Wednesday, December 17, 2008

culinary school etc

greetings! i wanted to write a bit about culinary school, because i suck at updating my other blog, so i am just going to consolidate here for a bit.

a typical day in school. let's take monday for an example. i get to work at 9 am, work until about 4:30 and then gather together my bag of tools (a big black bag that carries such items as a chef's knife, a paring knife, a bread knife, a peeler, 4 different kinds of spatulas, 2 whisks, a double sided melon-baller, a juicer, a pastry brush, a ladle, measuring spoons, and much more) and get on the N express train down to canal street. i emerge, walk a couple blocks to the french culinary institute, then walk up 3 flights of stairs to the locker room. here i change into the standard chef's uniform (i always want to call it a costume) that consists of black and white checkered pants, black skid-proof shoes, a chef's jacket embroidered with my name, one of those awful caps, a white neck scarf, long white apron, and towel.

from here i go downstairs to the second floor pastry I kitchen. it looks pretty much exactly like the top chef kitchen. i take my place and unload what i'll need for the day - we are assigned the recipes we'll be working on next class the class before, so we can read over them and know what instruments we'll be needing. i sharpen my knives and put them in a drawer. i then begin to "mise on place" (literally, to set up) my station with the correctly measured amounts of what i'll need for our first recipe: 100 grams of semi sweet chocolate, 250 grams of butter (which i cube), 125 grams of sugar, etc. our teacher/chef (chef toni) writes our agenda for the day on the board, something like:

prepare pate sucree (1 x person) divide, wrap, label, refrigerate

roll out pate brisee (4 x tartelettes per person), label, refrigerate

chocolate lecture

tarte au chocolate ganache, demo, 1x person

tartue au chococolate bavaurian, demo, 1x team

chantilly creme: 500 g cream, 100 g 6x sugar, vanilla - whip, 1x team**

**note: this was a really light day. generally we don't have a lecture and we are baking 3-4 things, so this was an unusually easy day for us.

and throughout the day we just go through the board. we all know the recipes for pate sucree (sweet tart dough) by now so once we've mise en placed it we make that, divide it in two, and refrigerate. there is a very specific way to do everything, which we learn by demos - our chocolate lecture was basically a quick history of chocolate, the differences between chocolates, what sort of chocolate should be used for once. of course, it includes a taste test between several types of chocolate.

for demos the chef will call us to the front. there is a tilted mirror over her station so we can all see what she is doing. she talks us through what she is doing as she does it - why you mix this first, how you know when the cream is hot enough, what to do if you overheat the cream, etc. then we go back to our stations and do it. as we go, the chef calls out "this should be finished by 7:30, then mise en place for the bavarian." our response is always "yes chef!" if you finish before the alloted time, you do the dishes from the previous dish; if you don't, you have a pile waiting for you at the end of the night and the scorn of the chef.

this continues until about 8:30, when we break for dinner. 3 or 4 of us go downstairs to the main kitchen to pick up dinner: generally 3 or 4 dishes, usually including a salad, some sort of grilled or baked vegetable, a meat or pasta dish, and something else: stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. it is almost always incredibly delicious and is certainly the most balanced meal i eat all week.

at 9:00 dinner is over and we bring our dishes to the dishwashing room to be cleaned. we then get right back into the next dish - usually cuire a blanc (blind baking) tarts that were made and refrigerated before the break. every night a student is assigned to be the stewart (assigned the job of picking up dinner, getting the ingredients needed for the night from the dry storage room, making sure all jobs are completed, etc), 2 people are assigned to be bakers (they are responsible for taking things off the resting rack and putting them in the ovens, checking on them, taking them out when baked completely) and everyone in the class has at least one job that has to be done at the end of the night (cleaning ovens, dumping out the bleach buckets, reorganizing the dry goods shelf, etc). we finish up for the night; usually the last thing we do is decorate the tarts, either making a stencil to create a design with powdered sugar, or by piping chocolate or some kind of cream on our tarts. we then clean all our dishes, make sure everything is in perfect order for the next class, box up the goodies we made that night, then head down to the locker room to change back into street clothes and take the train home, new recipes jotted down on a small notebook in our pockets. class is generally let out at about 11 pm; i get home by 11:30 or so.

and here is one of those chocolate ganache tartelettes i mentioned!

as any of you who know me can imagine, this class is a dream to me. i absolutely LOVE it. that isn't to say it isn't challenging, exhausting, and sometimes downright fucking difficult - but in such good ways.

NOW! i did a little bargain shopping at h&m yesterday on my way to do some secret santa shopping and came up with this little number:

dress: h&m, $10!!
necklace: erica weiner, of course
tights: my mom's, from back in her jazzercise days. delightfully thick and warm.
not pictured: shoes, payless, realllly on their last legs

love you guys!

audrey xo

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