Honing My Skills

I apologize for how long it has taken me to return, my weeks have been very tiring.

To start, we moved to Mississauga without a hitch. Some thoughts I had on cities have changed, a little for the better and a lot for the worse. To start a tiny rant, I thought their transit system would run more smoothly, but in actuality it is more sporadic. Additionally, people either just push you out their way or say excuse me after half finished pushing you aside alreadt. The good has been the view from my apartment, how quick taxis arrive, and the ability to find a job.

For work, I am now garde manger at the Bier Markt on Queensway. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be offered the job considering I do not have a lot of experience, but they were very understanding of my enthusiasm to improve and took me on anyway. So far I have worked seven in a row and believe I am already improving to some extent. Wimpy’s helped give me the confidence to act without always second guessing myself, yet I do ask for help and advice when I am working on certain things.

The workplace is very free with their compliments to my work, such as plating the salads, but I sometimes worry that I seem to need frequent pats on the head. On the other hand, if my work was sloppy they wouldn’t hesitate to tell me since they want their guests to enjoy their meal, spread the good word, and return for more.

The team of people I work with in FOH and BOH are all very kind that I’ve seen so far. They are quick to introduce themselves and get my name, and say hello whenever we meet up that day. It really makes one feel part of the family. I feel very fortunate to be apart of the team.

Additionally there is more freedom than I expected. Yesterday I got to choose what fruit would be used to make the compote that accompanies the charcuterie board, and found out I could request different types of oysters to serve. To some that might not mean much, but to me I found it amazing.

As for the compote, I chose a peach mango mixture, with Stiegl Raddler reduced in the sauce. It is a fruity lager that helped compliment the sweetness of the fruit, but also give it a tasty kick. When I gave it a try I was actually tempted to grab another spoon for another bite. I hope the guests enjoy it along with their selection of meat and cheeses.

My further goals are to perfect my skills at my station. Today I made some mistakes during my prep by not getting some items done before service and having to quickly attempt to fix it during lunch, which in turn had my chef help and basically do the chore. I felt like an amateur but feel good now that I did not panic during the event and make it worse. I have another morning shift on Friday, so this time I plan to write down everything I need to do to keep up with service and complete it, then continue with the extras.

When I get a grip on my schedule I hope to go back to cake decorating. It’s not a cheap thing so I’ll have to wait until I get a full pay, but when I do I plan to make some pretty edibles.

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Cooking Up A Job

Happy Moving Day!

I know it’s technically Canada Day, I can’t help but not feel too bothered. Today is just closed stores and loud fireworks for me while we head to Mississauga.

Any way, yes! I am cooking up a job! Sort of.

The past couple of weeks I have been sending my resume into job adverts that look interesting in helping me gain the experience I crave in cooking. I won’t go into much detail but I am hoping to be employed by the end of next week. My biggest desire would be to work somewhere I can gain Red Seal hours.

From now until an unknown date I do not have internet. It can wait but it sure makes finding the available jobs and their locations much easier.

Wish me luck. And hopefully the next time we meet I can tell you about my new culinary position.

Fevers and Food

Well this week went a little better than the last. I went to the clinic Monday for my sciatica and got some lovely pills that made the pain go away, but while there I suspect I caught something because during my Thursday morning class I was in agony. So after a painful two hour trip home I got into bed and had my high fever taken care of by my husband and mother. I am still feeling pretty bad but my fever has gone down and I wanted to tell you all that I did this week!

So I’ll first begin with yesterday’s class since it is more fresh in my mind. We were required to make carbonnade flamande with venison, rabbit with mustard, and bison short ribs.

The rabbit needed to be deboned, the venison shoulder cut into one-inch chunks, and the bison short ribs cleaned up and cut individually. As I worked on the prep for the carbonnade and mustard, my partner took apart the rabbit and cleaned up the bison ribs. After we finished we ended up switching recipes. I continued on to make the rabbit while she started the ribs.

By then I was feeling pretty ill and didn’t notice she had finished searing the bison quickly and vac packed them for the immersion cooker. It was quite interesting since our chef told us they would be in there for 20 hours and had some from the class on Wednesday for us to try.

After some help from chef I browned the rabbit, added the additional ingredients of herbs, wine, and chicken stock, and began to let it braise as I continued on to the vegetable cooking for the meal.

A few of the things we needed were kale, sunchoke, and carrots. The kale was easy enough and was to be cooked like spinach, while the sunchoke we boiled like a potato and mashed it with butter and cream. I’ve never tried sunchoke before but it was actually pretty good, the flavouring was similar to a potato with a hint of turnip.

