Ten Things I’ve Learned from Culinary School (so far)

Week 5 wrapped up with 2 days doing pastry (love) and 3 days at the farm for farm-to-table classes (highly appreciated). We are a third of the way to completion and we have learned a lot, with more to learn still.

Here is a top ten list of things I’ve learned thus far that really stood out for me (that I personally didn’t know before culinary school). Some of these are part of the curriculum, and some are not.

10. French cooking terms
To name a few: Mise en place, mirepoix, bouquet garni, concassé, brunoise, paysanne, sautoir, singer, garde manger, entremetier, sucs, emince, napper and velouté.

9. Using a black steel pan
I always thought it was tricky to use one, but the trick is to know when your pan is at the right temperature. (See my previous post on hot pans.)

8. Rice Bran Oil
See my previous post Are you using rice bran oil yet?. 😉

7. Butchering poultry
It is not that hard. The key point is that you are not actually cutting through any bones but in between the joints.

6. Maximizing really good olive oil for cooking
When buying olive oil, always buy the best one you can afford. Stretch out the use of your really good olive oil for everyday cooking by mixing 1 part olive oil with 4 parts rice bran oil.

5. Leaving salt and pepper out in a bowl by the stove
Rather than using a salt and pepper shaker, we practice seasoning food with the finger pinch technique. One finger pinch would be a small amount vs. a regular 3-finger pinch which would be more. This practice also adds to using more of our 5 senses. If leaving salt and pepper in the open bugs you, you can always use something with a lid or look for a pretty salt pig.

4. Cooking rice using the pasta method
I’ve always steamed rice, but you can cook all grains – including jasmine rice, with a boiling pot of seasoned water. Cook until tender and drain out the liquid. The liquid can be reserved as a grain stock to use in other preparation. (I do prefer using my rice cooker.)

3. Seasoning and tasting
Right along side with seasoning is tasting. Taste often. The right amount of seasoning makes the dish sings. We primarily season with salt and pepper (white or black depends on what you are cooking), and as we get into sauces and dressing, this can be with other flavour elements like lemon, lime, sriracha, etc.

2. Sharpening my knives
I have always known the importance of a sharp knife, but honing my knives before I use them has become a habit at home. Plus, I’m sharpening my own knives on my own stone. 😉

1. Using my senses
This include the five senses (sometime six – taste, smell, touch, hear, see and intuition) and common sense. You need all of your senses when cooking. We often will not be given the length of time required to cook something in class but a status – until browned, until soften or until it’s cooked. There are a lot of common sense that would be appreciated in the kitchen, too.