Archives For culinary school

In Garde Manger today we followed in the footsteps of all those NSCC peeps who had gone before and carved ourselves some melon swans. Let me just say there is nothing that brings out the inappropriate, under-the-breath comments like a case of melons.

The swans themselves were pretty good I thought for a bunch of people who have never carved cantaloupes before. I free-handed mine and really looked more like a flaming swan, which I can live with. (I took the pictures with my phone, so they aren’t very sharp.)

We also did a butternut squash vase of turnip, beet and carrot flowers. The color on the turnips comes from those thick Wilton paste dyes rubbed on with paper towels or the color bleeding from the beets. The finished vases looked so much like those dubious craft projects from the 1970s that were in Childcraft and those Time Life Family Craft Library (man, I love those books… they have everything from batik printing to building tree houses and every weird macaroni, string art project in between). My efforts at least impressed Julian, so I feel very accomplished.

In other odd news of Nashville’s being a very small puddle… one of my students from Ye Olde Pot & Pannery had Keifel’s boss over for dinner to eat one of the dishes I had demonstrated in class. It isn’t exactly a “what-are-the-odds?” situation but it is quite the coincidence. I also have my first private student. We are about to embark on a six-week odyssey together. I am very grateful that she is willing to be the guinea pig for this. She leaves a bit of a hike out of town so it’s a big commitment on both our parts. I’m hopeful that I am up to the challenge and she is patient with my unkinking efforts in developing a curriculum and figure out how to teach to one person who is paying that much for my undivided attention. Frankly, I’m a little nervous.

Pressing Onward

victoria —  January 27, 2006 — 1 Comment

Today, I picked up my Intent to Graduate form. It seems on odd thing, in that I imagine that any degree-seeking student is intent on graduating. Nonetheless, it is in my possession and needs to be completed and signed by 237 people, or so it seems, by next Monday. After this semester, I will have an internship, and two computer courses left if my petition to waive the Speech 101 requirement is successful.

This semester my coursework is mostly culinary. I have International Cuisine, Garde Manger, Table Service and Beverage Management and, the exception to the culinary classes, Principles of Accounting I. Admittedly, I did not head into the semester overjoyed about the prospect of accounting in any shape or form, but I do see its use, especially in relating to running my own business.

We have two fairly extensive projects this semester, a buffet for garde manger that centers on a theme and a menu and small seminar on a country for International. My group for garde manger decided on Denmark as our country. I think it will be a challenge, which is good. Thankfully we are looking at a great deal of potatoes and fish, not so difficult to track down in Nashville. For garde manger, my group isn’t firm on a theme but seems to be leaning toward a 1970s cocktail party. I wanted to do an English afternoon tea sort of thing and got turned down. The downside to being the only girl and the whole English tea thing smacking of doilies. Oh, well. The 1970s will be fun to revisit and relatively easy to decorate for, I just don’t want it to be too velveeta laden. No chefs in bell-bottoms kind of thing.

Despite my fears last semester that I had fallen into a culinary Grease Pit of Despair and was singularly screwing up, I managed to pull it out and kept my 4.0. I was completely floored by that and hopeful that another successful semester, a bang up internship and August graduation will make me employable. The day job will be pretty important if J. and I are going to get this business running toward what we really want to be doing–cookbooks and travel. This is where I could go off on a complete tangent about culinary tours of Slovenia and places off the foodies’ beaten track. I’ll save that for another day.

On another note, we here at Ars Culinaria, we being me, are still interested in doing the Ask Foodieporn segments so please send your inquiries regarding all things culinary, tangental is okay too, to Victoria at foodieporn with the .com thingy at the end, all lowercase, no spaces (must. keep. the. bots. at. bay.).

Projects, etc.

victoria —  November 28, 2005 — Leave a comment

Despite rumors to the contrary I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I’ve just been terribly, stupidly busy. And for those who wonder why I continually do this to myself you will be relieved to know that my sole New Year’s Resolution is to learn to say “no.” (I can hear Keifel chuckling now).

Our first catering gig went remarkably well, despite the fact that nearly twice as many people showed as we had guaranteed for. Again, not my mistake but I think it may have colored the overall impressions. JC, my partner, said there were raves on the food, which we of course love to hear. We did go all out quality wise and now we know what we need to be charging.

My buffet production has come and gone, as well. There were some glitches and my packet didn’t dazzle as much as I had hoped. I made an A but a low one that won’t have much impact on my lower than I’d like midterm grade. I think I might be looking at a B for Culinary III, which I have to admit has me in shudders. I’ve had a 4.0 to this point and I would like to keep it. I can’t seem to do anything exactly right this semester in the class. It is frustrating and has shaken my confidence, probably more than I am comfortable admitting. Keifel says that’s my problem, that cooking is like graphic design and that I need more attitude and ego. Maybe. But those with attitude and ego don’t seem to be faring any better than me in class. I know that I don’t have an “arrogant chef” within just waiting to blossom. And if I did I would beat her down with a whisk anyway. I don’t want to be that person. I also don’t think I would be a very good teacher if I became that person. I do realize that I am my own harshest critic and that I am not satisfied unless it’s an A that’s a perfect 100. I was terribly nervous the night that I cooked, to the point that it was mentioned on my grading sheet. I also know that I need to relax, again, this isn’t brain surgery. No one is going to die if my soup doesn’t have enough body or I didn’t put herbs in my crackers. I’m not going to die if I don’t make a 100 on every assignment. I think I am frustrated because I can’t seem to hit that sweet spot this semester with this instructor and it gets under my skin.

