- On a gas stove, if you want to heat something but only ever so slightly, you can just use the pilot light flame.
- When flambéing, take the pan off the stove, add the brandy, then put the pan back on the stove tilting the pan so the flame just catches the brandy. Badaboom!
- In a restaurant, err on the under-cooked side if you have to. The customer can always send it back and you can cook it some more. If you over-cook it, you’re toast. On an exam at a culinary school however, err on the over-cooked side.
- Even if the whole class chips in (including the Chefs), this is no guarantee of winning the Powerball.
Today was a “mock” final, warming us up for the Level 4 practical exam. While the details aren’t yet clear about the real final, today we walked in and picked a number out of a box. I picked B2. This meant that I had to present my consommé at 12.50 and pork at 1.30. In the actual final I believe we also pick out a piece of paper that has the meals we have to cook, but we’ve all only practiced two so far this level, so those are the ones we did today.
To be honest, it was a tiny bit anticlimactic. Most of us knew what we were doing, and just proceeded to go about doing it. To simulate the final exam, at EXACTLY 12.50, I plomped down FOUR plates with vegetables and a teapot of consommé in front of the ‘judges’. The chef asked me to pour one plate, leave it with him, and take the rest away. That was it. Then I was off to prepare the pork dish. By the third day of preparing the same dish, it left a fair amount of ‘down’ time. Joe had finished all his prep 2 hours early, so he was bored silly. I was more confident today, but nothing worked out perfectly. My consommé was a bit weak and under-salted, my ‘taillage’ was uneven, my pork wasn’t hot enough, and my sauce could have been a bit stronger. After we were all done and the kitchen was cleaned, Chef Dominique gathered us all to take a picture to help him remember our names, and then he and Chef Joe publically told us each what we did right and wrong. It was a bit depressing – I think only one or two of us nailed everything perfectly.
I can tell my personal standards have risen though. For the consommé, for example, there are four vegetables that are incorporated into the dish (carrots, turnips, peas, beans). Each one of these is cooked separately, and then shocked in ice at the exact point of doneness. I would say that the “perfect” doneness is within a 20 second window, and different for each. I felt I got them all perfectly cooked today. I don’t think I would had ever paid that much attention to individually making sure each vegetable was perfect in its own right. I also noticed on the apple tarts, people are getting perfect at just browning part of the edge of apple on the covering. Spencer, who is across from me on the station, nailed that today.
Next we flip flop. For the next three days I will be doing the apple tart and the skate, and vice versa. We have a written exam tomorrow on “garde manger”, which covers things like consommés, salad nicoise, and other “garde manger” station food items. Time to write out my skate and apple tart recipe cards, and get studying. I am also volunteering at a James Beard Foundation event tomorrow night, so it’s going to be a long day.
Thanks to Frank for sending me the video clip.