Culinary School Qtr 2: Week 2 – More Lessons on Serving and Customer Service

CULA 124

Hi all – Week 2 of my 2nd Quarter at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, focusing on being a server in our restaurant

The restaurant is still not open, the CULA 120 class (the cooks for this quarter) are working on a menu, which we are told we’ll see very soon now.

We continued learning about serving, place settings, etc. We had to come up with a napkin fold that will be part of our place setting, Every Front of House class does this every quarter. There are a bunch of napkin folds in our text book, and Youtube videos abound. Here is one example of a video showing multiple folds.

As with a vast number of people, I never really paid much attention to the napkin when I sit at a restaurant, other than they are different.  Turns out there are zillions of napkin folds, some very complicated and artistic. It is basically oragami with cloth.

The assignment was to bring a napkin fold to class, and we’d all look at what we brought and decide on one. I said up front I thought it should be fairly simple and quick to do. Chef City Grill is not, after all, fine dining, but was a cut above a Denny’s or someplace like that. We have cloth, not paper, napkins, so having a fold was necessary.

WP_20150112_004The one we decided on was the simple pocket fold. A video of how to fold this is here.

The rest of the week we discussed more about specifics of customer service, and mainly we practiced. Practice Practice Practice. We practiced our “spiel”, where we introduced ourselves, dropped water on the table, and took orders. The order is:

  • The guest(s) is/are seated by the host and given menus.
  • We come up with water, and drop it on the table. Drop doesn’t mean “drop”, we place it in front of the diner. Drop is restaurant lingo.
  • We introduce ourselves: “Hello, welcome to Chef City Grill, I’m Jason, I’ll be your server for today. Does anyone want anything to drink besides water?”
  • We take the drink orders, which includes practice on how to write it on the pad, there is a specific format we use so we can remember which customer ordered what.
  • We go back and get the drinks, whatever they may be (soft, coffee, tea, etc).
  • When we come back, there should have been enough time for them to decide.
  • We write down who wants what, and then go enter the orders into the POS system.

We spent a good deal of time this week doing this in various ways. We would divide into groups and take turns doing this routine, and most importantly, entering the orders into the POS system.

The POS (Point of Sale) is pretty interesting. This is one of those things I had seen in restaurants and was looking forward to learning. Ours is called “Maitre’D”, but there are several on the market. I realize I didn’t take a picture of the screen, I will do this for next time.

The menu we were using for this was last quarter’s, as the 120 class is still working on theirs. We’re told we’ll see the menu next week. Will be looking forward to that.

CULA 154 Food and Beverage Procurement

Last week we basically were introduced to Purchasing, why we do it, etc.  Now we are getting more into the specifics.

This week we talked about quality and how it relates to the purchasing decision. The first assignment was to come up with a hypothetical business that we’d want to do, something to do with Food Service. Mine was a deli/butcher shop named “Jason’s Tasty Piggy Parts”, which would specialize in cured meats, hams, etc, and have a small Deli where we can serve sandwiches, charcuterie plates, etc. The 2nd assignment this week was to outline the quality specs for a few products you’d need to run this restaurant. I listed artisinal, organic pork sides for my business, along with some meat processing equipment (grinders, sausage stuffers, etc). Quality might relate to a specific brand, for example Heinz ketchup vs Hunt’s, the grade of the meat or poultry (prime, choice, or select beef, for example).  The options go on and on.

This points out that whoever does the purchasing for an operation has to have some degree of technical knowledge about what you are ordering. In most smaller operations, the chef would be ordering the food, for example. We talked about how ordering is done in large operations, like franchises and chains, where ordering is done by a central ordering group.

The Chef/Owner of a small bistro can go to the local fresh market and design a menu or specials based on what looks good that day. The purchaser for Denny’s or Applebee’s doesn’t have that flexibility. The latter has to regiment it’s purchasing based on the menu that is already established.

CULA 142 Cost Control

This week, we looked at the menu as the guiding force behind any sort of food service. We looked at various types of menus:

  • Fixed – Menu is the same every day, and may change seasonally or periodically.
  • Cyclic – Used in a lot of institutions (“If it’s Tuesday, it must be meatloaf”)
  • Combined – Fixed with specials

Etc.

The menu drives what food is to be purchased, how it is presented, and even the decor of the restaurant. You won’t have linen table cloths and crystal glasses if you are a breakfast joint, and likewise a prime steakhouse won’t serve on paper plates, to illustrate a few extremes.

Probably the largest most important part of the menu, besides deciding on the general tone of the food, is the pricing. The prices on a menu represent 100% of the income that will be realized by that establishment, and thus whether you make money or not. So the price is critical. Many restaurants go out of business because they under or over price menu items. Underpricing might cause serving food at a loss, and overpricing might drive customers away.  It is a delicate balancing act.

The primary concept here is that there is a food cost associated with every dish on the menu. This simply is the cost of the basic food (ingredients) that are purchased to make that dish. The simplest way of establishing a menu price is to take that food cost and divide it by a food cost percentage. This is the desired portion of the menu price that is the cost of the food. For example, if the goal is to run a restaurant with a food cost of 25%, then every item on the menu would be priced at 4 times the food cost. An item whose raw ingredients cost $4.00 would be priced at $16.00 on the menu.  The formula is

Menu Price = Food Cost/Food Cost %

In this example:  $16 = $4/.25

A food cost of 25% is REALLY low, and generally costs in the mid 30’s are more common. Note that no accounting of labor, rent, etc are done in this method. You have to hope that this covers it, and in most well run operations it does. Also, different types of menu items (drinks, appetizers, main course, salads) have different food cost percentages that are somewhat standard in the industry. Drinks are generally VERY high profit, especially soft drinks. At the other extreme, entrees might have a much higher food cost. For example, the steaks in a prime steak house will run a food cost of 50%.  This is one reason why everything is ala carte in a prime steak house. They make money on the side dishes.  So the next time you go to Ruth’s Chris and order a side of creamed spinach and pay $8 or $9, think about that. The food cost on those is probably 25% or less.

In most operations this simple method would be where the owner starts, and then there are other methods used later which can take into account other costs of the establishment when they are known. After the restaurant opens and has been running a while, you will know what your labor, rent, utilities are and can factor those in and get a more precise idea of what is happening.

The five methods we discussed are:

  • Food Cost Percentage method (described above)
  • Factor Method (same as above, but the % is manipulated to create a multaplicative factor rather than dividing by a %)
  • Contribution Margin Method – This takes into Variable costs that are nonfood related
  • Prime Cost Method – Takes labor and other factors into account. Prime Cost = Food Cost+wages+Employee Benefits+taxes
  • Taxas Restaurant Association – Similar to Prime Cost, but labor is expressed as a percentage, and a profit goal is included, rather than an outcome of the other formulas

It is a bit confusing, but all are basically doing the same thing, figuring out what to charge on the menu so that the company makes a profit (typically 6-10% for restaurants) and everyone gets paid.

