Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Aaand ... Here We Go Again!

Here we are ... September again ... another year of school, exploration, personal growth and challenge ... and wonderful food from the young chefs in Monarch Park's Culinary Arts and Hospitality program.

Some days this old Chef is probably seen as just old and tiresome, with worn-out requirements. I insist on good behaviour, proper attire, safe habit development and honest and fair dealing in every way. These are old values ... and to my delight not one student really pushes back much, and then only really against my uniform requirement. I have no mercy in class for those who improperly drag out their cellphones.

On the first day of the semester the course is introduced and a comprehensive tour undertaken. It is a challenge and expected to be a feat of memory (as is most of the chef world).

On the second day we have a tradition ... I hand out a pretty good recipe from a 70 year old cookbook and say to my new students "Make Me Cookies".
The pantries are loaded up, the fridges groaning. I got a good deal on butter recently and we have almost 50 pounds of the stuff in the fridge (and it will soon all be used and enjoyed). The flour is fresh, the ovens clean and, well, everything is ship-shape.

Everyone is divided into teams (three teams usually) and my only job is to stand back and not help. This is a day for exploration.

Ingredients are found. Measuring devices are discovered. Trays are hauled out of the stacks. Parchment paper is unrolled at great length.

This year one group thought to turn on the oven before they wanted to bake.

The results were ... um ... results.
Some were edible.
This process took about 2 hours.

On the next day the students got a demonstration of how to use and follow and prepare for a professional recipe. It takes 25 minutes from beginning to eating.

After the demo the students are challenged to do it Chef's way, not the previous way. The only thing done for them in advance is that the butter has been allowed to soften and the ovens are on. The same groups ... but this time only 40 minutes are allowed. There will be no mercy ... measure everything, create the batter, form the cookies, bake them, cool them and share ... 40 minutes. At the 40 minute mark, all hands are off (just like at a rodeo) and the results (or lack of them) are judged.


The demo paid off ... the level of cooperation just shot straight up ... the focus and speed increased dramatically and there was 100% success.

EVERY group fared well. EVERY group produced good to excellent cookies.

And all of a sudden there are no complaints about the uniform, there is full buy-in and this old Chef knows that we are off to another very successful semester.

Away we go again!

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