Culinary school: week 1

All suited up and ready to go!

What a whirlwind in this first week! Twice a week I will head to school where each class starts with a 20-30 minute lecture and the rest of the time is spent in the kitchen. I was very interested in the lecture topics, but I was so tired I found it hard to give it 100% of my attention. I think it will take another week or so before I am totally adjusted.

The program doesn’t normally start with the baking and pastry class. I had a small number of people starting with me so we joined an in-progress cohort. Next quarter, I’ll go back to the basics – stocks, sauces, knife skills, etc.

There are 7 people in my class, and in the kitchen we buddied up to do our mise en place for our recipes for the night. I was the odd man out, so instead of having a partner to help set things up, I had the honor of setting up for myself AND the chef’s demo table. This task, on my very first day, my very first time setting foot in the kitchen. No pressure!

Tonight we’d be making cranberry-orange scones and savory biscuits. I looked at the ingredient list and totally froze. Yep, those things are over on the table there. But how do I get over there and get them? And everything had to be measured in ounces and grams, not tablespoons or cups like I’d been used to and on a scale I’ve never used before, let alone had enough time to put the batteries in. (I only received my knife kit and uniform the night before.) Yeah. Ok, let me just hurry up and get you all set up, Chef. I bumbled my way through it, the chef gave her demo and we all finally moved on to making our own dish.

By the time everyone was done baking and the kitchen was cleaned up, it was almost 11:00 and I had been awake for 17 hours. I got home, peeled off my uniform, took a shot of vodka and went to bed wondering how the hell I was going to do it all over again the next day, let alone for the next year.

The second night was much better. I at least had the familiarity with the kitchen and the first day jitters seemed to be behind me. I also was liberated of the duty to prepare the chef’s ingredients. Likely by the time it comes around to my turn again, I’ll have had enough experience behind me that it will be a cinch. The recipe for this night was a sour cream coffee cake that had apples and pecan streusel layered in between. There were a lot of things to prep and label before we could even dig into the demo.

I learned this night just how much patience one must have to find baking and desserts enjoyable. Each step was meticulously assessed before moving on to the next, and for good reason. If your mixture breaks down, you’re not going to get a good end result. So I mixed, assessed, mixed some more, assessed some more. Finally it was time to put my cake in the oven. It was 9:45 and I was stoked because I thought I’d be done by 10:30 and able to get out of there earlier than the night before. No such luck! That damn caked took forever to bake. It didn’t finish until 11:15 and then I had to let it cool off before packing it up to take it home.

Everything was really, really good as Terry and my colleagues at work who were able to get a taste of each goodie can attest to. So much work, but totally 100% rewarding with each compliment that came my way.

9 weeks of baking and pastry to go and I am so glad and excited that I decided to take this step to learn more about the culinary world. I’ll try to sneak pictures in when I can. They don’t allow cell phones in the classroom, but a few of my classmates have already broken this rule, so I may be able to sneak one or two in!


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