I can see already how the purchasing and costing classes will intersect.  Not sure why they aren’t taught together, but that’s the way it is.

TTYL

Jason

Culinary School – Winter Quarter 2015 – Week 1

Hello all.  Thanks for all the comments I’ve been getting, I appreciate people I don’t know reading about my adventures.

I’m now in quarter 2 of my journey from Computer Guy to Cooking Guy. The previous posts have documented my initial CULA116 class learning the basics of cooking in a commercial kitchen, along with a bit about my CULA128 class learning about food safety, and how to be the point of contact for the health department in a commercial food operation.

WP_20150107_001[1]One of the first things we did this quarter was have a department wide orientation with all the instructors and old and new students. Chef Waters had our ServSafe certificates which include our scores and a pocket and frame version of the cert. It’s nice to have SOMETHING to show for all the hard work. This reminds me of the old joke about not caring to see your doctor’s diplomas, but rather seeing his/her report card, so you know what grade he/she got in your disease. A similar thing can be said here. I passed, but maybe I passed the part about sanitizer solutions, but forgot how long you can hold potato salad without refrigeration. Maybe you want to know that before I cater that large outdoor gathering…

As an aside, before we get going on the course work, the college redesigned the web site:

http://www.lwtech.edu

Here is the link to the Culinary Program’s main page.

Anyway, this quarter I’m actually taking 3 classes:

  • CULA 124 Introduction to Front of the House
  • CULA 142 Costing and Menu Planning
  • CULA 154 Food and Beverage Procurement

The first thing to note is that none of these are cooking classes. Along with actually cooking, the program is teaching us to run a restaurant, and these three classes are a majority of the core management classes that are taught on the way to an AAS degree.

I’ll discuss each one to give an introduction.

CULA 124 Intro to Front of House

Product DetailsThis is the main class I’m taking this quarter in terms of time. It is 9 credits, and runs 11-1 on Mondays, and 10:30-2:00 Tues-Thurs.

The course centers on learning to be a server in a restaurant. Restaurants are divided into two large divisions, Front of the House and Back of the House. Back refers to the kitchen, storerooms, etc, anything that is generally not in view by customers. Front of the house refers to the seating areas, reception and anyplace that the customer will see while they are there being served.

A good restaurant will have strong leaders running both of these areas. The kitchen is run by the Executive Chef and in turn his or her Sous Chef(s). This position is someone that any food lover is familiar with. Cooking shows and the Food Network have turned these people into celebrities and household names.

But the success of a restaurant hinges on customer service as well as good food, and that is handled by the person running the front of the house. This person can have different titles. In fine dining restaurants, this person is usually called the Maitre d’hôtel, or just Maitre’d for short. No matter what they are called, they supervise the servers, host/hostess, bussers, and all others that serve the customer while in the restaurant.

So why should I, as a fledgling chef, need to learn about how to be a server? The answer is simple. Historically, there is often conflict between the front and back of the house. The Chef and Maitre’d don’t get along for whatever reason, or the underlings don’t get along. Whatever the reason, a restaurant needs both parts cooperating fully to deliver a quality dining experience. This course is designed to give us “fledgling chefs” an introduction to other side of the wall, so we can understand what they do.

The fact of the matter is that both sides can sabotage the other: The front just “doesn’t deliver” a dish and it is cold, and the cooks are blamed. The cooks hold back food and then bring it up all at once, requiring the wait staff to scramble to serve multiple tables. Etc, etc.

This course is generally met with rolling eyes and long sighs from the culinary students, but I am looking forward to it. I have never actually worked in a restaurant, amazingly enough, but I’ve certainly eaten in a lot, and learning how the serving side of things works is something I’m looking forward to, although I am going to miss cooking for a quarter.

WP_20150131_001[1]The “classroom” is actually a working restaurant. Every culinary school has at least one of these if they are certified by the American Culinary Federation. The CIA in New York has four, at least according to their website. Our restaurant is named The Chef City Grill. It is actually a working restaurant, open for lunch 3 days a week. Two classes meet there, my CULA 124 class and CULA 120, Restaurant Fundamentals. The students in the former are the servers, the latter are the cooks. I will eventually be in CULA 120 as well, but that is several quarters in the future.

My instructor is Matt Keigley. He is not a chef, but has been a school teacher, a server at some local fine dining restaurants, and has managed a small pizza place and owned his own restaurant for a while. Front of the House is offered every quarter, and this is the main class he teaches.

The first week we just got acquainted with the restaurant and each other. He lectured on:

  • The service industry in general
  • The idea that a server is a salesperson and is trying to exceed customer’s expectations
  • Characteristics of a server – What the customer notices
  • Standards – Uniform, cleanliness, politeness, etc.
  • How to greet customers, seat them, and take an order
  • Basics on how to carry plates, how a table is set, silverware, etc
  • Sidework – Everything other than actually serving guests, from folding napkins to filling up salt and pepper shakers.
  • Practicing taking and writing orders, and entering them into the Point of Sale system (POS)

Much of this was something I was passingly familiar with. The main takeaway is that there are a LOT of details to giving good customer service.

The last thing, taking orders and entering them, we actually spent a LOT of time on. The POS system, like any computer system, takes a while to learn. It is imperative that we enter things fast and accurately, and there is a definite sequence to doing this.

Next week we continue our practice and will get to look at the menu that CULA 120 has been developing.

CULA 142 – Costing and Menu Planning

Product DetailsThis is a lecture class that meets Thursday afternoons for 3 hours. One of 4 or 5 lecture classes that are part of the program, this class is required for both the Culinary and Baking AAS degrees.

A great many restaurants fail because the person running it doesn’t know how to cost menu items properly, and he or she doesn’t know how to control all the costs in the operation. I am an avid watcher if Restaurant: Impossible on the Food Network, and this theme comes up time and again. Very few of the restaurants that Chef Irvine visits have trained professionals running them. Occasionally he’ll come across someone who has been to culinary school in one of these failing restaurants, but that is the exception. In those cases, either the grad is not being allowed to do what he/she was trained to do (there was one Italian restaurant where the father had sent the son to CIA, and he was still cooking the way his father told him to) or there are personality conflicts among the owners that keep customers away and staff turning over. Very dry, but very important stuff.

