Learning at culinary school is a bit different than an average university. Aside from the fact that an everyday university does not teach classes in kitchens, instructors don't wear tall hats and an average homework assignment doesn't mean memorizing the difference between a white roux and a blond roux, culinary school curriculum moves much faster. We focus all of our minds, energy and sought-after talent on one course for five hours a day, five days a week, for three weeks. What this means is our focus on each subject is intense, there's absolutely no room to miss a beat, and we share the total joy of knowing that every three weeks will be finals week. The majority of us made it through the last round of finals week - which included two major written exams, a product I.D. test where we were expected to name 80 different herbs, spices, oils and vinegars from memory just by viewing them, a knife skills test on our precision with cutting potato pieces into perfect 3/4 inch cubes and carrots into perfect julienne slices, as well as a written paper accompanied by a presentation of our chosen topic to the class. Whew. It was a crazy week and for a moment I wasn't sure how it was all going to come together. But it did. And I remember thinking the next round would likely be more controlled as it was just one class (the first round was two). I was wrong.
Week four marked the beginning of Culinary Skills II. The follow-on to Skills I, Skills II teaches the basic cooking methods, stock making, mother sauces and secondary sauces. The worlds of protein, starch and vegetable cookery are also emphasized as well as continued conditioning on product identification skills and utilization. From the syllabus:
- Prepare a Classic White Stock (Fond Blanc)
- Prepare a Brown Stock (Fond Brun)
- Prepare a Vegetable Stock (Fond de Legumes)
- Prepare a Fish Stock (Fond de Poisson)
- Prepare a White, Blond and Brown Roux
- Prepare the [five] Mother Sauces of Classical French Cuisine
- Prepare Derivatives [Small] Sauces of Classical French Cuisine
- Prepare Thin soup
- Prepare Thick soups, creams and purees
- Demonstrate how to control texture, flavor, color, and nutritional changes while preparing vegetables
- Prepare vegetables cooked to their proper doneness
- Describe the methods of handling dried legumes
- Identify the major types of potatoes and their best uses
- Identify the major types of rice
- Prepare rice by the pilaf method
- Prepare and cook dried pasta
- Describe the various cooking methods associated with proteins
- Prepare protein dishes using a variety of cooking methods and protein sources.
As Monday of this week was Chef's in-service day, we started out Skills II on Tuesday. No, this didn't mean that we would cut out a day's lesson just because of the short week. Instead, this meant we would have five lessons in four days. In looking at the syllabus's we were to learn and study 74 cooking terms, complete six recipe conversions and read 45 pages from our textbook, Professional Cooking. A large feat for one week, but we made it through and got our first taste (as a class) of working it in the heat of a culinary kitchen. Below are some photos from the week.The French Chef! Chef Jacky demoing how to make the the perfect Hollandaise sauce. Just about everyone knows that Hollandaise can be tricky. It's a finicky sauce and one must be careful when preparing Hollandaise as it's incredibly easy to get the eggs to curdle if the heat is to high and it's common for the sauce to break if it's not watched closely. We all made it, though! Chef Jacky thought there would be tears on Hollandaise day, but we proved him wrong. I think he was a bit dissapointed.