Friday, January 29, 2010

The end of French GD

So oddly enough I can't actually remember the lamb course except that I was second on the assembly line and I was right before Dowie (she was plating the lamb). I guess someone had decided to put the racks in a 200 degree oven to hold. NOT a good idea considering lamb should still be pink on the inside and 200 is way past well done. She was irate. We moved on nonetheless to the cheese course. I was actually later in arriving to the plate up room so all I was able to do was pass the plates to Alivia who was putting the lettuce on the plate. And lastly was dessert! They had started assembling these right after the lamb went out so all the servers had to do was take some plates and head out. We changed chef coats and hats real quick and then went out and served the first few plates of the dessert and let the servers do the rest. After the guests had taken a few bites we went out to do our introductions (which we never actually go around to). We watched the gift exchange between the french chefs and our chefs and recognized our chefs (Dowie, Leonard & Dowie). Then we went back into the kitchen, cleaned up, and then went into room 3 for a photo shoot with the french chefs. It was pure riot. They know a select few English phrases, oh and they sang "Old McDonald" in french and we all bust out laughing! I was in the very back row next to Joe, the director of the french exchange, and Alivia. It was great fun as the french chef's wives all catcalled us to look at their camera. Then we left and they had a shoot with our chefs and their chefs. A great finish to a great dinner!
Oh and I took a few photos to share with you....

and it all tasted delicious too!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The French Dinner

I'm not sure if I went into this subconsciously deciding to have no expectations, but that's pretty much how my semester has been going so far. The demos have come and gone and now I've just completed the French Chefs Gala (or Gourmet Dinner).
Prep day (or day 1) was pure madness. We got assigned our dishes and we went in and began to prep. Then all the sudden, one by one the French chefs began coming in. For some reason I'd forgotten about this aspect. Pretty soon the kitchen was full of chefs doing this and that and there we were just simply lost in the whole process. My dish was the Canadian Walleye coated with sesame seeds, served on a bed of green lentils and garnished with a roasted tomato, a fried basil leaf, a bacon crisp, mussel cream sauce with a touch of saffron, and three whole mussels. Savannah, Anna, and I set out on cleaning our area and then we grabbed the fish out of the freezer. We did the math and figured the 9 boxes we had were for 2 days of gourmet dinners so we'd only need half. We put four boxes into the cooler and then after asking a few people, decided to start thawing our fish out under cold running water. This is when our "frenchie" came along and gathered us three together so he'd know who was working on his dish. A few minutes later we got called over to the sink. The translator told us we needed to count not every individual fish, but every portion we could get out of each fish. Between 1 and 3 portions per fish depending on the size. We went at it, trying to break apart the frozen fish in order to count them and put them on sheet pans. Then Chef Dowie came over and said to dump all the water because it would take flavor out of the fish. So we dumped the water and continued in our counting. We counted 338 portions of fish and let me tell you. Our hands were bright bright red and we could not feel them. Talk about torture! Then we all set up cutting boards and portioned out all the fish we just counted. Somehow we ended up with 398 portions despite our previous countings, though about 30 would get thrown aside due to their small size. All the pieces looked totally different in the end but this too was a long and tedious project. After we finally had them all sectioned, we then had to go through and de-bone the portions of walleye. Finally it was lunch time (2:30 pm) and we ate a feast of BBQ from a nearby restaurant. When we returned from lunch we set of finishing up our walleye and then helped another group peel and de-vein shrimp. From that I went on to brunoise 7 lbs of carrots with two other classmates. About half way thru I heard the girl that had been standing in front of me calling for Chef Dowie. I looked at her and realized she was holding her finger and blood was coming from it. Uh-oh, keep going....try to stay focused and not pass out or cut myself too. So I kept cutting my carrots and when we were done, she was leaving to go get stitches.
We cleaned up and were done for the day.
Dinner day (or day 2) went a lot smoother actually. We came in at 11 and got right to work on our dish. I toasted a bunch of sesame seeds while the other two cut tomatoes and then picked basil leaves. After toasting, I then coated each walleye (non-skin side only) with the seeds. Today we had our real French chef with us (I guess he was sick yesterday) and he was super nice. He kept checking up on me to see that I was doing well. After coating the walleye, he then showed me how to cook slightly in a saute pan. By then the other two girls had finished their project and we all got nonstick saute pans and fired up all the walleye. We were oblivious to any other happenings in the kitchen for about half the day because we could not hear let alone see any of our other classmates. Our French chef came over and said something in french and then said "more fish more fish more fish" and we all laughed because it was true. They just kept on coming! When we finished the fish it was lunch time. We had soup and bread. Then we went back to work, but we had practically everything done at this point. Savannah fried up our basil. I did dishes and cleaned up and then at 5, Chef Dowie let us go on a 45 minute break. I just moved my car, tried bleaching my chefs coat, and then we all sat in the lounge area talking. Came back from break and now we just had to execute our dishes or complete them. Ours didn't require any work until about half an hour before plate up. So we helped other people with their dishes. I picked cilantro for the garlic flan garnish. Then we plated up the 2nd dish since it could be assembled slightly earlier. It was the smoked salmon mouse with brunoised vegetables and three different oils and microgreens. I made the zucchini row and then we sent it out after the first course was done. Then it was our dish. We put our fish and tomatoes in the oven and then our French Chef showed us how to plate. In the assembly line I put the fish on top of the lentils. Our dish looked great and went very smoothly. Next was the intermezzo. It was a blood orange sorbet with vodka. Steph and I filled the shot glasses with vodka and then we sent them out. When a bunch came back we all ended up getting to do shots. Whew! Too much vodka. I guess Dowie had only wanted them half full and we did 2/3 full. Whoops! After intermezzo was the lamb.....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Full Circle

