Mod 2, Week 1: A New Culinary Adventur
Posted April 17, 2009on:
With a new mod comes new culinary challenges, new techniques to learn and a new instructor. So far, knife skills remain a big challenge. I’ve realized I have issues with my knife maintenance. I had the new chef show me how to sharpen and hone. I even bought a new stone, only to be told that I got ripped off. However, I do think it’s getting better. I also think that if I can’t get it very sharp, I’ll take it to a shop and have it sharpened. I know…I know….we’re not supposed to do this, we’re supposed to know how to sharpen our knives ourselves. But there is a point where I suspect I’m doing more harm than good, so I just may cave.
Now the fire is another challenge. During the last mod we really only cooked soups and sauces. We didn’t have to be too careful with the heat since these were all things that were brought to a simmer. In this mod, I unfortunately always manage to over cook any meat I make. I either slightly burn it, like when I pan-fry, or make things very, VERY well done, like steaks. Strangely enough, I can cook the lamb and pork nicely. This is probably the result of years of cooking at home for people who think charred, over-cooked meat is actually good. (No one in my family will eat meat with any trace of pink in it.) I still need to work on my medium dice, but I also need to work on making a nice medium rare steak.
At this point, we’re focusing on dry-heat cooking methods. I don’t quite understand why sautéing, pan-frying and deep-frying are considered dry heat methods, but they are. (Maybe because of the lack of water?? Does anybody know?) We’ve cooked a variety of things and they’ve all been fairly yummy. One thing I noticed is that chef told us the recipe for crab cakes we were using was good, but that hers were better. I miss how our old instructor would give us HIS recipes for things that he used in his restaurants. Yes, she gave us her recipe for the potato pancakes, but I’d love to be able to make delicious crab cakes!
Speaking of instructors, I do notice a lot of differences between our old instructor and our new one. Our mod 1 instructor was very much the consummate professional chef as well as pedagogue rolled into one. Since I was a high school teacher, I do recognize a lot of the techniques he used to ensure we not only learned about the professional kitchen, but that we also were getting a good educational experience. He was structured, super professional, serious, used objectives and keywords and always modeled the tasks we were expected to perform. He was very stern and it was a challenge to get him to even smile. He also led us all to believe he was a much harder grader than he really was. I was never able to really do that effectively; I suspect my students always knew I was giving them extra credit or extra chances when they probably didn’t deserve it.
Our new instructor is also clearly VERY knowledgeable, capable and a master of kitchen efficiency. She manages her own restaurant kitchen while teaching and having some semblance of a personal life. She’s also a very odd character. On the first day, she tells us how much she hates dirty dishes and clutter, so we’re to clean all our dishes and utensils as we go. She’s also told us about how she’s had a problem with swearing in the kitchen so severe that a swear jar was started and she regularly owed money. Of course, she says we should not do this, but she has, on occasion sworn in class. She’s also made several funny jokes. Now, we’re all adults and the jokes were funny, but I never had a class where the instructor was allowed to make jokes with sexual innuendo or swearing without some form of disciplinary action. (yes, even in college) One minute, she is yelling to tell us how she hates dirty dishes, how she hates when people don’t use common sense, and the next minute, she’s calling us all her “lovies”, her “babies”. She also allows us to drink coffee and to eat in class, while our previous instructor did not allow any of that. She is absolutely the crazy artist that one thinks about when one thinks of a great chef.
Her lack of structure is a big contract from the previous instructor, however I do believe she is providing us with a more realistic feel of what it is like to be in a hectic, restaurant kitchen. Yesterday was the first day where there was consistent chaos. Many people in the class were unclear about what to mise en place and what recipes we were to work on first. After yelling for a few minutes once she realized that everyone was confused, we all figured it out and got our groove back. She also posted a new cleaning schedule with a new feature: a sous chef. This student was to ensure that all the cleaning jobs in the kitchen were completed effectively . Of course I found it odd that she picked the student with the worst attendance record, but I wonder if she’s hoping that the additional responsibility would be incentive for him.
Next week, we start to deep fry and I suspect there will be even more adventures in the kitchen.