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.

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