Friday, February 13, 2009

The Makings of a Chef

I survived my first week of culinary school! Granted, this week was only two days :) My first day was spent going over lots of French terms for pots, pans, and types of vegetable cuts and then practicing the cuts on onions, carrots, turnips, leeks and parsley. I discovered I never truly knew how to hold a knife correctly. I think I've always been afraid of the blade, but I'm trying to follow the philosophy that the knife isn't going to hurt me if follow the proper technique and is simply an extension of my hand ( a bit Edward Scissorhands-ish!) I also discovered I suck at making square shaped vegetable cuts! I cannot properly julienne a freakin' carrot to save my life! FYI, a julienne has to be 1-2mm x 6 to 7cm. Yes, it has to be that exact. I was taking my time and trying to get the cuts exactly right and fell behind when the instructor moved on to the next demonstration.

I also had to get in the habit of constantly keeping my work station clean (no bits and pieces everywhere) and composting and saving leftover pieces (no waste whatsoever). After all the chopping practice, I learned two methods of cooking vegetables: a l'anglaise and a l'etuvee. It was a fun, but tiring first day. I forgot how tiring it is to stand for 6 hours! The only time I sat down was during the 30 minute lunch break. One of the higher levels cooks a "family meal" that is then given to a lower level for lunch. It always consists of a meat, starch and vegetable. It's nice to have free lunch again! I'm happy that I'm well fed and eating healthily everyday.

Day two was more low key. An instructor came in to go over food safety. We received a pretty thick book on all the health rules and regulations, which we will be tested on later in order to be licensed by the state of New York. I thought it would be a boring lecture, but the instructor was very animated and had great personal stories so it was interesting and entertaining. He definitely made me think about the importance of knowing where food comes from and exactly why food safety is essential. I saw a video clip from the human society of California that revealed the faulty "poke and sniff" methods for inspecting cows and sick cows being dragged to their death and passing the "able to walk" requirement. It was disturbing and so sad. Combined with the fun little trivia that 80% of US chickens test positive for salmonella, I left class contemplating becoming a vegetarian for awhile!

I have also gotten into the habit of washing my hands A LOT...every face scratch, every cough, every time I have to pick up a towel of the floor! As a result, my hands have become dry, flaky, and completely brittle :( A not so sexy side effect of working in the food industry.

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