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.....

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