Culinary School Week 5 & 6

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Week five of culinary school might have been one of the more insane weeks I've had in my life which included a two day baking and pastry test and me feeling really sick and out of it the rest of the week (hence failing to blog about it).

I haven't stressed about a test this much in a long time. I spent the entire week before practice baking and studying and memorizing basic ratios and terms. While my actual grade wasn't going to make or break my experience, I admittedly put a lot of pressure on myself to do very well because I've made it pretty clear to my instructor that I'm passionate about pastry. I wanted to show her I was worth her time and to prove to myself that I'm learning, retaining information, and performing well.

And thankfully all went well! I was wigging out a little bit on day one and got a bit too frustrated when I had to remake a pate sucree but by day two I was feeling calm and confident and even got an A on my written test! Woot woot! Overall I did really well, but did lose a point on my cake as I didn't quite cut it or frost it evenly (a little too thick for my instructor's standards). But when my instructor loved my cake so much that she took it home for her and her husband AND ate it for breakfast the next morning, I'm not too hurt about that one point. Otherwise my results were delicious and passed with flying colors!

The stress is now over and we're spending a lot of time focusing on our graduation/final dinner where we'll be creating the menu and making it for up to 90 guests on our last day of class.

To prepare for our menu creation, we were assigned different restaurants to visit so we can study their menu and eat up! I was assigned Chanon Thai and Blue Nile Ethiopian food which were both thankfully cheap and amazingly delicious. We've had a few standard takeout dishes from Chanon but we loved the experience of eating there and trying something new. As for the Ethiopian food, I didn't really know what to expect outside of looking at their menu online and Josh was pretty worried about it, expecting us to not like it and have to go elsewhere for food afterwards. But we both loved it! The Injera was completely different from anything I've ever had- sorta like a crepe but with the flavor of a sourdough bread and has a really spongy texture. It was fun to eat it all with our hands, scraping up our food with the bread. I'm so glad I was assigned Blue Nile as I likely wouldn't have gone on my own and definitely would've been missing out. Culinary school has certainly taught me how to appreciate the food I eat at different restaurants and to truly embrace new foods.

We've also done a lot more fish and seafood! On Thursday, we did a low-poach in a delicious pomegranate vinegar sauce, as well as fish packets and on the next Wednesday, we had a general seafood lesson, learning to fillet and cook a branzino, and had a lesson in sushi! As a young poor woman who grew up in a household that NEVER had fish, I've never eaten this much seafood in my life! Now hopefully I can master making it at home so I can convince Josh to eat it.

With the stress of our baking test over, we had some fun with candies and chocolates, making bitesize chocolates, toffees, and brittles and learned how to pull sugar for beautiful garnishes. It's no wonder I love baking and pastry so much. It's so beautiful! But also painful. When pulling the brittle to make it a bit thinner, we use thick rubber gardening gloves. Unfortunately I started pulling the brittle too soon while it was still dangerously hot so I had hot brittle burning my hands through the gloves that were stuck on me. I seriously thought my skin might come off when I took of the gloves. Thankfully it's all good and cold water did the job, but guys. Learn from me. Wait a few seconds before pulling the brittle.

And to finish off the week, we had a great talk with Chef Adam about menu planning and creating well-rounded delicious meals for customers. This definitely appeals to the side of me that loves planning and details as there's so much to consider when making menus- texture, flavors, weight, seasons, and more. And this discussion also included a long chat about restaurants and menus as we talked about our eating-out assignments! I can't believe I go to a school where we get to talk about food all day.

To finish off that day, we learned to make a wonderful spring risotto and somewhere in all the preparation, Chef cut off the tip of his finger! It was a bit crazy and obviously I felt so bad for the guy who continued to teach us with a throbbing finger, but it was rather nice to know that even super experienced tough guys cut themselves too. Shame that it took his pain to teach us that.

Two more weeks, my friends. Only two more weeks. Then I will be depressed and wondering how to go on in my new home of Indiana and you won't ever have to hear about culinary school from me ever again. Though no guarantees, because I'm sure I'll be talking your ear off about school until the day I die.