duck salad

i took french in high school.  i then promptly flitted off to madrid, SPAIN for a semester in college, where all that french was not so helpful (except for that one day when our 65-year-old señora had a friend-of-a-friend come stay at the apartment and he only spoke french, so she spoke to me and i “spoke” to him. something about a lightbulb.)

well, mom and dad, my french came in quite helpful in this second go-round in higher education. Classical French Cuisine is the class that gets all the culinary kids shakin’ in their boots. The chef is hard, the material is hard, it’s a lot of work.  QUELLE SUPRISE. it’s the foundation of modern cuisine.

first day–chef is jovial, cracks some bad jokes, makes no mistake we understand his immense qualifications, and lays out the course in very clear terms. i can do this.  different from every other class, each student is solely responsible for one specific dish. it’s a traditional french brigade kitchen, so you do have a loose “team,” but you need to come in every day prepared  and ready to rock–solo.

each day started with lecture. we learned lots of important things about the history of french cuisine.

quite smartly, chef connected everything to a story–the person a dish was named after, a region, culinary lore–which not only made it fun, but being the queen of pneumonic devices, made it infinitely easier to digest the large amount of material.

then, we cooked. on the first day, i made a very distinguished pommes puree. mashed potatoes. which was perfect, because on that particular day i had the bubonic plague. but after i came back from my brush with death, I got to make some delicious venison (bambi) with a peppercorn cream sauce and the only thing i took a terrible picture of–thon provoncale (tuna with olives, tomatoes, and herbs)

that would be a ring of basil oil (most of which ended up on my apron), ratatouille wrapped in a zucchini slice, and grilled tuna topped with olive tapanade

 i had to grill the tuna then flash it to order. seems like a good idea, except that tuna is easy to overcook and overcooked tuna is BAD. so, i used my exceptional poke-it-with-your-finger-and-hope-for-the-best skills, tasted a couple, and said a prayer. After service, the every-charming teacher from the dining room came in, and asked for a tuna for her to eat. huh, she must have thought it looked good.

“this is the first time i’ve had tuna in here that wasn’t GREY!” was what more than a few kids remarked to me. yea!

so each morning even before lecture, we had a quiz on the material from the day before.  10 french words–define them. go. After day 4 or 5, there were an awkward few moments at the end of class where chef called me and another classmate over and asked us a series of strange questions about our assigned recipes for the next few days. we thought we were in trouble. chef comes over and declares, “2 students have gotten 100% on all their quizzes, so I did a tiebreaker, and KAREN, you’re the winner of this beautiful and distinguished Johnson and Wales University baseball hat!” hell yea! (i imagine you understand my excitement was not for the actual hat, but the recognition).

After the requisite jeering from my fellow classmates, a friend who is as southern as they come, comes up to me and says “what did you get for #9? i’d never even seen that word before!”  I said, “oh it’s finely diced mushrooms” She looks at me with sheer confusion and says “but I studied the duck salad with mushrooms, what is this?”

duxelles. pronounced duck-SELL.

something about a lightbulb.

ch-ch-ch-changes [radio edit remix]

thank you all for the amazing outpouring of love on facebook, twitter, and the colloquial communication like email, text, and phone calls!

it is TRUE. i graduated from culinary school! (still 2 class recaps to come–check back on tuesday!)

turns out they think i’m pretty smart.

it was a little dicey as to whether or not we were actually allowed to participate in the ceremony, but at the last minute, zachary daquiri and i were able to score some sweet threads and crash the party!

then manfriend whisked me away for something we haven’t had in many many moons–a vacation! we spent a fantastic week in savannah, ga and charleston, sc and now [literally, right now. thank you scheduled posts!] we’re moving me BACK to my beloved DC! we’re cohabitating (for shame!) only a few blocks from where i’ll be doing my internship at my favorite kitchen in the city.

stars, please align.

charlotte has been good to me and culinary school was an incredible experience that bestowed on me un-be-lieveable friendships. but, it’s time to go home.

you’re international, so international

After a quick little jaunt over to Asheville to visit my cuzzzzins and reunite with Mad Dog, I came back and BAM! I was a sophomore [for normal students they do 2 terms of labs and 1 term of academics their first year, then 1 set of labs and 2 academics their second year. cuz i can already read and write rull good, they don’t make me take no real classes or nothin’].

