Another Week Goes by in Cooking School…
Posted March 13, 2009on:
This week was really chock full of firsts for me. And I think it really helped me realize that this was a good decision for me, despite having to take out yet another student loan.
Tuesday we learned even more about purchasing. I never realized how cost control management was such a big portion of having and running a successful restaurant. Maintaining a high yield on all of your purchases in a kitchen is vital to ensuring that you are still able to make all your other costs as well as gain a profit. Unfortunately, the more he went over the different costs involved and all the work that has to be done to ensure everything is running smoothly from the financial end, it almost didn’t seem worth it to ever have my own restaurant. Maybe in 10 or 15 year’s time I’ll see things differently though. Once we got through all of that, it was back onto working on our potato dicing skills and other vegetable chops. We also learned about emulsions and made salad dressings. My groups’ dressing came out a bit too oily, but it was still tasty and worked well with the cabbage and lettuce varieties we chopped and prepped.
Wednesday we learned about the kitchen brigade system as started by Escoffier as well as fats and oils. We had a long lecture about the principles of purchasing and then we moved onto the kitchen brigade system. This part of the class got a bit depressing because we saw the salaries that awaited us after we were done with the program. They ranged between 20, 000 and 60, 000 a year but there was definitely a progression. In other words, we’d probably be making somewhere around 20-30k a year with no benefits and working super long hours. I’m not used to this in a job, but then again, I’m not used to actually liking my job, so there is something positive to look forward too as well.
We then moved on to learning about the different types of fats, which are better for you and which can eventually kill you, we went into more detail by exploring things we can do with these fats. Yup, we fried some eggs. We tried frying and scrambling eggs using regular butter, clarified butter, olive oil, canola oil and sesame oil. The eggs with the butters were tasty. I also did one with olive oil and that was good too. The eggs with sesame oil were wretched. I didn’t try them but the people who made those eggs were offering them for others to try. I figured, I’d stick with what I knew wad good. The one frustrating thing about making eggs in class was that there were many people who were able to flip their eggs in the pan to make them over easy. I unfortunately could not flip my eggs, so my yolks broke and ended up over done.
Thursday was probably the most intense day this week. This was the first day with no real lecture, only a few demonstrations as we were taught how to fabricate fish. We started by chopping up vegetables for a mirepoix and practicing blocking potatoes so that we can do the medium dice. Then, we got to work on our fish. First, we worked on a striped bass. Our teacher told us what to look for in fresh fish. There should be no fishy odor, the eyes should be clear, the flesh should bounce back when you put your finger to it and the fins should be in tact. Many of these fish had cloudy eyes, flesh that sank, damaged fins and were rather stinky. We started with striped bass. We cut the fins, removed the head and cut down the spine. Then we cut down the first cuts we made to remove the fillets. Once that was done we removed the tail fin. We did the same thing with the mackerel. The flounder was a different story. This fish is flat so it was very difficult to filet. Unfortunately, I managed to completely massacre this fish. I angled my blade incorrectly and as I was filleting, I ended up slicing straight through to the other filet on the back of the fish. It was a terrible massacre and at the end of the class, I looked like I had gone to battle with all the blood on my uniform. But, I did develop a new respect for people who can do this well and quickly. And I did learn some things about fish I had never known before. Overall, this was a great week and I’m eager to really get into things and start seriously cooking.