breading up the stuffed chicken. It was really good! The next poultry section I made chicken a la king (top left picture). Boy! Talk about a lot of work. It took the whole time in lab to produce and honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of it. It just tasted like biscuits and gravy with chicken and pimentos in it. ALMOST FORGOT! This was the lab that I fabricated my first chicken! What is fabricating you may ask? Well you see- it's the not-so-gory way of saying cutting up a chicken. Had to hold the chicken under running water to rinse it off, picking off any pinfeathers. Then carry it over to your cutting board and hold it by the neck, cut down along the backbone on one side, then along the other. Throw that junk away. Then turn the chicken over and pull it open, cut along the breastbone in the middle and then pull out with your hand. Cut chicken in half. Then karate chop it into fourths. Use your finger to guide along the joints and cut into eighths. It was scary at first but now I'm a chicken fabricating pro!! lol.
The last section of lab was seafood. I was slightly disappointed to only have one day to work with seafood but oh well. I signed up for shrimp creole (top right picture) and it was pretty easy to make. That day once everyone was done I got to try the following for the first time ever : shrimp (sad, I know), tuna steaks, lobster tail, and cod I believe. It's funny because all the items I tried didn't really have the fishy flavor that I am always so scared of. What have I been running from?!
I think this will have to suffice for now. I am going to hold off on talking about my final lab disaster until I have my individual conference with Chef Easter tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

shoot. bang. dead.

Today was the day I intended to inform you of all (or most) of my happenings.

But NO.

Instead, I must race to get ready and eat before going into work. I guess it's "crazy busy" today and they need me in three hours early to help.
Shoot. This was supposed to be my studying for finals time. Now I won't have any time before I actually have my final. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.

I'll leave you with a picture though. Of this crazy alien-looking house at the top of my street.