I know I promised to post recipes but as I mentioned they are in excel which doesn’t seem to play nice with the format here. For now, I have one recipe I have been tweaking that began as an item for the project.

Victoria’s Ruby Fruit Sauce

1 bag cranberries
zest and juice from one largish orange
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup black currant preserves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
juice of half a lemon or to taste

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan and heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Lower the heat to medium low and cook until the majority of the cranberries have burst and begun to break down. The sauce will have begun to thicken. Reduce the heat again to low and stir in the remaining ingredients, tasting and adjusting the seasoning. Allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate up to two weeks.

Aaaaah, Fall

victoria —  November 2, 2005 — 1 Comment

I know I have mentioned before how much I love fall. The leaves here are kind of eh. It was still 85 degrees last week so the leaves are mostly just turning brown and dropping. Thankfully, the maples are doing their thing and there are bursts of brilliant reds and oranges along my daily routes. It makes a November baby all warm and fuzzy inside.

Speaking of November babies… The big 33 is this week. I’ve been too busy to really ponder the birthday thing too much, but on a culinary note, Keifel, the amazing man that he is, gave me two wonderful gifts: a weekend of touristy loveliness and Sheraton sweet sleeper deep, deep sleep in Chattanooga and a beautiful (long coveted) Shun santoku knife. I’ve been staring at the box all afternoon while I finish my Culinary III project packet. (When I figure out how to post recipes from Excel I’ll add those to the Foodieporn Library o’ Goodness.) I can’t wait to chop things with this knife. I’ve been using one at Ye Olde Pot & Pannery in the cooking classes for sometime, hence the coveting. It takes all kinds of abuse there and stays razor sharp. And, O how happy sharp, sharp knives make me. My, that sounds disturbing.

The semester is rocking along. Aforementioned project package is due tomorrow night and I have rotated into the garde manger kitchen at Hotel Chi Chi. I love it. Lots of fruit chopping and bleeding knuckles from my hands being wet all the time, but I have taken to wearing cloves almost constantly to avoid that problem. C. has shared many secrets of the kitchen, mostly ones that my life would be worthless were I to share, so I shall remain silent on those points.

In the getting my business off the ground ring of my personal circus, I may have a new business partner. And it looks like we may have a catering job already. An open house for 50. Bigger than I generally wanted to do as my equipment list is still nearly zero. We shall see how it all comes together. CSG has also asked me to possibly cater some breakfast meetings at her place of employ. It looks like I might actually have some revenue to offset my business expenses for the year.

It Burns….

victoria —  October 11, 2005 — 2 Comments

Another night on the line. Mostly room service and the bar which doesn’t create much action on the sauté station. We had one 6-top that started out as complainers so G. mostly handled that one. As he put it, he’d rather his butt be on the line if things went badly. I did manage to burn the hell out of my hand, a good stripe on the palm and two lovely blisters to match on my index and middle fingers. Luckily the burns are on my left hand but that doesn’t make them less painful only less inconvenient. Had I burnt myself so badly at home, I probably would’ve gotten a little teary and Keifel would have dragged out the toothpaste or lopped off some of our aloe plant before I got blisters. Last night, I stuck my hand in the sink and tried to look nonchalant.

Though I know the line isn’t for me, I will be taking some valuable lessons away from my month with the guys. Speed matters and the only way to gain speed is to practice which you can really only do at work. Know where everything is, there isn’t time to look for anything when the tickets are printing. Organization is key, not only knowing where it is but having things arranged in a way that contributes to flow. Burning yourself happens, even if you’re really good. I have also learned speed potato peeling, crab cake and fish flipping, how to sear a steak on both sides at the same time, and that a soft toothbrush is the best way to get the ground-in dirt out of your finger prints. (Actually that last one came from my mom.)

It would be dishonest to say that I haven’t enjoyed myself. The guys on the line are great to work with and I have learned a great deal from them. I have never been so bloody exhausted though in my life. Everyday I feel like I come home and crash. Even when we are slow, I feel pretty ramped up, adrenaline pumping, waiting for the printer to start and the grease to fly. I can honestly say that if I never work on a line again, I’d be okay with that.

I find myself in the middle of midterms this week. A written exam in Purchasing and a production exam in Culinary III. I am trying not to worry so much. I’m trying instead to focus on not setting my arm on fire at work or poisoning my husband with my test cooking for my project.

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Take Out

victoria —  September 26, 2005 — Leave a comment

I cook at school, I cook at work, I read about cooking, think about it all the time and more often than not we have Chinese take out or pizza at home because when I am home I am too exhausted to even think about cooking.

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I know it seems a small thing, but when you are that exhausted and someone shows the smallest kindness, it can be overwhelming.

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Production went very, very well. I made the Tartlet Trio. Three very tiny tartlets in a scarlet pool of fresh raspberry sauce.

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Finals again

victoria —  July 27, 2005 — Leave a comment

This summer school thing has been much rougher than I imagined. Not harder really, just more compacted and time-constrained. But, I have had my written final for Advance Baking and Pastry and am doing my production final tomorrow morning.

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