After those were ready the rabbit had reduced enough to be moved to take-out containers and all we needed to wait for was the carbonnade. It had only been an hour since we had put it in the oven so we ended up tidying up and taking a small break.

By then I was feeling worse and had to refuse the different recipes we had just made, but everyone said the food was tasty. There was comments that the rabbit tasted like chicken and that the venison was hard to describe.

In the end everything looked great. We sent down a container each of kale, mashed sunchoke and carrots, with carbonnade to be sold in the pantry.


MousseCake


 Wednesday was baking and I actually did really well. Baking has never been my strongest subject so to follow the instructions of a pastry chef has really helped improve my work. This week we made blueberry mousse cake, chocolate mouse cakes, and chocolate roses.

For the blueberry cake our chef wanted to show us a simple egg free version because so many people have egg allergies these days which meant we would be using gelatin as a stabilizer.

To start we cut out a circle that was slightly smaller than the pan we had with the chocolate cake we had made a few weeks prior. And then using a ruler cut out lines from stripped cake to place around the edge as you can see in the picture above. Once everyone at the table was ready we then moved on to making the mousse. It wasn’t too difficult since we used a mixer to whip the cream, melted sugar with puree and gelatin, then folding the mixture into the cream to keep it fluffy. Afterwards we divided it up and filled the cake rings until it reached just below the stripped cake top.

From there we moved everything into the blast freezer and began to cut circles out of the mango gelee they made the week before. As I was not there last week my friend let me use some of hers. By the time we cut circles and tidied up we were able to grab the now frozen cake and move to the next step. With the gelee circle we placed it in the centre of the cake and then added the rest of the mousse and again put it in the blast freezer. I love that thing. Whoosh, frozen.

The next step was to melt what was left of the gelee and begin the next mousse cake. Again we did an egg free mousse but instead of needing gelatin, the chocolate itself would be the firming agents as the mixture would cool. Once we finished folding the chocolate into the cream we divided it up into two piping bags with no tips. Using round silicon moulds we filled most of it with mousse then the centre with caramel. On top we added a small chocolate cake circle and also added it to the blast freezer. From there we grabbed our blueberry mousse cakes and added a layer of the melted gelee to give it a decorative top plus it also helped protect the mousse from drying out.

By now chef was moving us on over to making chocolate roses. If you were finished with your cake she suggested you should started trying to warm up you pieces so they were moldable. I’ve never felt anything like it food wise. The chocolate didn’t feel normal since it was so hard, and when becoming pliable in your hand it didn’t melt. It was also entertaining as chef gave us a demo on how to make the roses and all the students were needing chocolate in their hands as they watched.

The instructions she gave looked simple enough and seemed to just require patience. First we were to make a teardrop from a marble sized piece, and then continue with petals by smoothing the chocolate on the counter until it was petal shape and begin wrapping it around the top.


ChocolateRose


As I worked on mine I was happier and happier with it. I personally think it came out lovely and still have it in my fridge. As for the chocolate mousse cakes, while working on the roses we also needed to take time to come up front and put on a chocolate glaze chef had made. Some of the things she was looking for in marking our products was that the cake came out round and smooth, meaning we had properly piped it into the mould.

Well mine came out beautifully and after I added the glaze they looked quite delicious. I was so happy that we got to keep half of them while the others were going down to the pantry to also be sold.


ChocMousse


(The one on the right isn’t a bite mark, I accidentally booped it as I was trying to put the other one in my take home box. There was three in total plus half the cake I made.)

I must admit I really enjoyed the class. Chef said my cake was beautiful, her only comment was that the top layer of gelee was a little thick, but other than that everything went great. Also I really clicked with the modeling chocolate, it seemed most of the class had a hard time putting together their rose. I wouldn’t mind trying it again with other shapes and maybe trying to perfect the rose making.

By the way, if you’re ever in the Whitby area you should check out our pantry. Parking is free if you’re a customer and tell the cashier from what I understand and the food we offer is pretty cheap for what we’re actually making. The other week we were selling two frenched lamb racks for $14.00 while I found just one for sale at Metro for $23.00.

Quails, Jelly and 48 kgs. of Apples

Thursdays are my longest day of the week. I begin at eight a.m. with a five hour lab, take a one hour break, then continue with another five hour class. At the beginning of the semester it seemed like a long day, but my feet have gotten used to the 10 hours and always more of standing so now I am able to concentrate the entire class.

