Monday, March 30, 2009

Top 10 of the quarter

I can't believe it's over! The first quarter of my new culinary life. (sigh) It flew by so quickly. As I look back I realize I had some of the most fun, annoying and interesting moments that I'll remember forever. Here are the top 10 best and worst that impacted my first quarter of school:

10. NOT permanently staining any part of my white uniform, from chef coat to apron to hat. And we all know that I'm, shall we say, a bit of a spiller. How amazing is that! Now, I did go through quite a bit of bleach but hey, that's only $1.89 a gallon.
9. Doing dishes for everyone in the class as most of them think they're magically cleaned once they set them down on that shiny silver thing in back (or just don't like doing dishes and won't be adult enough to do their own work).
8. Trying to outsmart the system but still getting the laziest person assigned to my group. Damn.
7. Having to explain what a decimal point is and how it works to a grown adult who somehow figured out how to have 3 kids.
6. Again explaining to the class that "doing dishes" is not the same as placing your dishes by the sprayer, it actually means a process of rinsing out your crap (don't you own a scraper or spatula? Why is there so much extra stuff left over in the bowl), washing it WITH a scrubby in the soapy water until there is no more goo on it, rinsing it, sanitizing it, draining it AND putting it away. Glenda the Good Witch does not wash your dishes for you while you're making the ugliest cake in the room.
5. Judit. She just gets a whole point unto herself, the particulars are just too many to list. Poor Judit. She still hasn't found the missing dough from our first practical.
4. Being told (at the dish sink), "wow, you must work. you're really good at doing work. I haven't worked in 3 years so I'm not good at moving fast or anything. I hate doing dishes, that's why we use paper plates for everything at home. It's just easier". I didn't know what to say. I didn't know if the statement or the fact that she was actually at the sink was more shocking.
3. The many top chef moments from making the best dessert in the room to not managing my clock properly and having to show a bad plating. Or the worst top chef moment, pulling a season 4 richard blaise on day 1 of the practical and choking on the one thing I know how to do perfectly—icing a cake (and being told by chef it wasn't my best work).
2. Learning how to make popcorn, bacon chocolate chip and coconut curry with cashew ice cream, yes ice cream. And they were good believe it or not!
1. Having the best plated dessert... ever (at least in my mind) and having Chef be speechless, he didn't know what to say and asked me to show the plate to the head chef of the department. I felt redeemed for the cake. Here is my final presentation....

This is what I call "a night at the movies"
Popcorn flavored ice cream with a side of cinnamon caramel corn. It comes with caramel sauce, roasted peanuts and sea salt to create an ice cream sundae according to your own tastes and wishes. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Becoming the Early Bird

The only thing I wasn't looking forward to about this new career in baking was getting up early. I am not a morning person (at least before the first cup of coffee) and I saw nothing redeeming about such early hours—until last Friday.

It was a standard day for me, get up at 5 am and get over to the bus station by 5:55 am for my ride downtown. It's always so quiet and silent I am shocked to see someone in the garage--and he's by my car. Hmmmm. I park by a wall, there is NO reason to be near my car and this guy is a K-fed wannabe-- 20 something with a baseball hat off to the side, baggy jean shorts, oversized shirt, scruffy facial hair, he does NOT belong in our building of 65 and older retirees. Growing up in Edina did not prepare me for things like this! What do I do? I am not street smart. I say "good morning" and pretend everything is normal. It wasn't, he had been in my car. The glove box was open, contents everywhere, center console open and I smelled the stale smoke from him sitting in my car. He was watching me.

I all I could think was CRAP! what am I going to do, what if he goes upstairs! Gracie Pants would just open the door thinking it was me, CRAP! You have to get out of here. So I drive out and call my mom, have her call the Manager who gets the cops there. Well, they end up catching him as his brilliant escape plan was to sit upstairs in the cushy lounge and wait for the cab he called. Who calls a cab as their getaway care from the break-in? Not smart. Turns out he did this for a living and was working the entire neighborhood. And here a lowly baking student caught him just because she has to get up before everyone else. Good thing I decided to become a pastry chef don't you think?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Quickfire Challenge

Last week we started learning the art of plating--you know, taking bread pudding and making it look like it's worth 12.95. Big plate, tiny dessert, add a sauce (in artful drips of course), stick chunk of carmel lace and poof, the dessert may now sit under glass at MoMa. I had so much fun--too much and my day turned into a episode of Top Chef, and not in a good way.

