Thursday, 16 April 2015

Leadership and Learning

When I left Italy the chef I was working for, Chef Albini, said to me "Come back any time you can. My kitchen is your kitchen." What a lovely vote of confidence!

This gift of confidence is something I like to pass on to my students in a variety of ways.

Each semester I welcome one of my former chef students back into the kitchen for a full-time co-op education placement. I have been very fortunate through the years with students, and each semester it is a bit of a fight to see who will earn the opportunity. This semester it is Chef Tyler.

I am writing this blog entry on Thursday night. On Sunday my students and I are featured presenters at the annual OCEA conference (Ontario Co-operative Education Association), reminding seasoned teachers what it is actually like to be thrown into something new where everyone else knows what they're doing and you don't. With a large group signed up to join us for our part of the conference, we will find 4 volunteers (or 'voluntolds') and have them make, in a little more than one hour, coq-au-vin for 50 people. My chef students will be their teachers. Imagine! Adults having to learn from youth.

To this end, I challenged Chef Tyler to take over my kitchen and do all the teaching work for this dish. He had to plan the presentation, review his skills, prepare his shopping list (although I did the actual shopping) and arrange all his mis-en-place for the lesson.

We follow the classical Julia Child recipe fairly closely ... I have made a few modifications only ... and Tyler taught the lesson on Tuesday very well.

Tyler prepared the onions and lardons, he prepped the chicken, he did a lovely braise and flambe and formed the dish beautifully.
The garlic was smashed to smithereens after the anima was removed, and the mushrooms went in just near the end of the cooking time so structure would be kept as flavour transferred. My chef students in the class were delighted learning from Chef Tyler.

Today the regular students prepared a dinner of coq-au-vin for about 24 persons, and we will do the same tomorrow, with this recipe and dish. Chef Tyler managed the kitchen instead of me, and he did an excellent job.
Every student will have an opportunity to try their hand at managing a flambe, learning to pull fond and build sauces by managing the development of a flavour profile. Well done everyone!

Congratulations, Chef Tyler, and many thanks. You are developing excellent leadership skills, learning to support actual proficiency and production, and offer precise and careful direction to those who need it. Come back and cook with me any time ... you've earned it.

For a great look at what a year of culinary and leadership development and passionate skill looks like, here is the yearly wrap-up blog from the Stratford Chef School.

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