So! Being a sophomore means you get new uniforms which is AMAZING because you no longer have to do laundry halfway through the week and you rock the light blue collar on your coat which allows you to look at the little freshman with nothing but the utmost distain. But it also means they force me to take another pair of the most god awful work shoes ever. Those bad boys are going right to goodwill. danskos4life.

First class: International Cuisine

This was a huge change of pace right off the bat–it’s a service-centered class, which means we produce the food for the freshman dining room (remember when I was graded on opening a bottle of wine? that class). We got our first taste of dealing with ticket times, working a line, plating, all that good stuff. It wasn’t 100% authentic–the food was all prepared in advance, kept hot in a steam table, then just plated to order. But it was the perfect way to ease into things.

Each day of class we were “in” a different region of the world: Japan, Thailand, Spain, Greece and Turkey, Americas, Africa. We started off with lecture, covering a loooong list of terms and discussing the culinary history of the region and how imperialism, wars, and other major world events impacted the food people ate around the world (hint: spain made their mark allllll over the place).

The food was great–and diverse for sure. A new term means new classmates, so there were a few hiccups along the way (the paella–my love!–was a disaster) but by and large everything was tasty.

japan: miso soup (duh)

phillipines: lumpia and mandu (think wontons and spring rolls)

phillipines again: pansit (stir-fried noodles with shrimp and sausage)

in filipino culture, noodles are usually served on birthdays to symbolize long life. therefore, it’s super extra bad luck to cut or in any way shorten the noodles. that’s news you can use.

Americas: Bass with Mole Pepin (pumpkin seed mole)

awwww yea the crowning glory: ethiopian sample platter

you got your beef tibs, chicken doro wat, greens and veggies…heaven. we made our own injera (that brown spongey pancake thing on the bottom) and ohhh man it was awesome.  injera is usually made with teff flour (a grain, and gluten free!) and is fermented like sourdough, but we took a wee shortcut and used club soda and lemon juice to mimic the flavor and texture. i’m an injera fanatic and i thought this stuff was down right tasty.

pretty sweet jams, huh?

from here, we went to Advanced Dining Room [cue law and order DUN DUN]. It was all fancy-like, with french brigade style service. I won’t bore you with the details because it was absolutely terrible (and I already had experience with this style of service). It did make me infinitely more appreciative of just how fantastic all my instructors had been…this far. I’m a 27-year-old woman with a college degree and nearly 10 years of restaurant experience and I was treated like a 4 year old.  And she LIKED me. The hardest part was watching other students get berated for things there was no way in heaven they would ever know the answer to.  In a strange twist of fate, this brought out my compassionate side for these struggling individuals and it became a greater learning opportunity for me to quietly teach them things hiding in the dish room that our professor would rather screech and insult them over.

[end rant]

and then we walked through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and landed in advanced patisserie!

the good, the bad, and the ugly

The last lab of my “freshman” year (my spring term is what regular students do in their second year) was Fundamentals of Food Service Production (FFP for short). I didn’t know very much about the class going in…other than I had some not-so-great french toast from there way back in September.

FFP focuses on the mastery of three skills:  savory baking, shallow fry, and saute.  We made SO. MUCH. FOOD. and had SO. MUCH. FUN. Our chef was an ex-military who had spent considerable time in D.C. and loved to swap stories and encouraged us to take these skills and punch it up a bit.

exhibit a: savory baking (good!)

breakfast burritos. with scratch-made enchilada sauce simmered until it was extra delicious.

the most amazingly delicious breakfast burritos i've ever tasted. ever. ever ever ever.

exhibit b:  shallow fry (good!)

risotto cakes. have you ever seen someone so happy to be standing over hot, popping fat?

look at that mug!

exhibit c: saute

oh wait i have no pictures of this because I was too busy scorching off my eyebrows.  (bad)

BUT–after cooking off 3 flats of eggs (flat=50 eggs) and working 3 or more flaming pans at the same time, I walked out of this class really feeling like I could COOK.

roasted tomatoes stuffed with mushroom duxelles, topped with mornay (cheese) sauce

 

note the lone, sad green vegetable in the corner.