Last week I had french demos. You may remember me mentioning these last year. That's right- a whole year ago I was starting my first semester in the culinary program. How EVERYTHING has changed is simply crazy. We had orientation on the 11th and we looked at our calendars for our remaining time in the program. It is upon us! We talked about the drastic changes that were happening in the Bistro. Seating will now be limited to only 50 per day and the menu is set for the whole semester. This is an attempt to eliminate excess spending in food production and also to allow for each student to properly work each station throughout the kitchen. I understand and am not concerned, but other students were not so understanding. That night we also met together for our first pre-employment strategies class. It's all culinary students and it's just preparing us for getting culinary jobs out in the real world thru proper resume techniques and etc. It's my only non-culinary class so I'm hoping I can actually stay awake during the two hours of lecture. Then on Wednesday the 13th my section got to prepare "Food for Fifty" which is basically just cooking whatever we have to feed the french chefs and us. Chef Palar had already determined exactly what were making and we set out at a nice sloooow pace (we had 3 whole hours) to make two soups between the 10 of us. Jason and I set out on working the Chicken Tortilla Soup. We did practically the whole thing ourselves and then once it was going on the stove we decided to spice it up quite a bit with some chili flakes from Thailand that we had sitting on the shelves in the back. Then we ate our creations and waited for the french chefs to eat so we could clean up and go to the next session of demos. As we were filling sinks with ice to chill the soups off so we could put them in the fridge, we discovered moldy ice. Yes, apparently such a thing exists and we so happened to be the lucky ones to find it (and get all over me I might add). Had to unplug the whole machine and cover it to let it melt and prevent any students (*cough*first years*cough) from using it. After we had cleaned everything up we then all found seats in the lecture room and got to watch two french chefs prepare the following items:
-Charlotte of Smoked Salmon with Marinated Scallops & Belgian Endives
-Gingerbread & Blue Cheese with Caramelized Fresh Figs

The whole process seems totally different to me now, being a second year student. I actually get it now. Everything seems so much simpler. Yes, they still are way beyond me- but it's know? Not to mention that I actually know practically everyone sitting in the classroom. I fit in now, I guess that's what I'm trying to say.
As with last year- I am trying everything given to me. The first dish (smoked salmon with scallops) was great. I had never had a scallop before and it tasted delicious. It was prepared similarly to ceviche so no heat was used in the process of "cooking" the fish. The marinade was the only cooking agent exposed to the scallops. The second dish as good despite me not being a huge blue cheese fan. The sweetness nicely set off the flavors in the cheese and it is such a simple dish!

Day 2 of Demos it was our turn to be the assistants to the chefs. All this meant is that prior to the session we'd gather all the ingredients needed for the day and place them on a stack cart. My friend from day 1's session told me that no one had volunteered to do the writing of recipes and the process (where you sit in front of the whole class and write on an ELMO). So when she asked our group who wanted to do it I raised my hand to prevent any drawing of sticks. During these sessions (we had to attend both) two different chefs made the following items:
-Walleye with Sesame, Smoked Bacon & Green Lentils
-Coco Passion "Tears"

The fish course actually seemed quite simple and tasted really good with the mussel cream sauce made with saffron. The dessert was ridiculously confusing (both for an observer and for someone like me trying to keep the recipes and notes seperate) but looked and smelled delicious. We were not able to try the dessert because the chocolate did not set up properly and Fabian (the chef) was still making some tweaks to the recipe. I did get to stick my finger in the passion fruit cream and sauce, both of which were amazing.

Day 3 was the last of our demo week and another two new chefs made the following dishes:
-Squash Veloute with Soy Sauce Tiger Shrimp & Chestnuts
-Herb Crusted Lamb Racks with Garlic Flan & Potato/Mushroom Gratin

I didn't really follow much of the first course but it tasted really really good at the end. The chestnuts provided a nice smooth crunch and the squash veloute added a sweetness and the shrimp was a perfect addition. The lamb on the other hand was a tad different for me. Quite fatty and very rare in cooking I tasted but didn't finish my small portion. The garlic flan was good but even for a garlic lover like me, it was a tad extreme. The mushroom gratin, however, was downright delicious. And I don't even like mushrooms!

All in all the first week of my final semester turned out to go quite well and going in with no expectations for reasons to impress was a new feeling for me. I'm still trying to get used to it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Uh-Oh, the end is near

Ooops. Last semester of culinary school is upon me and I have so much that I haven't told you guys about. I'm sorry! My schedule this semester actually looks super easy with classes only all day mondays and then wednesday nights. I'll try to start racking my brain for good stories and information to relay to you.