Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quick Audrey Update

For the pet lovers out there that are curious about Audrey's adjustment to city life , she's doing great! Her house mate George an aussie cross is quite smitten with her and as you can see from the picture, Audrey always has a wink and a smile ready for George. They play, eat, and sleep together all day everyday. They even enjoy swimming together at the dog parks. So we're both getting along just fine!

The First Exam...

Already another week has flown by- my roommates started back to school wednesday just as I was preparing for my first test in culinary school. Our first test like any other professional school consists of a written exam, but the difference for us is following the written exam we have a practical in which we make products that show our knowledge of the different methods chefs use in patisseries. This test covered sponge, creaming, and cut in method. These methods were demonstrated by producing not only edible but attractive almond macaroons, chocolate chip cookies, and buttermilk biscuits.

I was confident for the written portion of our exams and very at ease about the practical part. We had over three and a half hours to complete and present our products which aloud plenty of time to re-do products if necessary. As I said before I was not nervous about the exams, but the tension in the room was obvious especially for my younger classmates who just graduated from highschool. We were not allowed to talk or help anyone during any portion of the test which was difficult at times especially when I saw one of my friends chocolate chip cookie batches turn into something resembling a hockey puck, but a las I kept my mouth shut.

Over all the results for both my test were A's -a great confidence booster in deed! The next day we moved onto a very excited item called pate a choux, this is a french pastry that is cooked on the stove that is a save all in the kitchen. It can make appetizers , keep your mash potatoes creamy after freezing and thawing and is the base dough of eclairs and cream puffs. We made elcairs and swans (yes the bird) and filled them with chentilly cream and chocolate pastry cream. They were quite beautiful and I was disappointed that I have no pictures of my swans to share with you because my cameras battery died! I promise there will be plenty more photo opportunities for pastry swans to come! I did however manage to get some pictures of the scones, bicuits and quiche loraine we made earlier in the week that are featured above.

I also started my new job this week, and its just wonderful! The people I work at remind me so much of my days at my dads animal clinic and I'm catching on to the inventory system fast. My boss even gave me a free cake today that someone did not pick up. I wished I could have sent it directly to animal care clinic when I opened the box to discover a big sparklely pink pig cake! Donna Preston would have loved it just as much as my roommates love my work benefits!

So, pressing on and enjoying every minute of it!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Safest Cookie

WOW! It's hard to believe my first week of culinary school is already over! The first day of class like any, consisted of the usual hello's and short stories of peoples origins and explanations on their decision to come to culinary school including our Chef Instructor , Chef Cara who has an impressive resume that includes employers like Wolfgang Puck and the like. After the introductions were completed we dove into our first lesson on sanitation and running a clean opperation. This lesson continued for the first three days of class for all five hours of class and was happily ended on Thursday with an examination over our knowledge of running a clean kitchen ; and yes I passed the test so no worries with my food! You might be asking yourself what sanitation lessons at culinary school consist of, well basically sanition covers how to prevent and what causes food born illnesses. While this information is very necassary and perhaps a bit boring at times its also a little scary, not only are you learning about the causes of food borne illness but what it can cost you as a business owner. But of course the good always comes with some bad and thats that.
After our test Thursday night we finally got to sink our teeth (literally) into our first food course: knife skills. We had a demonstration by the talented Chef Jason on how to properly sharpen knifes, segment oranges, and chop onions. Chef Cara let us eat our oranges, which was a nice healthy alternative to all the free cheesecake and truffles we had been getting from the class next door.
I should probably mention at this point an interesting trading system at school:My class meets in the evening from 5:30 to 10:30 pm, there are of course both patisserie and culinary students that meet at this time so dinner isn't exactly an easy meal to come by. Some students pack snacks to eat during breaks but as most of us have learned dinner is not necessary if your patient. You see as patisserie students we make all the breads and sweet things that the culinary students want, while the culinary students make all the wonderful soups and meats we want. So classes trade off with eachother in a kind of bartering system so you can pretty much count on getting a decent meal every night! A good example of this would be Friday nights class. The patisserie students made peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies while the culinary students made french onion soup. Chef Cara was kind enough to provide us with some milk for the cookies and all the students had a good meal that night!
Our cookies were a big hit with the culinary students and our first taste of a real class. We watched Chef Cara demonstrate the proper method of making cookies , a particular method known as creaming method. After the demonstration,we went to work measuring ingredients by scale and mixing our cookie dough by hand. We also got a chance to practice our safety lessons by wearing latex gloves and cleaning the whole kitchen. The whole experience of Friday night, was very fast and fun- it helped re-emphasize that this was the right choice for me. So another week gone by and another to come!
On the job front I was incredibly blessed to get three job offers in the end! One was a tutoring job at school, another was an office assistant at school and the final job offer was
a sales associate position in a professional supply bake shop in Austin. I ended up taking the job as the sales associate at the bake shop and I couldn't be happier about it! I get benefits like a 25% discount on any merchandise, free classes on cake decorating ( yes my school will cover cake decorating as well but I can get extra practice and more detailed instruction in this field this way), and free lunch on Saturdays! The owners are a husband and wife team and very sweet people. In fact some of you that are familiar with the food network challanges and know of Brodwin Weber (the Gingerbread challange winner) might have seen my boss on the foodnetwork with brodwin. My boss was her assistant at the gingerbread challange you see and they are very close friends in addition to that! Work starts tomorrow and I'm very excited to see whats in store for me. My job will basically consist of me helping customers, knowing what to recommend, and the like. Everything else is coming up roses and I continue to enjoy getting to know my new roommates and city immensely. Stay tuned!