 

oh! we also made sauces. lots of sauces.

 

baby quiche! smuggled a couple of these bad boys out and sold them on the black market (or fed them to manfriend)

 

slidersssssssssssssss

chef: "do something with these potatoes!" me: "you got it."

 

next time he said that to me…

i stuffed them with cheddar, bacon, and scallions and topped them with fried onions. oops!

 

and then one day,

a pastry class brought us baked alaska made with candied bacon ice cream.

“So you must eat really well, huh” is something I hear often.  Not to blow off all the glitter and magic, but this is what “eating well” looks like in culinary school:

nom nom....or something.

it’s all really tasty, but it sure ain’t glamorous.  (uglyyyy)

All right!  Now I’m only 3 classes behind. I  contracted a lively strain of the bubonic plague this week, so I’ll try and get us up to real time while i’m on the mend. over and out.

 

boop boop

Alright lets get to the good stuff. [cute old school tivo “boop boop” fast forward noise].

Christmas was delightful. Saw the g-parents, they’re looking spritely as always.  Skype’d Auntie K and Unkie J and the pups. Also spritely all around. Got into trouble with the sista in chi-town. Jet-setted back to the east coast to ring in 2012 with Manfriend and had a fantastic little jaunt in the city of Brotherly Love with the Inventor of the Flameless Candle and his blushing new bride.

Back in the Queen City, we rounded out our Beverage lab with individual presentations on various spirits. I drew, in a fantastic twist of service industry fate, Grand Marnier.  I opened my presentation with this (it really hits its stride around 0:40).

Next up: Skills of Meat Cutting. Where you actually spend 5 hours in a meat locker. A 40-degree meat locker. The only class where people are dyyyying to do the dishes (hot water). This was definitely the hardest class I’ve had. For some reason, I just couldn’t grasp all the different cuts of meat and how they related to the anatomy. We had to know poultry, beef, pork, veal, and game. The actual skill of deboning a cut of meat I mastered no problem. But this?

name every muscle and bone. ready, GO.

This was HARD. Luckily, the chef was awesome.  We’re two peas in a pod when it comes to food philosophy–he has “eat” and “local” tattooed on his wrists, and ended every lecture with 10-15 minutes of yoga-inspired stretching before we headed into the arctic. He expected a lot, and gave a lot. And by gave, I mean gave us chicken cracklin’s and pork ribs rubbed with the most amazing dry rub ever.

In the middle of this, Liscious, Sparkles, and sista Leenie came to visit! We drank WAY too much wine, had WAY too much fun, and I impressed/horrified them with my fantastic butchering skills while prepping the Sunday night chickie.

After Meat Cutting, we went to Purchasing and Product Identification, known among the collegians as “Store Room.” You learn to identify product by filling every single purchase order for every single lab in the massive store room in the basement. Well, my group filled the req’s (short for requisition) while the 18-year-olds lounged around and thought about picking up a carrot.

This chef was a great cook–but also a math mind.  We learned how to cost out individual recipes and also how to analyze a menu and pick out which items are making you good money, and which ones need to be fixed.  There was a 10-minute lecture that involved words like “dog” “star” and “plow” that was hands-down one of the most educational experiences I’ve had in a LONG time.    He also had no patience for idiots or sloths, so we got along quite well.

Ahh so many words! so few pictures! what shall we do??

BOOM. carnitas from scratch. actually prepared in my very own kitchen. with quick-pickled red onions, radishes, and jalapeno.

it’s 5’o clock…always.

After Nutrition class, something I’m really interested in and passionate about came Principles of Beverage Service, something I….know very well.

