The Final Practical Exam is tomorrow, and three incredible days at JoJo – Day 78

Luis adding a little love to his plate
Luis adding a little love to his plate
Dalal and her two tarts. The first tart didn't make the grade.
Dalal and her two tarts. The first tart didn’t quite make the grade.

Tomorrow is the day that all of Level 4 has been leading up to. We start 30mins earlier (we all had to sign a sheet okaying this), walk in, pick a number out of a hat which will tell us what and when we’re going to be tested on.

If we pick “A” Garde Manger (salads & soups) + Saucier (meats) then we will have to cook on one of
1) Consomme Printanier
2) Poached Eggs
3) Salade Nicoise
plus one of
1) Pork Chops
2) Chicken Grand Mere
3) Beef Bourguignon

If we pick “B” Poissonier (fish) + Patissier (desserts) then we will have to cook on one of
1) Sautéed Skate Grenoble
2) Striped Bass Papillote
3) Grilled Salmon with White Wine Herb Sauce
plus one of
1) Apple Tart
2) Profiteroles
3) Lemon Tart

Emma and Erik discuss the weird goings on in the kitchen... missing pasta, plates getting moved, etc..
Emma and Erik discuss the weird goings on in the kitchen today… missing pasta, plates getting moved, tension, etc..

The easiest combo for me is definitely the skate + apple tart, but who knows what combo chef has in store for us. Time to start reviewing these recipes.

After school on Friday I had my “trail” at JoJo Restaurant, Jean-George’s first New York restaurant. It was totally trial by fire. I first did some prep, but then was quickly put on Linden and Genevieve’s garde-manger station, which meant we were putting together all the salads and the desserts. It was also the last day of “restaurant week”, where hundreds of restaurants have a special “discounted” menu. In Toronto we call the equivalent Winterlicious. What this meant was that JoJo was jam-packed and it was pure craziness in the very small “French style” kitchen, but it also meant that most people were ordering similar items, so for example once I got down the 13 steps required to assemble the carrot salad, I handled those when the orders came in. It was a great learning night, because I was able to add value very quickly. Nevertheless, it was mayhem. Near the end of the evening “Stewart, the chef wants to speak to you downstairs”, Uh oh. I had screwed a couple things up, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out that Chef Ron felt I was a good fit and offered me the externship which I accepted right away. He said that I could go home if I wanted, but I knew Linden was still under pressure so went straight back to the kitchen to finish the night. Right then a huge wave of orders hit, and so it was back into the mayhem till very very late. It was a very long day. When the last order was filled, the whole kitchen crew all high-fived, but really I was read to collapse……..but what I didn’t realize is that this was just the beginning.

Assembling a made to order eggs benedict crab cake at JoJo.
Assembling a made to order eggs benedict crab cake at JoJo.

I asked when I could work next…. “how about brunch tomorrow?” So for Saturday and Sunday I worked the full day shift manning the meat station. Saturday was a bit less stressful, because the guy doing the meat station was there showing me the ropes, but on Sunday it was just me on meat, reporting to Remi who was doing all the fish and the eggs and running the show (with mastery I might add). It was supposed to be slow day, but all of a sudden there were 40 more “covers” than expected and a wave of pure panic hit. Plus, there were orders for courses I hadn’t cooked yet just as Remi got swamped. The head chef had to step in and help out. I didn’t do a perfect job and screwed some things up, burnt myself several times, but got through it. It’s a tough place to be in when everything is new, you’re not in control, really under pressure, and making mistakes, but I actually started to gain a little confidence by the end of it. PLUS we were making some pretty fantastic tasting food (more on this to come).

I have my recipes to study for the exam tomorrow and then I’m going to collapse (apparently there’s a superbowl thingie going on today as well). It’s back to JoJo on Tuesday.

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3 comments

  1. Danny Nashman

    Well done Stewart… offered an externship after your first shift. Very proud of you. Sounds like quite an adventure!

  2. Elaine

    Congratulations on your externship placement! I passed my sit-down interview with the executive chef at the Cornell Club (I’m an alumna which may have helped the chef decide I’m ok so far), and have to fill out their student paperwork so I can do my kitchen tryout in banquet prep two weekends from now. Unlike you, I found family meal prep my favorite part of cooking at school — 100 portions of pumpkin pancakes! 150 portions of glazed carrots! — so I’m really hoping for 200 portions of banquet hours this spring.

    Chef Dominique told me what the choices are for your test, but my lips (and typing fingers) are sealed. He was the best tutor of multi-tasking that I could have hoped for, and I hope his hours teaching me get me to do at least half as well in my practical final next month as I know you will do tomorrow. Good luck! Sleep well tonight!

  3. Diana

    This is your chance to shine. You can do it better than ever! Breathe and focus.
    So proud of you!

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