For the morning lab we were required to make two recipes, stuffed quail and duck tournedo. Now for these classes it is not that the items are prepared for us and we follow step-by-step procedures. For our culinary training we were last week required to debone a duck, and this week to do the same on quail.

I would have taken pictures of the entire procedure but we had limited time and messy hands so I decide against it. To start off, quail are itty bitty. I mean really itty bitty, one fit comfortably in the palm of my hand. Anyways, to get the quail in the shape we needed we were required to cut along the spine then try and work our knife along the rib cage and between the shoulder blades. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to do and have to admit my first attempt looked horrendous. For it to be finished correctly the ribs, wish bone and spine need to be removed, along with the thigh bone. What you need to have left is the skin intact, the wings, just the leg bones of the bird and the meat.

It looked strange when we finally finished up, but the whole thing worked out when we added the ball of wild rice and sweet potato stuffing to the centre and worked the bird into shape, using a cut in the thigh of the bird to cross its legs and tucking the wings underneath. To finish it up we wrapped the little guy in bacon.


StuffedQuail1 StuffedQuail


Then there was the duck. Since last week was the hard part, this week was quite simple. After making the delicious smelling stuffing which included orange zest, scallops and savoury, we laid out the duck breast on strips of bacon, smoothed on stuffing, wrapped it into a tight cylinder with cellophane and tin foil, then vacuum sealed it. When we were sure it was sealed properly we added it to the immersion cooker to cook in the sous vide way. Which basically means it is in water and will constantly cook at the required temperature until done.

Once the duck was done we quickly browned it so the bacon was nice and crispy and served them up be sold in our school store, The Pantry.


AppleCrisp


The second class to my day is basically mass production. It is to help teach us how to make something hundreds of times but have them all come out identical. It takes some work but I think we are all starting to catch on.

For class this day our goal was to produce wine jelly, apple crisp, bread, curry pastry, and soup. My group was assigned wine jelly which also included bottling vinegar that had been made earlier. For our recipe we needed 4 bottles of wine, 10 lbs. of sugar and just a small amount of lemon juice and of course pectin. After combining it all, quickly sanitizing the bottles and warming the lids, we only ended up with 42 small jars. I was a little surprised since we all expected quite a few more.

Next was the vinegar. Again we sanitized, but this time we needed the vinegar to come to a boil and for capping we used a plastic sealing method that had a perforated edge for the customer to know it had not been tampered with. My assigned duty was pouring the vinegar into the bottle and wow did it stink.

The first bottle was fine. I poured it into the funnel until it reached the desired height, then passed it on to the next member who would add the cap. Within seconds after moving the bottle the vinegar smell hit me. It was horrendous. The odour burned my throat and had me choke with surprise. And that’s how most of filling the bottles would go. Pour, move, wiggle nose, repeat.

Our duty has been a very quick one, so once we finished up we headed over to another table who were making apple crisp. We’d helped out occasionally earlier with peeling some of their 48 kgs. of apples, but by now they had moved over to cooking apple slices and reducing the crumble to a powder.

To help out I ended up making a cornstarch slurry and adding it to the pile of cooking apple slices. Afterwards we stirred the mixture until the liquid turned clear and was ready to be pulled out of the cooker so we could begin scaling it in take-out containers. It had to be the most delicious smelling job in the room. Standing next to a bucket of cinnamon scented apples while weighing out the product which then would have crumble added on top. By the end of the job they had enough crisps that everyone in class got to take one home, and they still had 45-50 left to sell.

When class was finished we got to take home what everyone’s groups had made, except ours since the jelly and vinegar was heading straight for selling. As I left class I had bags of bread, pastries, an apple crisp, the containers of quail and duck that I had stuck in the fridge to keep cold and everything else I had brought to complete the lab. So coming into the hall I was more than happy to see my husband waiting for me, or as I happily called him, my extra pair of hands.

Challah’ve A Lot Of Dough

Every week I have three cooking classes in a span of two days. Baking, Lab, and Retail. The first two are about learning how to prepare and cook different types of foods, while the third uses skills we’ve already gained to mass produce items for sale in our school’s Pantry.

This week I’m going to discuss the baking class. In class we produced baguettes, challah (pronounced Ha-La. I learned that today.) brioche, and souffles. Even though our class had already made bread in the previous semester I always appreciate a refresher, and with our chef being a pastry chef her tips were amazing.

Her best tip for me was how to to roll out a baguette easily while keeping nice tapered ends. Hopefully I can explain this well enough for you to understand.