We spent two weeks learning how to carefully pour, mix, and serve cocktails. We spent many hours practicing pouring shots, mixed drinks, and martinis. Our practical required us to choose 8 drinks out of a hat and prepare them in a mere 20 minutes.

I should note this class began less than 1 week after the last Panthers home game, where I prepared roughly 8-10 drinks for rabid football fans between the times of  12:00pm and 12:01pm.

Aside from the mixology portion (where I should note, I got a 99. One point off for filling a martini too full. Seriously? Any real customer would give me extra credit for that.), we learned tons about how practically every spirit is made and consumed.

Our professor was fantastic–super passionate about not only the material, but about making it fun to learn.  I was constantly surprised at the different activities and games she came up with to help us understand the material. We created our own wineries, did quick fire-style cocktail challenges, and created dramatic presentations on different categories of drinks.

polynesian presentation: you put the lime in the coconut.

 

So all of those delicious cocktails at the top weren’t actually potable. Think just for a second about precisely how much liability would be involved in turning 20 or more 18-year-old college freshman loose in a completely stocked bar. Right. So we used water and food coloring. The juices were real though, so if kids wanted to get all hopped up on cranberry juice and sour mix, no problem.

That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of opportunities to taste–we used sip sticks to taste every liquor we talked about, did a beer tasting, and the infamous 8am wine tasting:

Most of the students had already done this activity in Dining Room, so this time we were given a plate full of food items like mint leaves, siracha, potato chips, lemon, goat cheese, and grapes to play with layering flavors and pairing them with the wines. It was a really interesting exercise, and almost more interesting was hearing the different things people liked that I never could have dreamed of wanting to eat (honey and milk chocolate with riesling? someone get the EMTs on call for when we all go into diabetic shock).

One of the questions I get most frequently is, “what do you do with ALL that food?” I think I’ve mentioned before that much of it does get eaten by students. And what can get donated, does. But there is a lot of pushing unwanted food on other students. Every classroom gets at least 1 tray of cookies or cake every day. Sometimes we just can’t eat it.  Sometimes, there is a better use.

happy 19th birthday!

 

nutritious and delicious

Thanksgiving break marked the end of our first term of classes.  5 labs down, 10 to go. First up after turkey day: Nutrition and Sensory Analysis. The timing couldn’t have been better, huh? I was really looking forward to this class–I knew the instructor and knew we had very similar views on food.

What a new term also means is new classmates.  A group of about 8 of us “big kids” from our first session got together and all registered for the same classes, which meant about 12 new faces.  The first couple weeks were a little rough. I quickly named a group member “Wonder Boy,” and not as a term of endearment. We’ve all settled in though, and get along pretty well.  But it is VERY exciting to see old friendly faces in the halls.

So let’s get to the good stuff–the food! Each day before service we went down the whole line and each group had to explain why each of their dishes were “nutritious and delicious.”  Not surprisingly, i LOVED all the food in this class. A fellow health nut and I talked so excitedly about how much better we felt after class each day–we had more energy, were in better moods,  and life just seemed a little brighter.  After the land of cream sauces and mushy meat, it was like discovering the promised land.

upper left: shrimp spring rolls with rice noodles and fresh mint
lower left: banana nut bread (barf)
center: buckwheat pancakes! deeeeelicious
upper right: vegan tofu chocolate pudding with raspberry coulis. deeeeesgusting.
(i try to like tofu. i really do. but i just don’t. i don’t hate it like i hate bananas, so that’s something)
lower right: spaghetti squash with tempeh bolognese. tempeh is another meat substitute made of fermented soy beans. infinitely better than tofu.

 here’s a couple shots of the full lot of daily production (well, actually each of these are only about half of it):

two of my accomplishments: brocco-flower cheddar soup and smoothies (blueberry-banana and strawberry-raspberry-peach)

   

hands-down one of my favorite things i’ve made to date: falafel!

wonder boy made the tzatziki. took him approximately 2 hours.

 and the crowning glory after two weeks of very little meat, cheese, or fat:

bacon cheddar sliders with caramelized onions and chipotle mayo on fresh-baked rolls. the southern carnivorous males were in HEAVEN.

