Tuesday Class - Concepts and Theories of Culinary Techniques
Well, this is it. Finals night. I have studied the vocab, and the slides. I am sure that I am ready. The 100 question multiple choice test takes me about 20 minutes to complete. I join the kids on the patio to wait for everyone else. We decide to go to Santana Row to celebrate. Everyone is feeling pretty good about how they did and we are in high spirits. We end up at The Counter for burgers, sweet potato fries and fried dill pickle chips. After we sit there until 9:15 we decide to wander over to Borders. There are 7 of us. All sitting around on stools, ladders and the floor in the cookbook section. All of us have some cookbook or memior or some other food related book in our hands. Even Dustin who is the only guy that ever joins in with us ladies. I think he likes feeling like he has a harem. We leave when borders closes and walk over to Pinkberry. I have a small pomegrante yogurt. I am surprised at how yummy it is! We are lounging around one of the sitting areas in the middle of the row, excited chattering about what we plan to cook tomorrow night if we are allowed to choose our own final meal for class. We finally break up and go our separate ways around 11.
We arrive and line up outside the kitchen for inspection. Chef Lew is accompanied by our new Chef Director, Chef Jeff. They are not only inspecting our uniforms but asking us each a question about something that we should have learned in class. My question is "what is shigellosis?" ICK!
What is shigellosis?
Shigellosis is a gastrointestinal disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella.
Illness often occurs 1 to 2 days after exposure to Shigella, and lasts 5 to 7 days. This disease can be quite severe and lead to hospitalization, especially in young children and the elderly. Some people with shigellosis have very few or no symptoms, but can still pass Shigella to others. The diagnosis is usually made when a laboratory finds Shigella in the stool of an infected person. Shigella is spread when the stool of a sick person passes into the mouth of another person. Spread of the illness most often occurs due to person-to-person contact, especially within families and childcare centers due to inadequate hand washing and poor hygienic habits. Sometimes, Shigella can contaminate food and cause illness among those who eat the tainted item. Food items that have been sources of outbreaks have included parsley, cilantro, lettuce, raw oysters, and even a commercially prepared bean dip. Shigellosis can also occur after drinking or swimming in contaminated water.
THERE! Everything you need to know about Shigellosis.
After I answer I am allowed to enter the kitchen. We stand around waiting for our instructions unsure of what is going to happen. Finally, Chef has finished inspection. He comes in and tells us that due to time constraints we will not have to make a soup.
We must save our waste to show him when we present our meals. He wants to make sure we are learning to minimize waste. We are allowed to pull whatever protein we want off the cart but we must make sure we take only what we will use. I decided I wanted to make Chicken Piccata. Naturally, I won't be lucky enough to get 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, because that isn't how the school works. They only order whole chickens because we need so much stock. I manage to get one of the others to partially cut up the chicken, giving me the breasts. But they are still on the bones and still have skin on them. It's now or never for me. I have got to get through getting these breasts off the bone, skinned and pounded without gagging or I am never going to pass this class. I am so proud of myself for doing that part that I know I can fly through the rest. I am making mashed potatoes, and broccoli with red pepper flakes to go with my Chicken Piccata. I peel my potatoes and get them cooking, I blanch up my broccoli, I bread my chicken. I get the potatoes mashed and into the hot box (a large metal box that keeps food warm). Get the broccoli shocked and into the box, saute the chicken breasts and get them into the box. I deglaze the pan and get my sauce going. Chef Lew peeks over my shoulder and says "smells like chicken piccata" with a smile. "Yes, Chef!" I reply. Confident because I know I am the only one making this. When class first started we had to select the time we wanted to present and we had to be ready at that time. I took the first time available, 8:30. Then Chef said that if we finished and wanted to present early we could. I was finished with my two plates at 8:15 so I presented early. Chef asked me to describe what I was serving and all of the cooking techniques and ingredients I had used. Chef took one bite of the meal, pronounced it very well presented and cooked and released me to eat the other plate. I thought it looked so good I forgot to take a picture of it before I ate it! As I was sitting down to eat mine in the dining room, Chef looked at me through the window, gave me an odd smile and shoved the whole piece of chicken into his mouth!
Tonight is "Kitchen Appreciation night". All Fundamentals students have to spend their last night in the kitchen cleaning. We spent 2.5 hours scrubbing all the stoves, ovens, the grill, and degreasing all the pots and pans. Then it was over. We were free to go. I went to Dave and Busters with the gang. We had a few drinks and some food and then went our separate ways.
The finale of the Aluminum Chef series took place at the School tonight. The Secret Ingredients were Pumpkin, Chicken and Champagne Grapes. It was interesting to see how the teams were working together. Each team having only 30 minutes to plan a menu utilizing all three ingredients in the best ways. I was surprised that two of the teams chose to make a pumpkin soup. It made me think about how I would have used the ingredients. The first team cooked a pumpkin soup, chicken encrusted with pumpkin seeds over a wild mushroom risotto and a champagne grape sorbet. I tasted the first team’s food. I liked the chicken, it was moist. I did think it needed a little salt. The Risotto tasted a little bland. The Sorbet was delicious at first but if you ate more than a few bites it had a super sweet finish. I think they did the best they could under the time constraints. It must be incredibly difficult to make sure everything is on point with taste and temp. The second team also made a pumpkin soup. Their chicken was served over a broiled polenta. Unfortunately their dessert didn’t come together. The last team presented a beautiful appetizer trio. A pumpkin ravioli, a salad with the champagne grapes and a pumpkin ginger puree. Their second course was a type of Coq au Vin. They served it with mashed potatoes and sautéed mushrooms. It looked great, and it smelled great. I wish I could have tasted it. Their dessert was a sort of like a tart. It had a crust and then they boiled down the grapes with some raspberry puree. It had a Chantilly cream on top of it that looked a little soupy. I would like to participate in the aluminum chef in the next go-round. It seems like it would really test the boundaries of your creativity.
It was really interesting to see the way that my classmates used the things they have learned in their classes. I hope that I can make the same kinds of leaps in my skills as they have. This is the reason I chose to come to this school.