Friday, April 11, 2014

Sixth Day of Class plus more Cute Cookies

Wow, I only have one more kitchen skills class left! It really flew by. This week we made individual minestrone soup batches. This was the first time we worked individually on a recipe, and it was a good culmination of all the skills we learned over the past six weeks. We each made our own soup, but we still helped each other out and split ingredients as needed. I think it was an exercise in working as a kitchen team, everyone working on their own thing, yet together. I think we did well as a class. But I think if we could have planned better if it had been more clear that it was a team building exercise. For example, we could have pooled the pasta cooking and then measured out portions of cooked pasta instead of each person cooking a tiny amount for their soup. That just seems silly. But like I said, it was a little hard to tell if the emphasis was on the team or on each person completing all their own tasks. And some of the pasta in the individual soups was undercooked, so I guess it is a good individual lesson.
The other thing that was not quite clear until midway through was that we were encouraged to make our soups unique. We were all given the same recipe, but then our Chef came out with extra ingredients and said we could use them. Only the more experienced cooks in class really ran with that, adding okra and spices. And it sort of felt like we were criticized for not adding our own creative twist during the review afterwards, so that seemed a little unfair, because when we started it seemed like the focus was on consistency and showcasing the technical skills we learned. Nevertheless, we did well and were generally praised for our soups from The Chef and the class. It was a good wrap up of our lessons.
I am feeling pretty good about the end of class next week. There is the last test on fruits, veggies, and herbs/spices, which I feel pretty confident about. Also, we do a casual presentation of our chef biography paper, which I finished to my liking and turned in. And we have a knife skills practical test which I think I am ready to do well. Oh, and I have to work in the school's bakery shop for two hours next week, and I am actually kind of excited about that.
We didn't have a lecture as much as a review, plus we watched this video of Thomas Keller doing a Ted Talk. It was pretty inspiring. A lot of it was about how many people are involved in a fine restaurant, way more than you see or think about as a customer. It was a celebration of all the people who make a restaurant a success and a great way to see all the different kinds of jobs there are in culinary. The emphasis was on being part of a team, which was good to hear from such a well known Chef. And that teamwork aspect seems to be the focus that our class Chef takes in preparing us for the kitchen, so I can see why she showed us this video. I have been thinking about this concept a lot lately. My work for the last ten-plus years has been so solitary. While I have been part of things that have been semi-collaborative in nature, like my time at the Rust Belt Market, I have pretty much worked alone, doing all the aspects of my business myself. Perhaps some of my burn-out from that has been in part a desire for more collaboration and teamwork. I wonder how I might fit in with a more co-operative work environment.

In non-class news, last week I made another batch of cookies to bring to our friends. They were graham cracker cookies with royal icing colored entirely from natural ingredients. I used cocoa, strawberry, raspberry, orange, green tea, and corn for color. I was really happy with the decorating and the cookies tasted great! The dough was very hard to work with, though. This week, I tried a different recipe for graham and the dough was wonderful to work with, but the cookies were not as tasty. They were bland and grainy from the whole wheat graham flour. So, the next batch will be a combination of the two recipes. I am learning a lot from baking different recipes and adjusting them. I will clearly benefit from a baking science class so I can have a better understanding of what is happening in the bakery process, so I am looking forward to that...perhaps in the fall. This week, I will make more Eastery cookies to take to the various family dinners that we will be attending. Yum!

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