For our final, we had to take a recipe and modify it to pretty strict nutritional requirements.  I took a sautéed salmon with a beurre rouge sauce (read: 2 sticks of butter with some red wine) and turned it into:

Ancho Chile Salmon with Clementine Reduction

(after being tasted and graded. A+!)

I marinated the salmon in fresh clementine juice, clementine zest, ancho chile powder, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. 30 minutes later, they got baked at 375 until cooked through, about 12 minutes.  The brown sugar and the sugars in the juice caramelize on the outside of the fish, and the higher heat allow it to cook quickly and not dry out. Meanwhile, I reduced the exact same mixture as the marinade over medium heat until slightly syrupy. Drizzle that over the fish, top it with some toasted panko breadcrumbs and BAM (he’s a jwu alumnus, ps)!

Nutritious and delicious.

mushy meat

Aaaaand here we are. Another month has passed.  But it’s the holiday season, so I have an excuse, right? RIGHT? Let’s jump right in, I know internet bandwidth is at a premium today.

When we last spoke, I had just started “Essentials of Dining Room.” I got to wear makeup and awesome pants that came up to about my 4th rib. We learned how to carry trays, greet tables, serve from the right, and stand against the wall talking about your customers without them realizing (kidding! that was extra credit). 20% of my final grade was based on my ability to open a bottle of wine.

It’s ok. i’ll wait while you go clean up that beverage you just spit all over the screen from laughing so hard.

Everyone back? So, yes. On the last day we had “server olympics” and it was determined that i could open a bottle faster than anyone else. Shocking.  Someone asked me, “so exactly how long have you been working in restaurants?”  (the impact that has on the speed with which I can access vino, I think is negligible.) I had to think about it–the answer is almost TEN YEARS. holy HELL. long story short: i got an A.

Putting those chef whites back on after 2 weeks was a great feeling (nothing makes a 5am wake-up easier than elastic-band pants).  After nearly a DECADE in the front of the restaurant, that first face-melting blast from an open oven was a welcome reminder of how much i love being in the kitchen.

Traditional European Cuisine had me a little worried we’d only be eating saurkraut and mushy vegetables.  There was a fair amount of pickled and boiled items, but  there was also osso bucco, samosas, short ribs, and rabbit. Our chef took the really interesting approach of making every day a study in how old world and new world foods and techniques have co-mingled over the last several centuries. Can you imagine Italian food without tomatoes? Well good thing someone discovered Mexico.  Irish Stew without potatoes? God bless America.

First few days: Thomas Jefferson’s Chicken Catticatore  (wa-hoo-wa!), yankee pot roast with colcannon and carrot/parsnip puree (or, how to save over-boiled vegetables), guinness beef stew, lamb shanks, and…..cookies?

So the traditional europeans love their low-and-slow techniques. that leaves eager culinary students with lots of idle time.  Chef encouraged us to use whatever we could find and make whatever we desired. If it worked, great, if it didn’t well, let’s figure out why.  One of the most fun things we did (and best ways to use up idle time) was make pasta!

Here are a few of my favorite things my group made: pork pozole , osso bucco with risotto (spacing look funny on that writing? i’ll give you 2 guesses who fixed the spelling error. and your second guess doesn’t count), and spinach with golden raisins and pine nuts.

Osso bucco is traditionally topped with a gremolata (lemon zest, parsley, garlic)–that top center picture is a tasting we did of the veal with and without the gremolata.  The way the citrus and herby notes changed the flavor of the meat in your mouth was amazing. I love sh*t like that.

After a week straight of stewed beef, braised chicken, and creamy carbs, we had to step it up.  A group member who shall remain nameless muttered over our reducing sauce, “if i never see mushy meat again it will be too soon.”