There is a lot of “math” in this class, which as I mentioned when blogging last quarter, isn’t math, it’s arithmetic, fractions, percentages, and ratios. Having gotten a BA in chemistry and worked my whole career with computer people, being around a LOT of people who have trouble multiplying fractions is an eye opening experience.

I am not sure how much I’ll blog about this class. I will talk about anything that is interesting that comes up, something that gets pointed out that I didn’t already know. The first week we got an introduction to the subject, talking about management and what they do in the operation. We also discussed different types of expenses:

  • Fixed – doesn’t change no matter how many sales occur
  • Variable – Varies with sales up and down
  • Semi-variable – Certain baseline expense, and varying part may not be in proportion to sales
  • Controllable – Can be controlled by management
  • NonControllable – Opposite of above.

Having been in the business world for 30+ years this all makes sense, but I think some of the 18 yo’s might have problems.  This will be interesting.

CULA 154  Food and Beverage Procurement

Product DetailsAgain, another lecture class that is vital to running an actual restaurant. It meets on Tuesdays from 2-5.  So on Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m in school from about 10:00 to 5:00.

This class deals with how and what to buy for a food service operation, how to pick a vendor, how to decide to make something for the menu vs buying it premade.

Purchasing, of course, starts with the menu.  You can’t know what to purchase without knowing what you are going to serve. In this respect, there is a lot of overlap with the cost control class.

The first class was as I’d expect, an introduction to the syllabus, and then a definition of what is purchasing and how it fits into the grand scheme of things. The students are a bit different in this class, most of them are later along in the program (my instinct is to say “upperclassmen” but that is a concept reserved for 4 year institutions).  Quite a few of the cooks from CULA 120 are in this class with me. This sort of makes sense. There are 20 credits of core work that is not culinary related that must be taken to graduate: Math, Humanities, English, etc. Since I had all this before from my time at Whitman, all this transferred, so I have not had to take any of these classes, and have “the cycles” (as we’d say in the computer biz) to take an extra lecture class.

Interesting, my instructor for these two classes is Matt Keigley, the same instructor I have for Front of House. So ALL my classes are being taught by the same guy. We are either going to REALLY know each other well by the end of the quarter, or we will be sick of each other.

Come back soon and I’ll let you know how things are going in weeks 2 and on in my 2nd quarter at school.

Culinary Week 11: Finals

Well, we’re finally here at…finals. Hmm, didn’t mean to make a pun when I first started that sentence, but what they hay!

Finals week started on the Monday of the last week of the quarter. Chef Sakai has been pretty vague about what we were going to do for the practical. I wasn’t worried about the written, I had done well all quarter and knew that the final would probably be more of the same. But the practical was a different kettle of fish.

Chef Sakai gave us the list of tasks for the midterm practical on a Friday, giving us the weekend to practice knife cuts, etc. I blogged about that here. Being a final, this was probably going to be comprehensive.

I am not too proud to admit that I was nervous and stressed about this final. I spent more than a little time looking at myself and trying to figure WHY this stressed me so much, which I may talk about more in a later post, which I’ll probably classify under the MUSINGS category. Suffice it to say we were all a bit gonzo about it.

So Monday rolled around, we got the written final, and I did OK on it. I missed 2 questions, one of which was a unit conversion I missed, and the other was that I mis-identified a PERFORATED spoon as  SLOTTED spoon. The latter was the first time I’d missed something that I truly didn’t know. I had always called a large metal spoon with holes on it “slotted”, but it turns out there are ones with round holes (perforated) and ones with slots (oblong holes). I could not possibly tell you when you’d use one over the other, but there it is. It is even in our text book. Learn something new.

After turning in the final, we got the practical final worksheet. The images follow (by clicking them you can see a larger version), and the pdf can be accessed by clicking here: FinalScan.

FinalPage1 FinalPage2

 

As you can see, there was a lot to do here. But what isn’t obvious at first is that there is a sequence of events that has to be done in the right order, and part of the grade (the timeline on page 2) was us coming up with a sequence and turning it in before the first day. The timeline counted for 10 points. We went into the kitchen, each got a sheet pan, and gathered our ingredients (top of page 1). We could not start prepping anything, it all had to be done in the ~5 hours we’d have on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week.

So not only did we have to show skills we’d learned all quarter (knife cuts, making sauces, cooking a chicken, etc) we’d have to think like cooks and come up with the order in which to do things given our limited resources. Points would be docked if you had to use an extra egg, potato or whatever.

So here is a list of some of the critical steps:

  • Truss the chicken, show it to get a grade.
  • Cut up the chicken, show that for a grade
  • Do the knife cuts to make sure you have enough veg left for the stock’s mirepoix
  • Take the carcass of the chicken, and start making stock. The stock would be needed for the veloute sauce on the final plate on page 2.
  • While the stock is simmering, start doing knife cuts, sauces, etc.

You get the idea. Further:

  1. The mayo and the vinaigrette were both needed for the potato salad on the final plate (note, I’ve never made potato salad, not my favorite thing to eat).
  2. The potato knife cuts could be used for the salad, so that had to be graded first, and the amount of potato had to be enough for both the salad and the mashed potatoes.
  3. The brunoise carrots could be used as a garnish on the final plate.
  4. etc

Overall, I thought it was an EXCELLENT test of our skills.  It pulled together a majority of what we’d learned over the 10 weeks, and we had to show some initiative and independent thinking.

I teamed up with Kirsten again.  We combined our carcasses for stock, and worked together on other stuff. This was allowed, as long as we took the same grade on whatever we combined. We simmered our stock uncovered, and instead of 2 quarts of stock, we had 1 (half what we were supposed to show, but enough to make the sauce). We got docked a point for that.

In the end, I got 178 out of 200, which is a score of 89%. The biggest flub I did was rushing the hollandaise. I did all the sauces the 2nd day (spent too much time on the knife cuts the first) and didn’t whisk the egg yolk enough before I started adding the clarified butter, and the sauce never came together. That was 10 points, and I had no extra time to try it again. I would have been docked some number of points for using an extra egg anyway. The other 12 was a point here and a point there (5 points on the final plate out of 50), none of which bothered me.

In the end, I got 100.2% for the class due to extra credit stuff I did, like helping with the wine dinner and the charity breakfast. Even without those points, I would have gotten a 96.something, which is still a 4.0. Kirsten and I both got on the President’s list for attaining a 4.0 average (got a perfect score in ServSafe as well).

Anyway, next quarter I am not cooking, but am taking Front of the House, which is learning to be a server. Since I’ve never actually done that, it will be interesting. Not sure I’ll have much detail to blog about, but we’ll see.

Thanks to all for following along in the training for my 2nd career.

