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.


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