Culinary School: Just Enough to be Dangerous March 8, 2010

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Cooking school, I imagined, would be like the secret door in Alice and Wonderland. Once inside, the culinary world would reveal itself to me in the form of invaluable tools and techniques — the ones that the Food Network didn’t want me to know because they would make me too powerful.

Cooking school, indeed, is a little bit like that. It involves a lot of myth dispelling (hard boiled eggs should be slowly simmered), historical background (Escoffier is the father of classical cuisine) and hand holding (recipes from our text book guide us as we cook).

But the big surprise is that we are encouraged to rely on our own experiences and tastes. Take onions, for example. While the proper way to cut one was demonstrated, our instructor encourages us to cut it however we can do it with the most comfort and efficiency. Or take the egg salad we made — we are asked to taste along the way and adjust seasoning and consistency according to our own common sense.

Making egg salad, by the way, involved turning on the stove for the first time in class. I tell you, I felt a surge of power as I twisted the ignite dial and watched the flames rise under the pot. Even if I was just hard boiling some eggs. It would seem, armed with sharp cutlery and access to fire, I had just enough power to be very dangerous.

I’m proud to tell you that I finished all three salads (Caesar, Chef’s and Egg) in time to be critiqued and that two of the three were shown to the class as examples of proper plating technique. After last week’s miserable coleslaw debacle, I’d have hung these salads on my home refrigerator if it were at all possible.

After long days at work and then mad dashes over to Cincinnati State for three and four hour classes, it’s the little things that keep me afloat.

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