I know I’ve been taking a little snooze on here these past few weeks but as holidays go, I took a couple weeks to enjoy sleepy mornings, spiced ciders, Christmas trees, snow capped mountains, friend-filled weekends and lots and lots of television (read: Weeds and Dexter marathons). It was lovely.
But as we charged right into 2013 without abandon, I realize I hadn’t paused to reflect on 2012 until after the new year had already began. And what a year 2012 has been. 2 different jobs and 1 entire career change later, I never would have imagined last January that I’d be spending my days full-time in the kitchen. Its a dream to say the least, but I realize now that without the windy, crazy and difficult path I’ve taken these last few years, it would probably still be just that, a dream.
So what has school been like, you ask? Truth is, I haven’t really had many full days because of the long holiday break. I went back to class this Thursday and things have definitely started to kick in high gear. The first week (before the holidays) was what they call the “kitchen basics” course. We learned how to set up and break down the kitchen, meticulous cleaning standards, food sanitation rules, food and tool id, and basic knife skills.
This week was a bit of a different story. As I mentioned here, I’m in class 8 hours per day which is the equivalent of doing two full lessons per day. Its crammed, fast-paced and you have to be able to keep up. Arrival is between 12:30-12:45…always. Its gives everyone enough time to “set up” the kitchen before class begins promptly at 1. Setting up means a complete cleaning of the kitchen (even though the class before us cleans up after they finish) and then setting out different stations.Every person has their own station which includes a cutting board and half sheet tray to hold all of your tools for the day. There is a set up for every stove which includes salt, a grease bin, a tool bin, tasting spoons, oil, red/white wine, and a cooling rack. On top of that, every table (4-5 people) has an entirely separate station. The theme here: mise en place or “everything in its place.” Words to live by.
Our first lesson on Friday included a long discussion on cooking with different fats. The different classifications, characteristics, qualities, uses, nutritional values and chemical compositions. It was like cooking science and I felt right at home. The practical application was probably more fun. We sweated and then caramelized onions in clarified butter, cooked scrambled eggs with canola oil, over-easy eggs with olive oil. Lots and lots of eggs.
Lesson 2 for the day was a wee-bit more difficult – fish fabrication. As someone who eats a lot of seafood, I was anxious for this one. After watching the chef demonstrate, we each to break down a fluke, a striped-bass and a spanish mackerel. My fillets weren’t as pretty as the Whole Foods’ counters but hey, I still have some time.
Next Monday is all about shellfish and stocks/fumets. Yippeee