  1. Place the portioned dough on the surface. Try not to use flour, if it’s a little sticky that’s alright.
  2. Shape it into a rectangle, I’d estimate around 8-9 inches long. Then with the outer edge on the left and right, fold it in just slightly.
  3. Now pull the top down about an inch and using your knuckles, kneed the seem into the dough. Afterwards, bring the dough towards you to roll into a tube.
  4. From there, see if you can fix your ends with a little adjustment of the dough if it has a hot dog look.
  5. With the seem of the dough against the table, use your palms to roll it forward until the seem is against your hand, then roll it back until it reaches the other side.
  6. Keep using this motion to roll while sliding your hands towards the edge to work the dough into your desired length.

Next came the challah, I had previously heard of this bread before but only knew it was Jewish. Once I realized that it wasn’t cha-lah, but ha-la, I reread the recipe and found that one of the differences about this bread to french bread is that it is made with eggs and butter, and our recipe called for a four part braid.

Portioning the dough into even little balls, we created four strips and began to braid. 4 over 2, 1 over 3, 2 over 3. Over and over we went with the strands until the entire thing had become a huge braided dough line. So with a quick egg wash, time in the proofer and another egg wash, we tossed (not literally) them into the oven and waited for them to bake and darken.


  Challah                                  Challah3


Well they came out great, I was completely agreeable with chef that they went a bit crooked, but other than that their coloring was nice and they tasted delicious. Perhaps it is because I know they are made with butter and egg that I taste a difference in the flavour, but if you ever have had the two I’m sure you know what I mean.

Next came the brioche. We mixed two versions; regular and chocolate. Since the dough is currently frozen and to be used later I will talk about it then. Though I have got to say, after adding over a kilo of butter to the cocoa and sugar it smelled mighty yummy.

Last was the souffles. I’ve written only a few minutes worth of material by now but all this took around 4 hours to assemble. Back to the souffle.

Our chef gave yet another few tid bits that I found interesting. The first was, the sugar and butter we smooth onto the edges of the ramekins is not only for flavour, but so the batter can use the sugar as a ladder to climb. The second was on whipping the egg whites. The recipe called for a stiffness that when you lift the whip from the bowl with whites on it, the fluff should be erect, yet what she recommended is that the whites have a bit of a curl like a Dairy Queen cone.


Souffle1


Once baked the souffles looked pretty neat. I didn’t realize she literally meant they would climb out the ramekin but they did and within 30 seconds of being out you could slowly see them begin to deflate. Before they fully collapsed we all got to try one and personally, I don’t like it. They smell too eggy and their texture other than the tops don’t appeal to me.

They were popular with the class though so I imagine they are a popular dessert when offered on a menu. Here’s a tip that will make your trip to a nice restaurant more special. If you order souffle your order becomes the most important thing on the line. The pastry chef cooks it up and within seconds the server absolutely, no if, ands, or buts about it, must have it in their hands and at your table before it begins to deflate.

Setting Up My Station

One of the questions I am always asked by people when discussing school is, “Why cooking?”

Sometimes it is hard to explain. I didn’t enter with the desire to become a top Canadian chef, or open my own restaurant that receives mega reviews, or even end up on the Food Network. Cooking was something that I could imagine myself doing for my entire working life so I threw myself into it.

After completing my first year I can honestly say it was one of my best decisions. My home meals usually consisted of ground beef and prepackaged potatoes; cheap and easy. Now I find myself looking to different types of meats and cuts, while trying to appetizingly plate food for my family.


strog1


Pictured above and as the background are a couple of plates I set up for a menu planning assignment I had. My goal is to continue to post pictures like these on Fridays and Sundays of items I’ve cooked up, and the process and struggles of bringing them together. Additionally on Wednesdays I would like to discuss things I have learned about cooking that I never knew before.

Attempting To Master The Knife

Many other students in my position would’ve boldly named themselves, “Mastering The Knife”, but I honestly could not say that. I started my culinary education with a very minuscule knowledge on just about all of it, and after completing my first year I feel even more baffled. Yes I’ve learned so many things that amaze me and make other things understandable, but after just a year of study I know there is so much more to learn. Food is no longer something I just make and dish out to my family, food has become a good deal more. With this blog, I would like to show exactly how food has become a new development in my life. How at school I am able to take on new things that have made me more bold at home to try out.

Now don’t get too excited. I’m not one of these students who people know will become something big someday, but I am one who is trying their best and would like to someday be extremely proud of what they’ve tried and accomplished. So if you’d like to follow along, I will show you what I am doing and improving every week.