Saturday, January 31, 2009

Caffeine Consumption Advisory

It feels like forever ago I've had a moment to breathe and it's not looking like it's going to let up anytime soon.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this last week I served the french gourmet dinner from 3 or 4-10pm every night. It involved wearing nice black pants and non-slip shoes, button up white shirt, vest and corresponding bow tie. THAT is why I felt like a penguin people! It was fun to meet a lot of the other culinary students but it was a lot of work and very tiring. Friday was awful. I worked from 6:30-2:30 and then had the gourmet dinner from 4-10:30 and got to come home, sleep, and then wake up at 6:30 to go to work for a lovely 13 hour shift. Yeah.....FUN! My feet, calves, thighs, arms, shoulders, neck, and back are throbbing with pain as all of these hours are spent standing up. I almost passed out friday night waiting for the guests to arrive. 16 hours in one day to be on your feet is noooo fun....lemme tell ya.
Thankfully tomorrow we close early so I don't have to work another 12 hour shift and instead I get to leave early, go get ready, and go to a work Superbowl party! I'm really looking forward to it- but I'm just trying to figure out when I can do my homework before Monday 8 am rolls around...

Word to the wise- it is not recommeded to consume the following items within one shift. I can attest to a HUGE increase in heart rate:
-1 hot chocolate with caramel marshmallows
-1 cafe mocha
-1 dr. pepper
-1 Bawls energy drink

Monday, January 26, 2009

My 2 cents

I'm sick of reading about feces, fungi, bacteria, mold, parasites, vomiting, diarrhea, and death.
Talk about depressing!
No wonder I don't eat seafood, I just got done reading the second chapter in my sanitation and safety book and I'm semi-horrified. Why risk it?

Also, I signed my life away on Thursday. I will conform to the culinary code. Haha, okay so maybe no big deal for me. But it's still kinda weird.
No visible tattoos, no earrings (at all), nails can't be longer than 1/4 of and inch, wearing the right color of things like that.
Oh and did you know that once you get your tongue pierced you lose 40% use of your taste buds? Chef Carey said you might as well switch professions now.

Friday, January 23, 2009

French Demos: Day 4

YOU GUESSED IT! Last day of demos which means my last day of blogging about them :-)
Today's menu was a walleye filet with mushroom caps and a red butter sauce
+ tomatoes stuffed with butternut squash
+nichoise...possible niçoise? (a finer cut ratatouille)

They started with reducing red wine, then adding shallots, sugar, corn starch, and butter. That was the "red butter sauce".
The nicoise consisted of egg plant, zucchini, red peppers, and onion.
The tomatoes were cherry and melon balled empty and then stuffed with a butternut squash filling.
And the walleye fillet just had salt, white pepper, egg, and mushroom caps tiled on the fish skin.

They had a sample of the walleye which was good (despite finding a bone) and then they also had the vanilla cherry mousse I was telling you about earlier. Unfortunately they did not chocolate our samples so we just got the mousse part but it was soo good, I barely missed the chocolate.

Today Jerome took over but there was a ton of down time so we got to ask a lot of questions about cultural differences and specifically how they run their restaurants. Jerome's restaurant opens at 7:30 and usually is open until 11:30. Fabien on the other hand is only open a few days and for strange hours. In France meals usually are spread out over the course of 4 hours (easily). Bans on smoking and alcohol restrictions have really cut the restaurant business down in France. A lot of people are suffering.
They believe that every meal must have bread and if the bread is not good- the whole meal suffers. Also, cheese is a staple (and we're not talking cheddar here folks)!
I almost wish we could have these demos all through the school year but then I wouldn't be able to put my hands to use with the knowledge I've acquired. It's been an interesting start to culinary school.

