‘Tis the morning before our final service for tonight! There are 5 teams between 3-4 people on each team and we are serving our guests and industry guests our own menus that we have developed since black box. Each team has their own 6 courses. We have had two service days so far – the first one on Monday went quite smooth, last night’s was a bit rocky with a couple of dishes sent back, but we fixed it and we pulled through. After each service, we get written feedback from our guests on what they thought which gives us an opportunity to continue to tweak and improve for tonight – the third and final service day. Somewhere in there is also 20% of our entire term’s mark. I’m not kidding if I tell you that I am uber nervous.
I haven’t been counting to the last day of class but we only have 5 more class days left in the Professional Culinary program as I write this post. Part of me don’t want classes to end yet. As I am reflecting on the classes from the past two weeks it has been long, exhausting physically and mentally. We have been doing restaurant days, followed by a black box exam and our written exams (from the school’s and from ITA.) This past week (week 14) we were grouped into our final team for the real service days on week 15.
I am amazed about how far I have made it! Several weeks ago I was still anxious about restaurant days and not knowing if I am ready for it. The chefs have laid out a really, really good course plan to bring us this far and looking back on the first two weeks I would have told myself to trust the process and concentrate on each new skill.
We cooked some of the more expensive menu items for 3 restaurant day practices – foie gras, oysters, more lobsters, souffle, beef tenderloins. Each day we would have chef demo a 4 course menu, we prepped the mise en place, and for service the chef would called each station with an order. We would take turn in our partner group to cook and plate. The plates are then brought up to the “pass” for a chef’s final check through to see it is good or needs to be redone. The good plates are then brought to the table and we would wait to get our next order from chef.
(I’m posting this on my phone so here’s a load of pictures to be organized later in a nicer gallery.)
These few restaurant days were tough – new recipes, not much sleep as I was reviewing the new recipes the night before, time pressure when chef calls an order, making sure nothing comes back, and eating cold food (we didn’t eat until all 4 courses were served). My partner and I have never worked in a kitchen before so it was not until day 3 where we finally found our rhythm. There may have been some tears that may or may not have occurred in and out of the kitchen. It is important to have a healthy stress reliever in your back pocket (mine is chocolate.)
A key thing is we’ve made good food and we have pushed ourselves further than we have had to and we are only going to improve with more time in the kitchen. 😉
Next post to focus on the black box and my salmon confit dish.
This was an interesting week where we spent two days each in seemingly different end of the spectrum in modern day cuisine – molecular gastronomy versus holistic nutrition and macrobiotics: clean artsy plates versus good for you vegetarian burgers. However there is one thing that is common – good food takes time. With molecular food there are the different parts in food preparation to bring a plate together such as braising meat sous vide for 36 hours on a circulator. With holistic nutrition we talked about soaking, sprouting and fermenting. I love the differences in each and we were able to marry the two together in our Friday menu development with a combo dish with modern techniques and macrobiotics.
As a bonus Chef Katie from this season’s of Top Chef (also a previous grad of Northwest Culinary Academy) was in town for our two days in Modern Cuisine study and gave us insight to her take on molecular gastronomy.
Here is my attempt with a vegan miso soup with a tomato spheres. I had the hankering to make a tomato soup all week. 😉
The tomato soup was prepared first thing in the morning with calcium lactate added and frozen in large circles. The miso soup was made using miso that was prepared by the class from January. Frozen spheres where dropped in a warm solution of sodium alginate that should form a gel skin around the tomato spheres. I had trouble executing the spheres. Besides getting the correct ratio of calcium to liquid volume, I have also later learned that the pH balance is also important to form a successful sphere. Tomato soup by default is quite acidic. Now you know if you plan to do the same thing in the near future. 🙂