We were given to 10:30 to present 2 plates for our group (guess who did this, anyone? anyone? yeah, me) and 4 other desserts on our own. I'm thinking the day is going well, making fruit couli's, spritz cigarette cookies and trying to ensure the mousse we made actually worked and in my super-control-freak-manner needed to be the one to remove our tortes from the ring molds. I just didn't trust the other two yahoos to not ding, dip or peel the acetate properly. Our Strawberry and Opera torte looked fabu! Check, one down, best in the room. I'm so winning this challenge.

I moved on to the individual plating. Since most of the morning was spent with the two mute idiots standing watching me I just did it all. I will give them credit for the garnish on the full strawberry torte--yeah, they can cut and fan a strawberry, talent. I think the plates look great. Check, second and third down, the win is in the bag.

Then I hear those dreaded words... 15 minutes to go. 15 minutes? really? I have to plate 4 other things with 15 minutes. Let's just say those four presentations are not making the blog. I was running, shoving, unmolding, inverting, dusting and saucing my little heart out. I got the plates to the table and only three were worth a photo. There goes the win down the tubes because I didn't watch the clock. Lesson learned. Just wait until next week...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Am Not a Navy Seal

I once claimed (many years ago) that I could be a navy seal, I thought I was so tough. My very good friend laughed and brought me back down to earth with, "really? because you cry at work. I don't think navy seals are allowed to cry at work." She's right, I am not a navy seal. At least this week.

The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is my favorite event of all time. I love it more than anything--possibly more than the Minnesota State Fair (and that's really saying something). My team, the Edina Hornets, were poised to take it all - seeded number one in the state. I could not wait to watch all 7 games that I had pre-purchased tickets for in November. All I have to do is get through classes and make my friend Nick's birthday cake.

It's Thursday and after 5 hours in the kitchen I have to sit and watch a movie in Danish. Let me repeat--DANISH! For two hours!!! What's harder than reading subtitles on a poorly lit screen? Trying to read play by play text on your cell phone of a hockey game, I gave up and watched the movie just to pass the time. I have now missed the first game. I'm finally done with class, hop the bus and get home in time to change and head down to the Xcel center. I have now missed the second game.

I get there and I'm so excited! I get some food, find my seat, stand for the national anthem and proceed to watch my team take a beating, from a spud. The opposing teams mascot is a potato. Really? I don't think inanimate objects should be allowed. I sadly watched the third and fourth game but much of it was a blur. What a day. I cry--I am not a navy seal.

I trudged through Friday and Saturday classes attempting to drown out stupid questions without much luck. Between games and classes I finally finished Nick's cake. It fought me the entire time, from breaking to fondant wanting to tear but I did it, two board games with a couple cards and pieces. It was all done and boxed with 30 minutes to get ready for the final game.

I'm walking down to my car, an extra chocolate torte (thank goodness) in a bag on my shoulder, purse on my wrist and holding the cake box in both hands. I make it down to the garage and loose my balance, on what I still don't know. In slow motion I watch the cake fall out of my hand and land on it's side. In the box, but on it's side. I just sat and stared at it, eyes glazing over. 3 days of work sitting in a box on the floor of my garage. I want to cry but think, no, I AM going to be a navy seal--just this once.

I open it up, mash it back into place as best I can (even though all the writing has been smeared off) and deliver it with head held high. Rumor has it they enjoyed it, dents and all even if it wasn't perfect.

I finished the mission and I wanted a reward. I was done with this week kicking me whenever it could. As I drove to my friends house I saw the one thing that would make me feel better... Taco bell. Yup, all I wanted was a chili cheese burrito. It's amazing how less than $1.50 can turn your day around.

My team ended up winning consolation (that's 5th place for you non-tourney-buffs) and I still enjoyed my annual trek down to this event. I just hope this doesn't foreshadow a bad State Fair for me! Here are the before and after photos of the cake.