....à la prochaine...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

French Demos: Day 3

The day is over (in terms of chaos not hours).
This morning I opened and it wasn't bad- I just ran out of things to do.
Then I had to jet off to class/demo #3 and grab the quickest lunch possible via drive thru.
Got to the demo just in time and still managed to get a good seat. The demo was way more relaxed than every other day has been. Chef Fabien was the only one preparing today, so Chef Jerome just assisted and prepped for him. They also seemed to have figured out planning ahead as far as food and dishes were concerned. On today's menu was:
-Lobster Cannelloni
-Vanilla CHERRY mousse that they started on day 1 of demos.
They did go back and forth a few times but nothing ridiculous. They managed to prepare all parts of the lobster cannelloni before we even took our break so they allowed two students to go up and try their hand at decorating and garnishing a plate of it. Then they went on to complete the dessert and they showed us how they made caramel decorations with chocolate discs for the bottom of the mousse. The caramel decorations were pretty awesome. Jerome made "angel hair" out of it and made it look like a birds nest, and then Fabien made these crazy stretched out shapes.
The sample they had available today was the lobster cannelloni which was the following:
hollow pasta lined up in a row, salmon mousse spread on top, seasoned lobster tails.
These were then all rolled up like a poster and put into a steam oven. Then served with a pea cream and dry ham garnish.
It was actually good despite not being a seafood fan (at all). Lobster is not too fishy tasting or smelling so it wasn't as repulsive as I would have thought. I'm excited to get to try the dessert tomorrow! Mmmm...gotta love chocolate. Oh they used an electric spray (hose?) with chocolate in it to spray over the vanilla cherry mousse. It was an interesting process to see.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

French Demos: Day 2

It's 9:22 PM and I should be in bed. Ridiculous, I know, but I need to rest up for a busy day tomorrow. My work schedule this a little off- I am working the lovely opening shift which means I have to be there by 6:30 AM! That's hard enough as it is, but then I have to jet straight from work (early) and drive across town to go to school for day 3 of demos and then after that I have to go to my Sanitation and Safety Lab and learn what we're doing next week for the gourmet dinners. Which means I probably will not return home until a full 12 hours has passed. Like a weekend I suppose for me.
Anyways, today was day two of demos and I wanted to share just a tad bit about what the French chefs made today. Haha, I had to make sure to get their early and get the best seat possible because yesterday I couldn't see very well to copy the notes. Got there early, sat there awkwardly (I swear everyone else knows each other- it's very unsettling). Finally demos started and we found out today they would be making the entree + 3 appetizers. The entree was a pork tenderloin scaled with potatoes with a blinis of sweet potato (mini-pancakes in a sense). It tasted delicious!
The appetizers or garnishes were very ornate and took longer than the alotted time to complete. Over three hours! Along with the blinis of sweet potato, there was also candied tomatoes with escargots and a face french fry. I have to say, following along today was still difficult but not nearly as frustrating as yesterday. I suppose everything they did today made sense to me and was kind of common sense. Minus the whole escargot thing. We also tried this salmon rilletes thing that was in shot glasses. I had never even tried salmon before, but sticking to my previous post, I went for it. The base of the glass was the diced tomatoes, the middle layer: the actual salmon rilletes part, and then on top was a parsley mousse. Let me tell you--it was VERY good, and I can't even stand the smell of salmon (or so I thought).
We never got to try the fake french fry but it was just potatoes put into boiling water, peeled, mashed, seasoned, placed into square molds, and finally fried.
The candied tomatoes were not available yet either but they were tomates that were destemmed, boiled in water, peeled, cut in half, deseeded, cooked in the oven, seasoned, and then an escargot butter was added and they were shaped into balls to be breaded and fried.