Jason

Culinary School Week 10: Fresh pasta, eggs, and Wine Dinner

Hello again. We are down to the short strokes here.  We are one week away from finals.

On Monday, Chef Sakai was sick, the first and only time that happened. True to the ethos of a restaurant chef, he came in, but Chef Stockman, his boss, sent him home. So Raven and I actually got to eat at the Chef City Grill as paying customers. We found out about our 25% student discount. BONUS!

On Tuesday Chef Sakai was back, and we talked in class about plating. None of this was to be on the test, but it was good anyway. I know this is a weakness of mine. I have never been artistic, but I will need to develop some sort of ability in this if I ever want to have any sort of success plating food. While I don’t think I’ll work long term in a restaurant, I know before I get out of the program I’ll have to create dishes.

We then went into the kitchen where we made handmade fresh pasta.  I had done this at home numerous times, but always used the bowl of my Kitchenaid and the dough hook. This time, we learned the “traditional” method where you make a well in the middle of a pile of flour (in our case 50/50 semolina and AP), put the egg in the well, beat it, and then slowly incorporate the egg until the dough holds together and you can kneed it.  I actually like this more than I thought I would. For small amounts of dough, like you’d make at home for a meal, this is probably the best, and fastest way. The thing that I did like is you feel the dough and can stop adding flour when the consistency is right. You can see from the pics I had some flour left over.

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On Wednesday we caught up on a “lost” topic that we missed during the quarter, that of cooking eggs.

Egg cookery in professional cooking is, or at least used to be, a pretty big deal. The pleats on a chef’s hat (the Toque) represent the 100 ways that a chef is supposed to know how to cook an egg. Old line chefs would tell a prospective cook to make an omelette during a job interview. How he or she executed this seemingly easy task could spell success or disaster. Eggs are arguably the most versatile protein available, save perhaps for chicken.

We talked about grades of eggs and how they cook. A couple of things I didn’t know:

  • The gray coating on the yolk of an overcooked hard boiled egg is actually iron sulfide. This is what gives the egg it’s “rotten egg” small. Sulphur is in the white, and iron in the yolk. They eventually react anyway and the egg goes bad.
  • An over easy egg is not flipped with a spatula in the pan. I always did that, then flipped it back onto the plates (I make them like this for myself all the time). We were taught to cook it very gently in a good non-stick pan, and then just flip it by jerking the pan back, then serving it the “bottom side” up.
  • French and American omelettes are cooked differently.

WP_20141203_001WP_20141203_003Kirsten, who seemed to always be in my randomly chosen group, showed a famous Julia Child video during her presentation on the great lady. The pics here are Kirsten making a French omelette. She was the only one brave (dumb?) enough to volunteer. The French omelette is just agitated by a fork, and not flipped, while the American omelette is done with a spatula, pushing the cooked part back and allowing the liquid part to run into the void and then cook. Usually it’s folded over when it is plated.

On Friday, we prepped for a Wine Dinner that we have every quarter. This is in conjunction with the large wine industry we have in the area. The school is just a 10 minute drive from the St. Michelle winery and all the other wineries, distilleries, and breweries in that area. (One of the 3 Red Hook breweries is across the street from St. Michelle, and my favorite micro-distillery, Woodinville Whiskey Company is at the end of the street).

WP_20141205_002During class time we prepped vegetables. I spent quite a bit of time cutting up celery root into stars to make a decoration for the salad. The original idea was to make snow flakes (it was the cusp of winter, after all). After spending quite a bit of time at this, none of it was used at all. Another lesson of this industry, I guess.

I also volunteered to help with the dinner itself, earning bonus points once again. Unlike the charity breakfast (that I wrote about here) this was a multi-course meal, much more complex to plan, cook, and execute. The saving grace was we only had 50 people to serve instead of 220 that we had for the breakfast. In this case, each course had a wine pairing (which we didn’t pour). This was a fantastic deal, with 5 courses with wine pairings costing $75. I think I might actually GO to this next time, although if I’m serving, I guess not.

I’ll be a bit lazy here and just put some pics here with captions.

 

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Salads starting to be plated

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Confit’ed duck ravioli cooking

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Ravioli plated. We filled with consume at the table.

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Seasoned Racks of Lamb ready to go into the oven.

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Plated dinner course

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Speed rack of deserts

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Desserts waiting for whipped cream

Next week, FINALS.  I don’t know what it will entail yet, but we’ll soon see.

 

Culinary School Week 9: Salads, Dressings, ServSafe Exam, and Thanksgiving Break. Whew!

Greetings again. This was a short week due to the Thanksgiving break, but a LOT went on in those 3 days.

On Monday we got our quiz #3 back.  I have been doing pretty well on all the written tests. On most of them I miss a maximum of 3 questions, and it’s almost always something stupid.  One of those “I knew that” situations, but I either just had a brain fart, a misfiring neuron, or missed a unit conversion or something like that. Oh well.

We also had lecture on salads and dressings. Dressings break down to 3 types:

  • Oil and Vinegar (emulsions)
  • Mayo based (thickened)
  • Cooked (not all that common)

We’d made mayo and oil and vinegar dressings before in class when we were studying sauces and emulsions, but now we got to revisit this.

One thing that I’m weak on and that Chef Sakai emphasizes from the beginning is presentation, to make something look good on the plate.  While we aren’t really graded on this (at least not yet), he will comment on this if it looks really bad or odd. This is definitely something I need to work on.

WP_20141125_002Anyway, there are a lot to say about all sorts of salads: Green, veggie, pasta, fruit, etc. Most of the people reading this have probably eaten various salads so I won’t go into huge detail here.

On Tuesday, we spent the day in the kitchen and learned how to prep lettuce and other salad stuff in quantity. As with everything else in the kitchen, there are many ways to do this. Chef Sakai advocates cutting the lettuce then WP_20141125_004cleaning it. The smaller pieces are easier to handle, and the salad spinner can do a better job of taking the water out. We used the “industrial” sized salad spinner, as you can see in the accompanying photos.

He also made a Caesar salad, a classic that I’ve had MANY times, and have made many times as well, although not recently. The basic ingredients are garlic, anchovies (mashed into a paste to add umami and salt, but not necessarily a fish taste), olive oil, lemon juice and an egg. Classically, a coddled egg is used (an egg placed in hot water to (theoretically) kill salmonella), but you can use a pasteurized egg, or just wing it with a regular one and hope none of your guests have weak immune systems. 🙂

WP_20141125_009What was I talking about? Oh yea, Caesar dressing. You then whisk everything together to make an emulsion, and toss that with chopped romaine lettuce and croutons. If you are ever in Seattle, El Gaucho makes this tableside, and it is something Teresa and I always order.

