Sunday, August 23, 2009

Time To Get My Act Together

‘Twas a rough week at CHIC, folks. I’m sure part of it was the feeling of being overworked at my day job (I’ve been puttin’ in quite the number of hours), but I have to admit that part of it was just my lack of preparation.

We’ve just finished Week One of six weeks of Culinary Foundations Two, and I already feel like I’ve repeated the whole of Foundations One class. Sure, we’re reviewing a lot of basic things, like making stocks, etc. But the amount of production is much higher. See, the last class was really only a little over two hours (7:45pm to 10:05pm – BTW, who came up with this ‘:05’ business?!). But Foundations Two is all evening, 6pm to 10:35pm (again, that extra five minutes, what is it FOR, I ask?!?).

This means that after a short lecture and demo, we set off to make a lot more stuff than we ever did in the first class. Wednesday and Thursday each I struggled to keep up while we had to make four or five separate sauces or dishes. Wednesday I did pretty well, even though I only turned in three items. Chef Kang was happy with both the flavor and the consistency of what I brought him, and I ended up making a pretty dang tasty little number called a Cauliflower Gratinée:

But Thursday… well, Thursday was another story. I was burnt out. Honestly, I was fried. I struggled through the day at work, then I struggled through class. We had five freakin’ sauces to make, and honestly, there’s no reason why I couldn’t get them all done. I struggled with TWO of them, and then I barely cranked out a third only after Chef stepped in with an assist! How humiliating! When the instructor steps in and starts doing it for you, you know you need to work a lot harder.

I’m not (entirely) knocking the help – he did give me a bit of a ‘kick in the pants,’ which helped me at least get one more sauce done. I felt pretty sheepish walking up to him with it, after he’d called it for the evening (‘end of production, everyone clean up’). He gave me the chance, and it did turn out alright (a simple-as-all-heck-darn red wine and shallot reduction, for Pete’s sake). I just felt like it was a ‘gimme’, and I went home disappointed in myself despite it all.

The highlight of the week, though, had to be sitting down with Chef Beckman and recording a CHIC Podcast. Here’s the thing that got me interested in culinary school in the first place. Chef Beckman’s podcast comes out once a week, and is syndicated individually or through the excellent Culinary Media Network feed. What I love about it is the laid-back style. Meeting Chef Beckman was a treat, and he’s certainly one of the easiest people to get along with I’ve ever met! We rapped about my experiences (limited as the were) in the culinary world, and why I wanted to attend school. For anyone out there who either attends CHIC or is even remotely interested in what culinary school instructors are chattin’ about, this is a must-have addition to your podcast feed.

So on to Week Two, and this time I wisely read ahead in the syllabus and made flashcards of everything we’d be making this week. With all certainty, I’ll be studying those flashcards on the bus and at work. But my biggest crutch right now is Time Management. For the love of the gods, they could teach me a whole class in this! Some folks seem to come by it naturally, and others are picking it up well enough. But me, I’m still struggling with it.

I can concentrate really well on making one sauce at a time, and making it pretty decent. But to be working on five sauces at a time, and to get them done well, is quite a challenge.
It’s one of those things that, quite frankly, just doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s probably because I’m still struggling with the basic cooking part! So it’s the kind of thing I’ll need to devise my own system for. This is like a lot of other things I've done. I need to figure out my own way out of the woods on this one, and that’ll take a lot of work. But I know that once I get it down… look out.

A’ight, it’s late, it’s Sunday night, I’m beat having worked from home all day, so I’m hittin’ it. Check out The CHIC Podcast, as well as CMN. Good night, and Namaste.

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