Not gonna lie, when he said escargot I began to back out of the whole 'try everything' motto, I'm not anticipating that one....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

French Demos: Day 1

Imagine walking into a classroom full of students you don't know at all. After a few minutes have passed in awkwardness, the chef in charge starts demanding students to take off their jackets and/or hats and remove any non-approved beverage containers from the tables. He then goes on to briefly introduce the visiting French chefs and then the demonstration begins. Your eyes are met by those of two french men dressed in their whites along with one properly dressed woman standing on the side. As the minutes pass you come to understand her purpose in the demos. You see, these two men...the chefs visiting from France, they don't speak any English. She is there solely to translate. After introducing themselves (and of course waiting for the woman to translate), they begin to talk about what they will be making today in our first demo. A slide is placed up for all to see, the first words not even in English. Looking at the required paperwork for the day, I realize it is my responsibility to copy down the recipes given and write down some things I learned during the course of the demo this particular day. As I begin to print what words I can actually read and make out, the paper begins to move down and I hastily quicken my writing speed. All too soon I realize I am in for a crazy two and a half hours. I scribble what I can decipher and only then do I begin to actually listen to the French chefs (or the translator in this case) and watch to see what they are really doing. Turns out they're showing us how to make three things. #1 is a pear, cheese, bacon pastry. #2 is a vanilla creme mousse dessert. #3 is homemade marshmallow. After I have finally managed to write down all the recipes along with some interesting facts learned, I settle down and finally am open to the knowledge these chefs have chosen to impart on us all. The lesson was fascinating, albeit long and tiring as well. At the end we were fortunate enough to be able to sample the pastry and I have to say, it was pretty good, considering I had never tried cheese like that before. It was some cheese hard to find here but easily accessible in France, along the lines of bleu cheese I believe. I've decided I'm going to try (my best) to taste everything possible and not refuse something just because I've never had it or think I don't like it. Now is the time for my taste buds to flourish!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's beginning!

I have officially attended every class I will be going through the course of this long and time-consuming semester. Let me tell you a little bit about my classes.

1). Food Preparation I Lecture is a class learning the WHY aspect of cooking. I think it will be a useful class yet the lab aspect of it seems pretty intense. We have 2 hours after we pick a recipe to fully prepare, garnish, and serve a product to our professor and fellow students. We will be evaluated on the process of production, following the proper sanitation procedures, and serving the product at adequate temperatures, with proper plate temps as well ... and garnishing. Whew! That'll be fun!
2). Sanitation and Safety Lecture is learning all about how to avoid cross contamination, cooking/storing foods properly to meet standards/laws, and all the negative results that could occur if proper measures are not taken. I'm anticipating a lot of big words which will most assuredly go right over my head the instead they leave Chef Carey's lips. That's one way to put a group of college students to sleep at 8 am. The lab for this class is actually serving the gourmet meals during special events. No pressure right!? WRONG! At the end of this month we are serving at three meals for some large french gourmet thing. I honestly don't know- but there's nothing like being thrust into the hustle and bustle of it all, serving the pros of the industry!
3). Intro to Hospitality Services was exactly what I was NOT expecting. It's going to be FUN! We don't meet in a classroom and we do not have tests or quizzes. Instead, every class meeting we gather in the lounge and arrange our transportation to random restaurants/hotels/businesses throughout the area and get tours of how things are done. We have to do a write up after each one, but nothing more than two paragraphs.
4). And lastly we have Nutrition. This class to me (at least right now), sounds like a culinary "health" class, if you will. Doing some stuff with the food pyramid and all that jazz. It's crazy, but it prepares us for potential personal chef positions where we have to prepare specially for our employer.

So yes, those are my classes. I'm sure each one will provide its own headaches, trials, and victories as the semester rolls on.
As I leave you now, I impart onto you some wisdom from my mere 48 hours of being a culinary student.
-the menu is the dirtiest item in a restaurant
-gloves must be worn when the product is "as is." Meaning that it will not be going through further cooking, refrigeration, etc.
-good wines are often noted as being "skunky"....? Yeah...
-there is a website you can go in your state and check out any restaurants inspection history and detailed reports. Very very interesting!
-attendance and promptness are absolutely vital! There are absolutely no make-up labs, homework, tests, NADA! Basically if you are not there, you're out of luck.