We then split into groups and were told to make “a salad”. This late in the semester everyone actually knows something, and we are starting to get the “too many cooks” syndrome on these types of things. The salad dressing was too salty, which is the opposite of what Chef Sakai normally says. (By now, this has become a running joke with everyone, that his standard criticism is that “it needs more salt”). It also looked funny, as we tried to be “creative” with the green portion of a leek. While technically edible (which all garnishes should be), it really wasn’t, as we didn’t cook it.

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WP_20141125_017Chef Sakai then proceeded to show us up by taking several of the leaves, blanching them, laying them out, and cutting them in a circle using a ring mold. Just shows you what years of experience will do vs our fledgling attempts at artistry.

After this, we all had to clean up and get into the classroom to take the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification Exam. I mentioned this class, but haven’t really blogged about it, as it is straight lecture. The class meets once a week on Tuesdays, and was just prep for this test. While the test is sponsored by the National Restaurant Association (which I humorously call “The Other NRA”) passing it was 52% of our grade for college academics. Less than 50% is a failing grade, so you HAVE to pass to pass the class. Skipping ahead a couple of weeks, I did pass with a 95%. I guess I did pretty well. I know of 1 or 2 other people that probably got at least this score, but amazingly 5 people or so failed, and will have to take it again. So in addition to the other festivities of the Tgiving weekend, I did a final pass of studying for this test. It was a LOT of memorization, which is hard for me, so I worked at it.

Back to cooking. On Wednesday we talked about appetizers in class, specifically canapes, which are hand held, single bite bits of goodness with a base, a main ingredient, and a garnish. Actually, I misused the word appetizer. The little hand held foods you eat at a buffet or cocktail parties are canapes, and an appetizer is a multi-bite dish that you have as a prelude to a whole meal, generally eaten sitting down. A bit of detail I did not know. My Community College edumecation is paying off in spades!

WP_20141126_004We went into the kitchen and made vegetable plates and a couple of dips, along with sliced bread. In general, we made the veggie pieces too small, and by just cutting them at an angle, we could increase the surface to hold dip, and make them look more interesting. Again, too many cooks, and not enough experience.  At this, we broke for 4 days.

That brings us to Thanksgiving. While I made a nice Spathcocked Turkey along with Duchesse Potatoes that we made in class, I was running around like a crazy person and didn’t really take any pictures, but I can describe what I did.

Spatchcocking is a technique where you remove the backbone of the poultry, sort of “break” the sternum bone, and flatten the bird out. This has numerous advantages, the chief one being it cooks faster. I have done this numerous times with chickens, but never thought to do this with a turkey. It is great when grilling, as the chicken will (mostly) cook at the same rate, since everything is sort of the same thickness.

I got the recipe out of Bon Appetit here.

WP_20141127_003Oh, and it was my birthday the next Saturday. My Canadian mother and sister-in-law brought down the favorite celebration treat, an Italian version of a St. Honore Cake. The one they get is from Fratelli’s Bakery on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, BC. It is pretty nummy, and was in fact the cake Teresa and I had at our wedding.  I want to be able to make this cake they way they do there (the French version is different), a goal for when I take baking.

Another week comes to an end, and we are down to the short strokes here. Finals are around the corner. Stay tuned.

 

 

Culinary School Week 8: Where’s the Beef?

Greetings again. Red meat, specifically beef, was the main focus of this week’s lecture and kitchen time. In retrospect, this isn’t surprising, as beef is arguably the most served animal protein in America (especially if you count the BILLIONS and BILLIONS of burgers from Micky D’s).

On Monday, Bob Noel, a representative from the Washington State Beef Commission came to talk to us. This is a trade association representing the beef producers and slaughterhouses in Washington State. I grew up in rural Eastern Washington, and know a bit about this industry.  It was a very enlightening lecture.

Bob showed how the industry works. There actually is much more specialization in the industry than I thought. There are family owned farms that specialize in breeding calfs, which are sold to feeding operations that raise them to a certain age. These are then sold to a stocker, that raises them to the point where they can be sent to a feedlot. This facility finishes feeding them and ship them to be slaughtered and processed.

He spent quite a bit of time quelling myths and misunderstandings put out there by critics, and general are misconceptions:

  • ALL beef is grass fed. They are raised in pastures or fed stored hay until they go to the feedlot.
  • What most of the industry calls grass FED is really grass FINISHED.
  • The main slaughterhouse in Yakima adheres to the tenets of Temple Grandin, who has done a huge amount of research on animal behavior and has made recommendations on humane slaughter practices.
  • A whole bunch of other detail about nutrition in beef, etc.

This was followed the next day by a lecture from Chef Sakai on red meat in general. How the animals are structured, the main cuts of beef and cooking methods used.  The gist of this last part is that the middle part of the animal, in general, does less work, and thus has less connective tissue. Because of this, dry heat (grilling, broiling, roasting) can be used and the meat will be tender. Any cut that is used a lot when the animal lives, such as the legs, shoulders, and rump, will have more connective tissue, and have to be cooked via moist heat methods (stewing, braising), or processed in some other way to break down the connective tissue, such as corning (pickling) of beef brisket, and grinding into ground beef.

Also, there is a standardized code system that is used to order various cuts of meat from the food service providers. I understood primal cuts, toughness, etc, pretty well, but this was a detail I did not know.

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Chef Sakai getting ready to open the cryovac with the shoulder clod.

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Breaking down the clod

We then went into the kitchen and watched Chef Sakai break down a cut called a Shoulder Clod. This cut is ordered weekly by they CULA 120 class for use in our onsite Chef City Grill. I had broken down other cuts, like ribs, tenderloin, and loin (New York) purchased from Costco and Cash & Carry,, but had never broken down something like this with so many muscles interspersed. I was able to spend a half hour or so breaking this cut down. The muscles there are mostly ground into hamburger commercially, but any sort of braise can be done on most of it. One exception to that, and one of the most flavorful cuts that comes with this primal, is the Top Blade Steak, AKA Flat Iron or Top Boneless Chuck Steak. (More on this in a minute)

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That towel will cook evenly!

After that we practiced roast tying techniques. We used a rolled up towel for practice. This is something that I have done many times, learning my technique by watching Anne Burrell on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. There are as many ways to do this as there are chefs, it seems, but the overall purpose of this is the same. You tie something to either hold it together if you have rolled it and possibly stuffed it, or to make the meat about the same dimensions for easy cooking. You can watch her demo this here.

