Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Uniforms and Strong Starts

Today, the second day in the kitchen, was the day of the REAL start to the course. Yesterday we had the fun (and despair!) of "Make Me Cookies". Didn't work out so well yesterday ... everything went into the recycle bin.

But today ... Ah! Today was a different story ... the class time started with a demo at 08h45 (we start our classes 15 minutes BEFORE the rest of the school, just to remind ourselves that this Culinary Arts class, this time, is different from all others). The demo was how to REALLY read a professionally-written recipe, and how to start thinking like a pro.

"Think Like A Chef, Not Like A Cook" my students hear day after day. It does not mean 'cook better', it means think and plan and THEN execute. As Asia, one of my former students wrote on our whiteboard, "The LAST thing a Chef does is cook" ... because when you start the process, you are committing yourself to completion.

The basic method of all this is 'mis-en-place'. This involves reading, thinking, planning and preparation. Get out bowls, tools, boards, knives, etc.. Pre-heat ovens and set racks BEFORE the heating starts. Set up for a steam oven (if required). In short, get ready!

So today the demo was all about getting ready, really. Yes, cookies came out of it, but the main demo was the teaching of mis-en-place, and how to really read for content and implication. Oh yeah ... and how to warm a butter and sugar mix with a blowtorch (very popular!).

Then, after the demo it was time to put on uniforms for the very first time.
Chef jackets, proper aprons, side towels ... then each student was carefully given their toque, the chef hat of many folds. Each fold, it is said, represents a way to cook and serve an egg. (Thank you, Jahquane Lewis, for sharing your photo!)

I emphasize the trust that is always put in cooks and chefs, and how wearing the uniform means that you can always be trusted, under every circumstance, to do your best, to serve honestly, to never, EVER, fool around with someone's food. It is a huge amount of trust, and it must never, ever be betrayed. Everyone took the charge from me sincerely.

Then, back to those darn cookies, but this time with renewed and refreshed eyes and method.

Measuring was done carefully, particularly the water displacement for the butter (which had been softened on the counter overnight). The proper way to use a measuring cup was followed,
and the correct holding of a high-temperature 'spoonchula' developed.

Dough was rolled properly,
and each cookie pressed down to the proper height with a sugar-charged fork.

The parchement paper was folded correctly today, or form-fitted SilPat was used.

The results? Perfect! So good that 1) there are none left, and 2) I don't have a single photo of the results. THAT, friends, is success.

Well done, all! A very strong start.

Tomorrow ... the beginning of knife skills, and making litres of white veg. stock with bouquet garni.


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