Enter (counter-clockwise from top-left): autumnally-themed individual stews, butternut squash pasta for dayyyyys, grilled pizza and stuffed mushrooms, and my idle-hands creations–guacamole with fresh tortilla chips (why avocados were in the european cuisine fridge I still don’t know), roasted poblano fettucini, and apple crisp with gingersnap crust (we asked for 6 apples, they sent 6 pounds).

For my practical, I had to make a braciole (pronounced bra-shole…naturally), a butterflied flank steak stuffed with spinach, garlic, and parmesean, rolled up, and braised. I served it with citrus-sauteed squash and a sauce from the reduced braising liquid. There is no picture because nothing could adequately capture perfection (or I forgot)–that’s right, i got a 100! Maybe the fact that it was my birthday helped me grab those last few points. I like to think it was the excellently-seared meat.

And just like that, we were done! First quarter: complete.  Looking back, it felt like it absolutely flew by, but thinking about everything I’ve learned makes my head spin.

We had a great looong break for Thanksgiving–quick and dirty recap coming–and we’ll be back in the kitchen bright and early tomorrow. Here’s whats on the docket for the next few months:

  • Nutrition and Sensory Analysis (SO necessary right after the land of meat and potatoes)
  • Principles of Beverage Service (where I believe I will be judged on my ability to drink a martini. just give me the A right now.)
  • Skills of Meatcutting
  • Purchasing and Product Identification
  • Fundamentals of Food Service Production
  • Introduction to Menu Planning and Cost Controls

Ready

Set

GO!

bechamel and boogaloo

Wow so the promise for no more monster posts sure fell through. since we last spoke, i’ve been through 2 more sections–Stocks, Sauces, and Soups and New World Cuisine.  Yesterday was the first day of Introduction to Dining Room–I get to wear my hair down and makeup (yay!) but also have to wear the dreaded Cintas uniform pants. Atleast these bad boys aren’t 100% polyester like my last encounter with uniforms.

I think everyone in my class feel like we’re starting to hit our stride.  Much like any restaurant I’ve worked in, everyone finds their groove.  You may not be best friends with each person, but you find a way to work as a group to get things done.  Rumor has it the professors have been talking about us–rumor has it we’re the rockstars. We’re smart, fast, and look out for each other. I mean, really, who’s surprised. 😉

I have zero pictures from Soups, Stocks and Sauces.  Bechamel and hollandaise do not photograph well. The class was amazing though–the professor was great and we focused a ton on knife skills and cooking techniques.  It was the perfect warm-up to New World Cuisine, where we were thrown Day 1 into producing massive amounts of food.  I can’t imagine starting in a production class with having to learn the fundamentals as you go.

Pictures seem to be the fan favorites around here, so let’s break down the rest that way.

Steam table shots–all the hot food we made each day went into this here steam table. On another table were salads and the carving station.  There were 5 groups, and everyone made anywhere from 2-5 dishes a day.  so. much. food. some of it was standard roasting or blanching of vegetables, rice pilaf, french fries, and some of it was fun things like fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade (lower left corner), grilled ribeyes with homemade steak sauce (lower right, sauce made by yours truly), and oyster po’boys (no picture. they didn’t last long.).


Here are some close ups of the dishes I made with my own two hands:

top row (left to right): buttermilk-soaked fried okra (slimy little buggers), herb roasted carrots and parsnips, quinoa with roasted peppers.

middle: herb-seasoned french fries, jicama and orange salad, grilled shrimp, corn, and black bean salad

bottom: grilled pineapple salsa with habaneros, adobo chicken wings, peruvian chicken salad.