The next day we split into groups and cooked the various cuts off the shoulder with different moist heat techniques. We also took the spiny rockfish we’d cleaned the previous week and cooked these in different ways as well. The three combinations were:

  • Braised short ribs and whitefish meuniere
  • Boef Bourguignon and Fish En papillote
  • Braised with SE Asian Chilies and Fried breaded fish

Our group did the 2nd combination. Both of these are classic french dishes, the beef dish was made famous by Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is basically beef stew with a hearty red wine added (ie, Burgundy) added to the stewing liquid. Classically, it does not have potatoes and carrots like American beef stew, but is just stewed meat pieces with pearl onions.

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Spiny Rockfish en Papillote

En papillote means in parchment. You wrap the fish, along with seasonings and some veggies in little heart shaped parchment cutouts. You then crimp them together and pop them in the oven. The moisture in the fish steams the contents. The disadvantage of this method is that you can’t really tell when it’s done, you just have to guess or do one ahead of time and keep the size of the portions the same for service, and do it by time.

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Our goodies on the right, the beef with chiles and fancy potatoes on the left

We also had to do a starch dish. We made Cous Cous. The picture shows all three dishes, with the Beef and Chilis on the left, our Boef Bourguignon in the middle, then the Cous Cous in the bowl, and the fish En papillote on the sheet pan behind the bowl. Everyone did a great job on this assignment. All the dishes were very tasty.

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Steaks on the grill. Mine is the one lowest on the screen

On Friday we reviewed for Quiz #3, then went into the kitchen to grill the flat iron steaks we trimmed out of the shoulder clod. I got to use the commercial grill we have in our kitchen.  I’d used it before to make sliders, which I burned. (I blogged about that here). This time, I absorbed the idea of turning down the burners to get the right heat. (What a concept. :-))

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Great grill marks. Juice on top indicates medium-medium rare

One thing that Chef Sakai talked about was grill marks.  I’ve been making grill marks on my grilled food for many years, but he actually explicitly said something I had not known, but was doing instinctively. To make grill marks, you put the steak on the grill at an angle, after letting the bars heat up really well. After you cooked it half the time for that side, you turn the steak. But here is the thing I found interesting. You don’t turn it 90 degrees, you turn it 50-70 degrees.  The idea is you want the grill marks to be diamonds, not squares. As you can see, the steak turned out great.  It was very tasty.

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Yep, medium rare, just the way I like it

The quarter is starting to wind down, but we have some more good stuff to talk about before finals. Stay tuned.

Culinary School Week 7 Part 2: Lobsters, crabs and fishies!

Friday was a fun day at school.  We had done oysters, clams and mussels on Wednesday, and now we continued with crustaceans and we got to break down our own finned fish.

We worked with Spiny Rockfish. This is considered a “round” fish, like salmon (as opposed to flatfish, like halibut). Chef Sakai sliced himself pretty good after the banquet on Thursday, ending up in the ER with 5 stitches. He seemed pretty non-plussed about it, but as one who has sliced his thumb pretty deep (the knife was utility, not chef) I can tell you this isn’t fun. In any event, he observed as Chef Stockman did the demos this time.

She demoed the fillet process with one of them. I’ve filleted quite a few salmon, and for this task I have used the fillet knife my father, Paul Goertz, made for me. (Some day I’ll do a blog post about him, his love of food, and his post-retirement career as a knife maker.)

Spoke too soon

Chef Stockman taking her cleaver to get through the spine of this tough rockfish

My finished fish. Fillets are on the bottom, then skin, then the head and body. My father's fillet knife is on the top with the long skinny blade

My finished fish. Fillets are on the bottom, then skin, then the head and body. My father’s fillet knife is on the top with the long skinny blade

But these little buggers have REALLY tough bones, and I ended up having to use my chef’s knife to get through the bones, especially the spine when I cut off it’s head. It took Chef Stockman a couple of attempts to get through them. Eventually she resorted to her cleaver.

After the demo, we all got our own fish to play with. As I said, I’ve done this a few times on salmon, but found I needed to use my chef’s knife to get through the spine, and amazingly, the “pin” bones, the bones that come out to the sides that you go through when you are cutting off the fillet.

Chef Sakai seasoned one up in flour and sauted it in butter, and it was pretty good. Very much a standard white fish, but pretty firm in texture. I can definitely see this as fish and chips in my future!

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For scale, the lobster is in a standard hotel pan, almost 21″ long and 13″ wide

After that, we proceeded to the lobster and crab.  I actually filmed the lobster being, uh, dispatched, but the video was the wrong orientation (it looks great on my phone), I’m not sure how to rotate it for this blog. But it was a monster. Chef Sakai says it cost the school about $45.

The crab is a regular Dungeness from the waters off of Washington. I’ve had them many, many times. Both were just boiled for a few minutes, and as we had done with all the other seafood, we tried it “neat”, without anything. Again, I had only eaten lobster with drawn butter or some sort of sauce, but eating it without any sort of flavor enhancer does give you a better idea of what it really tastes like.

That was it for Week 7. We only have 4 more weeks in the quarter, and that includes finals. Getting down to the short strokes. I’m looking forward to having a few weeks off for Christmas break.

See you all next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After

Culinary School Week 7 Part 1: More Cooking

I think I’ve fallen into a rhythm of 2 posts per week, and this is the case for this week.

We had Tuesday off for Veteran’s Day, and Thursday we just helped serve a Veteran’s Day meal.  But we had fun the other days, cooking, tasting, and eating.

On Monday we split into 4 groups to cook the chickens we had broken down on Friday. The split was:

  1. Saute chicken breasts with mushrooms, and make a side of Duchesse Potatoes.
  2. Red Cooked Chicken with white rice, side of Vegetables. This is an Asian braising technique that uses star anise, soy, etc. In Chinese it’s called “looing”.
  3. Chicken with Cous Cous. Use 4 drumsticks and 8 wings, vegetable side
  4. Deep Fried Chicken breasts with Mashed Potatoes, mushroom and pepper gravy, and a vegetable.

I was in group 4 with 2 of the more experienced cooks from the class. We split up the tasks. Kirstin did the gravy and the mashed potatoes, Colleen was going to do brussel sprouts, and I was to setup everything for the chicken and leave it for Chef Sakai to demo to the class.

It turns out we didn’t have brussel sprouts, so Colleen did broccoli instead. As for me, doing the deep fry involves setting up a standard breading line, first seasoned flour, then egg wash (mixture of egg and milk) and then panko breadcrumbs. I got some 1/3 hotel pans for this.

I took the skin off the breasts, took out the tenders (a little muscle underneath the regular breast meat) and then split the breasts lengthwise so they were all the same thickness, so they would cook in about the same amount of time.  One of the problems with poultry breasts is that they are thicker on one end than the other, so by the time the thick end is cooked, the thin end is jerky.  Splitting them or pounding them out solves this problem.

