I know I’m going to take back this statement later, but right now I’ll say that week three of school was my favorite. And it’s no coincidence that it was the week we started pastry and baking with Chef Mary. I wasn’t too surprised that pastry turned out to be my favorite subject, but I’m finding more and more reasons to love it every day.
1. Chef Mary is incredibly knowledgable. When she lectures, I’m scribbling notes and asking as many questions as possible because I want to know and remember everything she says. I also love her teaching style as it appeals to my academic side that wants to take notes and memorize concepts, terms, and ratios. Baking is scientific and though I’ve never learned toward science in school, I want to learn it all.
2. I actually know stuff! During the first few weeks of culinary training, I felt like I was a bit behind everyone else because I was terrible with a knife and had never worked with fancier meats like lobster and veal because I’m poor and work with poor people meats like chicken. And when it came to vegetables, I was pretty straightforward, working with what I know. I mean, I’d never had fennel or leeks before and suddenly I was using it in just about every dish. But baking? I know baking. I do it all the time and you don’t need expensive or fancy ingredients to make a cake or pavlova or pie crusts. It’s something I’ve been doing and learning from for a long time.
3. We get sweets. I was shocked to find out that nearly all of my classmates don’t love desserts. How could you not?? I have a hard time not eating everything as soon as it comes out of the oven or licking the spoon while I’m mixing. And since we’re getting as much practice as possible, we’ve made a LOT of cakes and pies that we’ll slowly eat our way through over the next few weeks. I’m not mad about that. I mean, we were asked to eat a plate full of samplings of cakes. Not complaining.
So this week I’ve mastered my pie crust and currently have eight of them sitting in my fridge waiting to be filled for pot pies or dessert. And as soon as I have a good excuse, I’ll be making a beautiful chocolate silk roulade because I’m still dreaming about the one we made at school.
But baking and pastry only took up two days last week. So in other news…
We finally got to work with the wonderful and hilarious Chef Adam! He has a bit of a “big brother” personality about him, where he’ll crack jokes and make fun of you and tell stories in very animated ways, but he’ll push you and tell you what you’re doing wrong so you can improve.
He taught us about grains and pilafs and we had some Iron Chef fun making three different pilafs with quinoa, jasmine rice, or red lentils, with a slew of different vegetables to choose from. It was pretty amazing how different all of our dishes turned out but they were all delicious! Every time we sit down for a meal I’m so impressed with my fellow classmates as we all make amazing food.
Then on Thursday, Chef Houman gave us a fun challenge. We had a lot of veggies and leftovers in the walk-in that needed to get used, so he challenged us to figure out a way to use all of it for a collaborative lunch. We all got together to plan things out and divvy out the duties. I got the idea to use my pie crust skills for a pot pie using our leftover beef short ribs with the braising sauce, potatoes, and carrots. We also made creamy artichoke scalloped potatoes and cooked up a bunch of the tarts and gallettes that we put together earlier in the week. It was a lot of fun to put together a little menu and get creative as a team.
And guys. The pot pie was marvelous. I might be addicted to making and eating pot pies.
While I went into this program mostly to better my food writing, styling, and photography and have a great addition to my resume as I pursue my passions in the food industry, I’m starting to really love being creative in the kitchen and wondering if I should work more directly with food as a career. We shall see, my friends. We shall see.