And the best part–action shots! each day a different class came to eat all the delicious things slaved over for hours (literally) and we served them.  Scooping rice, slicing prime rib, assembling tacos, whatever was needed. I was excused from this task for most of the class thanks to the awesome hacking cough and persistent sniffles that came to hang out for the last couple weeks.

top: steam table calm before the storm

left column: turkey roulade with chorizo stuffing, prime rib.

right column: steak fajitas and pork loin

bottom: fish tacos!

center: culinary geniuses–sliders topped with mashed potatoes, grilled shrimp, and onion rings (part of the special reserve tasting menu known as family meal)

It was a TON of work, and a TON of fun.  Finally working to produce food for people who were counting on you, and having them compliment it was a great experience, and only the beginning.  Reflecting on the last 9 days today with some friends, we all felt a renewed sense of purpose. It was hot and stressful and exhausting. And we want more.  Never once have I resented my 6:30am commute, even when I worked until midnight the night before.  How many people can say that?

Enough with the mushy stuff–Thursday we started Essentials of Dining Room. I’m spending the next two weeks learning to be a server…right. We had to fill out an index card with our front of house experience. Mine took 2.  I was long ago pegged by my classmates as a strong personality (shocking, i know) and today the teenagers were awed by my ability to carry a tray with 4 (empty) entrée plates down a hallway.

Everyone was in a pretty goofy mood after the stress of finals the day before, which led to my group creating the following team name, logo, and slogan.

Yes, that’s crayon. Crayola crayon. You’ve just been SERVED.

where’s my hugger?!

SHEW. Yesterday was the last day of Baking and Pastry, which meant final exam time.

We had 4 hours to make whole wheat dinner rolls, pate a choux, buttermilk biscuits, cookies, and pastry cream. the pate a choux was piped into cream puffs, which we had to fill (with our pastry cream) and dip in chocolate ganache (which also had to be made). Oh and after scrubbing the kitchen from top to bottom, then we got to take the written exam. woof.

Despite the stress of the last day, the second week was a lot of fun!

There was pie

apple! it's hard to see, but there's a cute little apple cut out on the top that Poppa Bear made

There was cake

vanilla sponge with raspberry filling, american buttercream, and oreo crunchies

[sidenote: if you’ve got a thing for sisyphean tasks, you would be an EXCELLENT cake froster.]

There was quiche..ohhh was there quiche

carmelized onion, canadian bacon, sharp cheddar. and that's MY perfectly fluted pie crust thankyouverymuch

Eclairs and Cream Puff and Profiteroles, oh my!

profiteroles: filled w/ (hand-whipped) whipped cream. eclairs and puffs are filled with pastry cream and dipped in chocolate.

Sweet rolls (think parker house):

And on the 7th (ok 8th) day, God rested. And He created pizza. And it was good.

cheese and pepperoni

spinach and mushroom

Really good.

It was a little sad to say goodbye to our chef, who had an amazing balance of high expectations and understanding patience, but there was no time for dilly-dallying.  At 6:45am this morning, we were off to the races with Stocks, Sauces, and Soups!

Our professor is an ex-Marine with a thick Boston accent (and demeanor). It’s a lot to take before the sun comes up.  But he’s fiercely passionate about food and education–and it shows. He’s doing his PhD dissertation on the issue of the sub-par math skills of today’s youth and how it impacts their performance in professional kitchens. After my altercation with Baby Bear, all I can say is ROCK. ON.

So before class ended at 1pm today, i was known as “the hugger.” If you know me, you know I have the amazing capability to be completely devoid of all emotion. So, this was a change.

Chef asks the class, “who eats granola?” Silence. “I eat granola, chef.” “Perfect. There’s always one tree hugger in every class. You are now my Compost Queen.”

Christ.

“You are in charge of the compost buckets. Make sure there’s no trash in the compost or compost in the trash.”

Cue giggles and jeering.

“And if there is, you get to dump it on the freshly washed floor and let your classmates sort it out. And re-wash the floors.”

Silence. I giggle.

So then we made stock. I’ll spare you pictures of boiled chicken carcases and beef bones. But man it smelled good. We’re cleaning up and I’m untangling stacked chairs in the hallway (…teenagers) and all of a sudden Chef is in the window screaming–SCREAMING–“WHERE’S MY HUGGER??!?!” Time to take the compost out. Perfectly sorted, might I add.

Then I treated myself to an exciting sale item at the grocery store:

WHO NEEDS A HUG?