Monday, February 06, 2006

Cookin No. 40 - The End of Skill Development and Other Things

The first half of culinary school is almost done, last week I finished skill development II, with a nice buffet for everyone’s family in my class. I was so proud for my parents and Andy to see where I spend the better part of my days, and to meet my teachers and mentors. Skill development was a hard class. Everyday Chef Scott, would come threw the kitchen like the whirl wind that he is, and instruct us on the basic methods and techniques of classical cooking. I defiantly learned a lot from him, and learned a lot about myself and my abilities. This was defiantly a class that took up a lot of my time and energy, and suddenly I was becoming non-existent to my friends. I would wake up, go to school, then to work or what other activities I attend during the week, study, and sleep when I could find the time. Most days I would get about 4 – 5 hours of sleep, with a quick 20 minute nap. With no real break on the weekend, because it would be get up early, and go to work. But I don’t think I would have traded it for anything. Now I can make a soup, hollandaise sauce and chop vegetables with my eyes closed.

Now learning I move on to learning how to take all the stuff that Chef Scott instilled in me, and apply it to the kitchen, with Entrée’ kitchen. Basically the class splits up into two’s, and we are given a mystery tray in the morning, and then have 4 hours to present a 5 course meal to the panel of judges. Kind of like Iron Chef, but without the video cameras. Although I’m nervous, I can’t wait. Jeremy is going to be my partner, and I think that we will produce some good stuff. Because Jeremy is stronger in the departments that I’m weak in, and vice versa, and I think that we are both patient enough to help each other. He also holds a lot of the values that I hold, like cleaning as you go; paying attention to detail, working neat and organized… all of the tools that you need to actually make it in this world. You can be a great cook, but if you work in a mess, then you are going to fall behind, and the meal will suffer. But if you work in organization, you are going to succeed even with the most simple and blandest of dishes.

I never realized how much organization awareness I picked up in the corporate world. I suppose 5 years of filing and making labels has paid off, because before I cook, its like filing. You make stacks of your ingredients, prepare them to be put on the heat, arrange them in the order that they will take heading into the pot, and then clean everything so your area is neat and everything is ready to go quickly. You don’t want onion peels to be laying all over your cutting board, and your only knife caked with chicken gizzards before you put the oil into the pan and start cooking. Because mistakes happen, and if you forgot something like mincing the garlic, then you have take the time to clean of the peels and your knife, meanwhile everything is burning in the pan.

Putting all that aside, work is also going really well, I realized a little while ago, that I am completely content to give up my weekends. Actually it doesn’t feel like I’m giving them up, because the produce department has become like a second home to me. Even when I go in there on my day off, I’m stopping and chatting with my co-workers. They are all good and kind hearted people, and make my job so easy. Anywho, enough of them, this week I had been making chili, in preparation of the big game coming up. Of course I had no idea what big game people were talking about, because I don’t follow sports. Suddenly I understood, chili and guacamole for the super bowl, the Sunday night where millions of Americans get drunk and eat finger food in front of the TV, screaming and shouting. With big bucks riding on which ever team they favor. Suddenly the strict attire code at work was broken with Steelers fans dressed up in football jerseys, serving customers meat, or what have you. Even Wegmans had a jersey made for the store manager with Wegmans written on it like a team name, and his last name and a number on the back. I guess this is what its like in Europe when soccer season starts, or during the world cup.

Yesterday as I was peacefully handing out samples of chili, a man dressed from head to toe in the Steelers colors or black and gold, went running past me shouting to me something like “Steelers Rock!!! WHOOOOOO!!!!!” wow.

I don’t know who won the super bowl, but it was defiantly interesting to experience the chaos it brings to grocery stores all around America.

Also another great thing that happened last week, it was Chris’ birthday, and to celebrate the event she wanted to go to Musashi, a good sushi joint in Allentown. We had a large party of 10 people, so we got to sit in the back room around a low table, with cushions on the floor. We sat around drinking sake and eating damn good sushi, and toasting to Chris and her 22 years of existence. But one of the big highlights that night for me, was the sea urchin I got to eat. I suppose to most people that would be far from a highlight, but I have always wanted to try the exotic sea urchin. Its not something you find on every menu in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in the US for that matter. And you know what, it was good, a soft jello/ grainy texture with a pleasant fishy taste.

Ok, I have to run off, until next time my friends… Bon Appetite.

The Bread and Butter of the Buffet

Amanda in a Cheese Cake shot

My Garnish, Beats and Acorn Squash

A long Shot of the Buffet

The Design on my groups Salmon


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Steelers won, which will make my die-hard fan of a cousin happy. I'm glad Skill Development ended well, I'm sorry I couldn't make it to your buffet. But I made up for it by eating sea urchin with you. My piece hardly had any flavor, or maybe the flavor was lost in all the rice and seaweed. That piece of sea urchin sushi had a high rice and seaweed-to-urchin ratio. Anyway, I'll keep the date for your graduation open!

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all the 18 years you lived at home, I had no idea that all we had to do was have you cook dinner for the family to help make you an organized person! Boy, I think I should write a book for all the parents out there still working on their unorganized kids!
Enough reminising....your buffet was delicious and beautifully presented to boot.


12:11 PM  
Blogger Lai said...

this is true, watching you and dad cook and clean as you go did teach me a lot, cause the first time i cooked and left a mess... was not fun. besides, its more fun to eat after all the real work is done, that way you don't have to do it after your full and relaxed. now, if we could just work on my room... i'm sure i can still use some more organizational skills... care to chip in? :)

10:31 PM  
Anonymous ME said...

OK...What's new in the life of Lai.....the peoples need more

8:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home