Thursday, August 13, 2009

IT’S OVER!!!!!

Well, this first 6-week block of classes anyway.

What a nerve-wracking week it’s been. This entire time I’ve always found it difficult to find time to study, and so I’ve been cramming it in as much as possible in the last few days. I made flashcards last weekend and took them everywhere with me, going over them again and again and again, only to find that information seemed to seep out the more I studied!

And I was really stressing over the Sanitation final. This was the state exam that we had to pass to move on. So I memorized as much as I could cram into my noggin about bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, and the proper temperature food should be cooked to, stored at, cooled and reheated to with such-and-such amount of time, etc., etc., etc. Seriously, I had butterflies in my stomach all day at work leading up to this test.

And it turned out to be way dang easier than I expected.


Is this really all that people gotta know to pass this exam and run a restaurant? That test only increased my apprehension level over the sanitation practices in various establishments

But the worst was yet to come: the Kitchen Practical – otherwise known as… Hell (not Hell’s Kitchen, no, that would’ve been more entertaining, just plain Hell).

We had to make consommé and a sauce. The consommé was easy (we did it the night before, just grind up some chicken and some mirepoix, throw it in a sauce pan with some tomato paste and egg whites and sweat it, add some stock and a sachet, and let that baby simmer, then strain it out). But Chef picked which sauce we were going to do.

I (silently) pleaded: “Please make it Hollandaise! Please make it Hollandaise!” Hollandaise I can do in my sleep standing on my head with one hand tied behind my back. Well, you know. And it’s GOOD! Alas, I was given a choice between Espagnol and Velouté. If anyone reading this has taken Culinary before, you’ll know why I chose Velouté. Well, at least I do (it was easier!).

And you know what? It turned out alright! Initially. I was feelin’ so good with myself that I went ahead and set it on the back burner, thinking I’d present that and the soup at the same time for Chef and “impress” him (or something).

Bad move. My once semi-perfect sauce turned into a thick, gooey mess by the time I was breaking down my soup. S—t! I tried to save it with some oil and some seasoning, but to no avail. Chef ran a spoon through it, stopped, looked up at me and glared “Is this what I taught you??”

(a moment to swallow the lump in my throat – I swear, I felt like a scolded child)

“No, Chef.”

What did I teach you??

“Ummm…..” I frantically tried to come up with an answer that would both affirm my knowledge of the proper way to make this sauce and still explain why I’d managed to completely f— it up.

“It’s not… nappé?” (some culinary term I never quite got but I know Chef reminded us of time and time again when demo-ing sauces)

The look on Chef’s face said it all. Any of you who’ve taken Culinary know the look: “Why am I here? Why am I teaching Culinary One to a bunch o’ dingbats who can’t boil an egg? I could be off running my own catering business, or my own personal chef business, or my own… whatever. Anything… but this.

Chef proceeded to demonstrate how incorrect my sauce was with the back of his spoon, and then it was over. My sauce was graded, and I threw the rest of it out, moving on to break down my consommé with a heavy heart.


My consommé actually turned out alright. After a mishap with the china cap (and a trip next door to Chef Bruno’s kitchen which I choose not to describe), I had a relatively clear, clarified soup that, after proper seasoning, actually tasted pretty good. I got it back up to temp, did my knife cuts, laid ‘em in there as garnish and presented it. This time it was a cursory “Mm,” and I was done. On to cleaning.

I didn’t get home until after eleven last night, but I was both fried and wired at the same time and ended up working (day job, from home) until one-thirty in the morning. I knew I was gonna sleep well the next day…

Which was today (well, tonight). A repeat performance of yesterday: butterflies in my stomach all day, even to the point of feeling sick! OMG, when’s the last time I ever felt sick to my stomach with nervousness?!?

But all it was was the Culinary final, and like the Sanitation exam, this one was much easier than expected. I sailed through it, then we all went in the kitchen and cleaned a bit before Chef gathered us around and “wished us luck” in our next class by warning us of all the things we could potentially get wrong and in how many ways we needed to improve if we ever hoped to get through Culinary Two. Sigh… good times.

So I got a three-day weekend here (taking a much-needed Friday off of work) to clean and run chores and errands, getting myself ready for the start of class Monday. Now, as long as Campus IT fixes their screwup where they deleted most of my grades from the system (!), I should be all prepared and ready to go, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, for the next chapter in The C-Dawg Chronicles


1 comment:

  1. I TOTALLY know that look from's the worst. My practical didn't go too well either. I missed the consomme demo so I wasn't sure what it was supposed to look like, and then my hollandaise was going along fine until I tried to heat it up enough to serve to Chef hot. I must have broken it 4 times. Practicals are just destined to go wrong!!

    And I've been pleasantly surprised by the written tests, too! I'm definitely glad that Sanitation is OVER.

    Good luck in Foundations 2...I don't really know what to expect!