We decided to use regular fry oil, and set it up in a nice big saucepan. My pocket thermometer didn’t register the 325 I needed, so we found a candy/fry thermometer from the bakery. Time to bring a Thermapen!

Everyone was so busy that Chef Sakai never got around to the demo, so I just cooked everything up. The technique for doing breading is you use one hand for the liquid (egg wash) and the other for the dry. Even doing that, you still end up with breading sticking to the liquid hand finger, but it does help.

I cooked the tenders together as they are much smaller, then did batches of the breasts, while Colleen and Kirstin did their thing.

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Team 4’s Contribution. Clockwise from lower left, the fried chicken (in the hotel pan), mushroom and pepper gravy, mashed ‘taters, and broccoli. You can see the cous cous in the upper left and some braised carrots and other veg to the right

Our stuff turned out GREAT. We basically put a mound of potatoes into the center, then put a couple of breasts over it, a pile of blanched/shocked/sauted broccoli, then poured the gravy over everything. We were in comfort food heaven.  Chef loved it, except for this normal “not enough salt” comment.

I wish I’d taken more pics, but all I got that day was a picture of our dishes laid out with everyone else’s. We took plates into the restaurant and had lunch, then came back and cleaned up.

I am proud to say my chicken was the only thing that was totally gone at the end of the meal! Booyah!

As mentioned, Tuesday we had off.

Wednesday we had lecture on seafood, then went into the kitchen to play with our food!

The first thing we did was oysters. Chef Sakai showed us how to shuck them. For once I was a bit ahead of the curve, I’d stopped before class at our local restaurant supply and picked up an oyster knife. I love fresh oysters, but had never shucked one, and was eager to learn how.

The oyster has a rounded bottom and a flat top, and it comes to a point where the hinge is (the aducter muscle that closes it). You lay the oyster on a towel and fold the towel to protect your non-knife hand in case the oyster knife slips (pros wear a cut or chain mail glove).  You force the knife in, pry up the top, and then run the knife around to detach the little oyster critter from the shell.

Chef Sakai prying the oyster open with a knife

Chef Sakai prying the oyster open with a knife

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Oyster ready to eat

 

 

 

 

We then tasted them just as is. I realized I’d never really done that, and to be honest, I don’t really care for them just plain.  When I order them in a restaurant, they come with horseradish, sometimes cocktail sauce, and a classic accompaniment, a mignonette sauce.

My handiwork, with mignonette sauce, ready to be enjoyed

My handiwork, with mignonette sauce, ready to be enjoyed

The latter consists of fine brunoised shallots, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. Chef Sakai whipped up a bowl of the sauce, and I did like eating them much better with that. The acid adds a lot to balance the “oceany” taste of the clam. There were plenty left, so I practiced and had several more. Yum.

Following this we cleaned some mussels and then clams, and did a simple preparation with some garlic, fennel, herbs and cream (and some other things, I think).  Both were done the same way, steamed for a few minutes with this yummy broth, and then we tasted.

On Friday we did more with seafood, and I took a lot more pictures. I’ll put that all in the next post.

 

Culinary School Week 6 Part 2: My first Practical Test and Chickens aplenty!

Thursday – I haven’t been really nervous about something for a while. The reality is, I have a perfect score going in the practical midterm, and figured this would be the most likely time that streak would be broken.

I was right.

We had to do the following in 45 minutes, with limits on how much produce we could use:

  • Medium Dice Potatoes (10×1/2″ cubed)
  • Batonnet Potatoes (5 x 1/4″ x1/4″x 2″)
  • Tourne (that stupid football shaped thing I’ve discussed before)
  • Small Dice Carrot (10×1/4″ cubed)
  • Julienne Carrot (1/8″x1/8″x2″)
  • Brunoise Carrot (take those juliennes and cut them into 1/8″ cubes, a couple of tablespoons)
  • Concasse Tomato (I talked about that here)
  • Supreme a Lemon (here)

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Knife Cuts – From bottom clockwise – Concasse (dice and core remains), supreme’d lemon (core and sections), potato batonnets, medium dice, tourne, brunoise carrots, small dice, and julienne.

The Tourne and the diced carrots were not perfect, and I was docked a point each (out of 10). I sort of kicked myself. I had time to really make them perfect, but didn’t. Oh well.

I am proud that I only used 1 carrot and 1 potato.

Half the class started on the cuts and the other was making sauces. Then we switched, and I had 45 minutes to make a Veloute. This is basically a sauce made by thickening chicken stock, and adding some herbs and aromatics that are filtered out. Once again, the higher heat of the commercial stove got me, and I overcooked the roux a bit, making it a little browner than it should have been. I almost put cilantro in it rather than parsley, and Chef Sakai generously questioned what I had my little ramekin. Whew. That would have really tasted funny.

My Veloute. The color is a bit dark. Had too much heat when I cooked the roux

My Veloute. The color is a bit dark. Had too much heat when I cooked the roux

In the end, he said it wasn’t salty enough (it tasted perfect to me) and the color was dark, so I got 18 out of 20. So my total was 96/100.  Still a 4.0.

That stress behind me, we took a break and got our chef coats. FINALLY.  6 weeks into the quarter (and 7 1/2 weeks since I paid my money) the order was in. But astoundingly, the book store screwed ALL of them up, only ordering our last names to be embroidered. I was livid, but walked out of the store before I said something I would totally regret later.

As I write this a week or so later, the rumor is they re-ordered them and they should be in “soon”. We’ll see.

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Chef Sakai showing how to use the weight of the bird to aid in cutting off a wing

The rest of the day was a lecture on Poultry. I have been breaking down chickens for decades.  I am constantly amazed when I find people who actually cook who don’t know how to do this. You save a LOT of money buy buying whole chickens and breaking them down yourself.  It’s not that big a deal, although like any sort of butchery, as I learn more about it, you find there are many, many ways to do it, lots of variations of the details.

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Chicken fully broken down. From left – Carcass, thigh bones (top), wing tips (bottom), wings (top), boneless thighs (bottom), boneless skin-on breasts (top) and drumsticks (bottom)

On Friday, we went into the kitchen and got a demo from Chef Sakai on breaking down chickens. His method of trussing the bird is different than what I do, but as I’ve said, there is no one “right” way of doing this.  Uh, except in the Culinary School world, the American Culinary Federation specifies a “right” way to do it, and if we were to enter a competition, their method would be required. (We will ultimately get an ACF certification when we graduate).

