Culinary School: Week 3

Lafayette March 1, 2010

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I whisked the egg yolks as if my life depended on it, as if I were one separated mayonnaise away from death. But it’s not that it really mattered if my emulsion broke. If it did, there would be no lighting bolts thrown down at me, Gordon Ramsay would not scream at me standing two inches from my face, I would not be cast off like a demoralized reality show wannabe. I would simply have to start over. Still, this was the first actual cooking assignment in Cooking 1, and so I felt the weight of my success heavy and strong.

I asked my instructor if it was thick enough — which it was not — but it only took a second to add some oil and get it up to snuff. I looked around the room to see that most other student’s had also squeaked in with a victory. We were red in the face (no blenders allowed here folks, only wire whisks) but in general we were successful.

My next mission was to create a tuna salad with the mayonnaise — a dish that I had probably tasted twice in my life and hated both times. I took my sweet time playing with it since it would be the first one I would ever present to my instructor. We have recipes but are encouraged to stray from them and so I added relish, I tinkered with the spices a bit and then I scooped it up and walked it over for sentencing.

My instructor had a soft but stern style — a juxtaposition that probably served her well as she worked her way through fine dining kitchens like Daveed’s and Pigall’s. She judged my tuna salad first on appearance (the offset tuna in the lettuce cup was a noted visual success) and then taste (well balanced, good ratio of pickle to tuna, onion not distracting, well seasoned).

But just when I thought I was on top, I realized that I was a full dish behind schedule. There was still coleslaw to be assembled before the class could move on to a basic vinaigrette. The clock was ticking and I was one of only three people still working.

I busted into the pantry, grabbed a stalk of celery (paying no mind to it’s slightly yellow hue and noticeable droop) diced it up with some carrots, red cabbage and mayo. A pinch of salt later, it was sitting in front of my instructor to be judged. I’d given more care to my breakfast cereal.

I was not surprised to learn that I had miscalculated the acidity of the coleslaw, an error caused by a quick decision to add red wine vinegar to cut the thickness of the mayonnaise. Next time, I was advised to use a more subtle agent like rice wine vinegar. Respectfully noted.

After I mixed a vinaigrette and received feedback for my salad plating technique (off center, but fine in general), I did what seemed like 3,000 dishes, packed my knives and went home.

Oh boy, guys, this is going to be quite a year.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny K March 1, 2010 at 7:30 am

Question: what happens to all the food after all of you fabulous chefs in the making are finished concocting it?

Does it get eaten? Taken home? Thrown away?

Curious minds want to know.

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Courtney March 1, 2010 at 7:35 am

Vegetable scraps get saved for other uses but everything else gets trashed. Which, I know is probably killing you — it doesn’t feel right. But the school’s position is that they would be held liable if anyone outside gets poisoned or harmed by the food. Especially because we’re using time/temperature sensitive ingredients like eggs and what have you. We’re not even allowed to take our own food home and eat it.

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5chw4r7z March 1, 2010 at 8:25 am

Interesting, it never occured to me to consider where you would start, I just imagined you’d jump right in with the complex stuff.
If they accept volunteer judges, I’d be willing to show up for the day you’re working on buttered pasta, or as us daggo’s in Youngstown called it, “pasta la chitarra”
Sounds more sophisticated don’t you think?

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Jenny K March 2, 2010 at 7:12 am

That is a sad day, indeed. I feel like a signed waiver releasing the school of any responsibility would allow a lot of hungry people to eat a lot of amazing food.

Ah well. I am glad you are kicking butt!

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5chw4r7z March 2, 2010 at 10:32 am

:-{ my other comment never commented

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