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Bird trussed the “ACF” way

We then each got a chicken out of the box and practiced what he’d demo’d. There were two things I did differently than I normally do. One is I preserved the “oyster”, a small rounded piece of meat that is attached to the thigh that sits in an indentation in the bone structure on the back. I had always broken down chickens with a chef’s knife, which makes preserving this little jewel of chickeny goodness almost impossible, but it’s a cinch with a boning knife. The 2nd thing is that we boned out the thighs. There were extra chickens, so I did some more practice. It was fun. We saved all the pieces for a future batch of stock, and the dressed out parts went into a hotel pan for a purpose that would be revealed later.

Come back again and I’ll “reveal” how we cooked all this up the following Monday and made a bunch of “good eats”.

 

Culinary School Week 6, Part 1: Busy, Busy, Busy

It was very busy, but not with a lot of instruction as has been the case in the past.

On Monday we took the written midterm.  We had just taken the second quiz a week ago so there wasn’t that much new to be tested on. In fact, quite a few questions were taken directly from the quizzes. I mean, the exact same question and multiple-guess answers.

After turning in the test, we were allowed a break until everyone was done, and Chef Eric informed us that our jackets were finally in. There has been snafu after snafu on this order, and we would finally be in a proper uniform.

Well, we hustled over to the bookstore where the jackets were lined up. We got and signed for them. I had been worried that they’d misspell my last name, so the first think I looked at was my name.

HOLY CRAP, THEY ONLY PUT OUR LAST NAMES ON THEM. Not just mine, but everyone’s. I was absolutely dumfounded that they could screw up YET ANOTHER ASPECT of this order. (We were told the next day that the department was working on getting this fixed, but we haven’t heard any more about it)

UniformAfter coming back from break, FINALLY in our full “uniform”, we got the grading standard from the practical midterm. Basically, a bunch of knife cuts, and then we would be required to make 1 of 4 sauces, chosen at random the day of the test. We’d not be able to consult our little metal cheat guide for the knife cuts, and we had to memorize the recipe for the various sauces from the book, converting to produce 1-1 1/2 cups of the sauce. Chef Eric said we would be graded mostly on the process, not necessarily every detail.  If we forgot to put thyme in to the spice bundle for a veloute it wouldn’t mean a fail, as long as everything else was right. That day in the kitchen we practiced for the test, mainly I did my knife cuts.

Tuesday – This was an interesting day. It was the first time we’d done something that resembled an actual restaurant experience. Wednesday of this week is advising day, a day off for us to get “advised” to make sure we are taking the right classes, and to sign up for next quarter’s classes. During the morning, a fundraising breakfast was planned for the Foundation that helps fund the school. I am familiar with this concept from my time at Whitman College, and from my involvement with various arts organizations. Tuition alone cannot pay all the costs of running a school of higher learning, so there is always a charitable arm that helps defray the costs. At Whitman, the Alumni association is always fund raising, mainly to build capital from which interest is drawn to fund the operation, or to get a fund to do capital improvements. Regarding LWIT, I don’t know the exact breakdown, but I was told that tuition, The State of Washington, and the Foundation fund the school. So the breakfast is there as a fundraiser.

We went into the kitchen and did a bunch of prep work for the breakfast. The tasks we all did:

  • Cut cantaloupe, honeydews, and pineapple to 1/4″ (small) dice for fruit salad. Also we halved a bunch of seedless red grapes.
  • Washed and quartered a bunch of new red potatoes.
  • Cracked and filtered a gross (144) of eggs.

It is surprising how long this took. We were allowed to work slowly, something we wouldn’t have if we were working in a “real” restaurant. The two people in the class who work in restaurants as their jobs pointed out that they would have to do this and do 6 other things at the same time (have something in the oven, etc).

287px-Saucisson_04The other thing that happened on Tuesday was I gave a presentation in my other class, CULA 128, Food Safety and Sanitation. I haven’t talked much about this class because it has pretty much been straight lecture. This Tuesday, in fact, was the final day of lecture for the quarter. The primary goal of this class is to pass the ServSafe exam, which allows us to be THE point of contact for food safety for a restaurant or other institution. In addition to the test, we have to do a research paper. I elected to present mine to the class rather than turn it in in writing, and I picked a topic that is an interest if mine, that being how we make dried sausages such as Salami safe to eat, neutralizing the Botulism and spoilage bacteria. I emphasized the point by buying a few dried/fermented sausages and passing them around, including one with a nice coating of white powder, which is actually a species of Penicillium nalgiovense, a cousin of the mold that produces the antibiotic Penicillin. It went well, and I enjoyed being up in front of a group again.

The last thing I did was submit a registration form to Chef Stockman. Those helping with the banquet were given priority on the next quarter’s classes. She was also doing this for all the people who were on the wait list for our CULA 116 class, and ended up being moved to Front of the House. She wanted to make sure they all got into 116 next quarter.

Wednesday – Only 2 of us from the class showed up at 5 f’ing 30 in the morning. Much cooking had been going on already by other classes (the baking people were there with some pastries, and someone turned all those cracked eggs into hotel pans full of Frittata). We took all those quartered red potatoes, oiled and seasoned them and they went onto sheet pans to roast, then we spent a while doing a Brunoise (1/8″ dice) of red peppers for a garnish. Others were there to bake some sausages.

Service started at 7:30 am, and I helped out with the actual serving of the food. The CULA 124 class, Front of the House, were required to be there to serve (they serve in our onsite restaurant), and we (the culinary students) assisted in taking plates out. I got to see first hand how a banquet is done. Basically, there is an assembly line (in our case 2 lines) where each person puts a single thing on the plate and it’s passed on to the next one. Chefs Sakai and Stockman were the last 2 to touch the plate, garnishing it with our red peppers and green herbs.

Next time you are at a banquet, think about that. For everything on your plate, a person touched it and then 1 or 2 others, before your server brought it to you.

After we finished serving, we all sat down and ate the leftovers, serving as a “family meal” of sorts. Most restaurants will provide a meal to the prep crew while the restaurant is closed before service. This is certainly true of high end restaurants that serve lots of covers every night and are only open for dinner. Often, the prep crew start pretty early in the morning and prep everything for the 2nd shift that actually cooks the food for paying customers.

After that, we cleaned up the massive amounts of dirty dishes, including some glassware that had been rented. This took another hour with everyone pitching in.

After everyone left, I sat down with my laptop to see if I got into the classes I requested for next quarter. The baking class, which is the next in the “normal” sequence, only has room for 10 people. Turns out, I made it! I’ll talk about my next classes in another post.

I left about 10:30, went home, and crashed for a couple of hours, before getting up and practicing knife cuts and making a couple of sauces for the test tomorrow.

I’ll tell you how it went on the next post.