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School Update... - Micole Khemarrica
School Update...
This is a little later than I was expecting to post, but things got 'interesting' over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  More on that in my next post.  Let's update where I am at school, first.

After the block of academic classes, my classmates were itching to get back into the kitchen. Our next class, however, wasn't culinary but bakery and while it's definitely 'lab work' (i.e. in a kitchen), the bakeshops are structured rather differently from the kitchens.  For one, there is no 'Line' or row of cooking equipment separate from prep tables (cooks who do the grills, sautes, roasts, frying, and finishing/plating of food are said to be "On The Line" and are often referenced as "Line Cooks" to differentiate from those who are doing all the preliminary grunt work, who are "Prep Cooks").  There were two islands which had 6 ranges set back-to-back in the center of the islands and flanked by massive butcher-block-topped prep areas. Only 3 of the four 'rows' of  range-tops were actually live; the fourth row faced the wall of ovens and was used as prep area for bread slicing and the like.  There were two convection ovens, one large deck oven, and two ovens that had a 'humidity' feature (push a button, and a small dose of water would spray out into the oven).  To make matters more interesting, one wall of the bakeshop was covered with windows facing out to the Continuing Education Dining Room, where my class would lay out the breads and desserts we made for students to eat at dinner.  Our sister PM group was ensconced in the bakeshop on the other side of the dining room, which also was faced with windows to see the dining room, so on occassion we'd make faces back and forth at each other.

The class was called "Baking and Pastry for Culinary Students" and was to give us an overview of what a bakeshop is and can do (there was a matching "Culinary Skills for B&P Students" class, too. Well rounded education!)  I think the most important lesson that was brought home to our group was the intrinsic differences between the two disciplines: Culinary really is an 'art', with no one 'right-way' to do anything, while Baking is a 'science' that doesn't have recipes so much as formulas and accurate measurements are required for the chemical reactions to work in the desired way.  While we didn't have the stress of a culinary kitchen, some folks found the tasks more difficult than it would appear on paper.  In my case, I had the advantage of prior experience in baking but the disadvantage of not being comfortable with industrial kitchen equipment... so there were a couple of items I made more than once due to overcooking them at some critical moment, or having it overwhipped by the powerful mixers, or whatnot.  I literally had a battle on my hands making a batch of Tiramisu.... it took three tries with the complicated recipe, but I finally succeeded. 

Thankfully, Chef Speiss (another Swiss chef!) didn't mind us messing up as it was more important for us to learn... in fact, when it came to making ice cream and sorbets, he let is play with whatever flavor combinations we wanted, but told us any really exotic experiments would not leave the bakeshop (there is an "Ice Cream Day" in the CE dining room, and there are some flavor combinations that would unduly surprise our dining guests, who were just as often pro chefs taking a refresher course as it was our fellow degree students, and obviously the CE classes rated better than us.  The CE Dining Room had an espresso machine!)

But, all too soon, the three-week class was over and we were on to our next block -- Cuisines of Europe and the Mediterranean.  Like all of the "Cuisine" courses, it really should have been called "Introduction to Cuisines" as there's no way you can get a real education of a cuisine in only 14 days.  But, at least, the previous cuisine classes were smaller in scope: "Cuisines of the Americas" used a broad brush to touch upon regions in the US, Mexico, and a touch of Central America; "Cuisines of Asia" did an equally broad swipe at China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and India.  But "Cuisines of Europe and the Mediterranean" tried to cover the culinary styles of North Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and then lumped Germanic, Slavic, Scandinavian, and British Island cooking into one unit... last I checked, there are 35 countries in Europe alone, with the former Bloc countries still working out their ethnic-versus-national priorities. 

Even if you limit a 'cuisine' to something you would serve in a restaurant (i.e. home cooking translated by a professional chef to the enjoyment of both people familiar and not familiar with the home-style cooking), that still means it would take a lot more than a 14-day class to showcase half the cuisines in Europe, let alone adding the non-European Mediterranean countries into it.  In fact, the course guide didn't mention any of the Northern European styles at all and pretty much stuck to those countries that touched the Mediterranean (so, no Portugese, Scandinavian, Slavic, or Celtic styles) and it was only Chef Roe's personal batch of recipes and his desire to touch on all of Europe that provided us a glimpse into those styles.  Needless to say, as an avid Elizabethan Cuisine scholar, I was a bit miffed.  I also had a couple of anxiety attacks in the kitchen when I first started, but I got through them and by the end of the class I was in my stride....  which is when they derailed us by another academic-only block. Of course.

The Wines Class is the most challenging, rigorous, and intensive class in the whole program.  It is so thorough, in fact, that passing the class provides enough knowledge to become a certified sommalier (if you wanted to be).  Professor Kolpan wrote the textbook along with the other Wines instructor Professor Weiss, and the textbook is nearly as big as our massive "ProChef" book (the primary 'textbook' for the culinary classes, a 2-inches-thick tome which is  part academics, part techniques, and part recipes).  Contrary to popular belief, we don't get to actually drink any of the wines most of the time -- professional tasting protocol requires spitting out the wine.  We also learned how to read a wine's color, scent, taste, aftertaste, and (most important) what food it pairs best with and why.  We've been deluged with the many grape varieties (and their different names in different countries), covered wine and appellation laws in many countries, learned about terroir and why its so important in making a good wine, memorized the various styles of wines that can be made and where (and who) makes them.... there's a lot of raw information to digest, and tomarrow is Final Exam day.

Next block of classes will be "Stage"", where we learn front-of-the-house skills and banquetting skills prior to the final semester, the notorious "Restaurant Row" where we work in the various on-campus restaurants, both front and back.  Whee!

Current Mood: tired tired

9 comments or Leave a comment
wingywoof From: wingywoof Date: December 2nd, 2005 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Good luck on your Wine final!
ja_ren From: ja_ren Date: December 2nd, 2005 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Sorry to hear they didn't touch on your favourite topic. Atleast it sounds interesting, if stressful. Good luck on your exam. :)
kagur From: kagur Date: December 2nd, 2005 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Good luck with your Wine Final, and I hope you did get some rest during the Thanksgiving break:)
twentythoughts From: twentythoughts Date: December 2nd, 2005 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good luck on the exam! Sounds like a fun, hands-on kinda education, that :)

As for Scandinavian cooking... Guess I could bring a few recipes over next time I head to the States! 'Course, the only thing I really know -how- to make is "finnbiff", a creamy reindeer casserole which is really neat.
shockwave77598 From: shockwave77598 Date: December 2nd, 2005 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Everytime I hear you talking about cooking school, I envision you asking about when you'll be studying Cajun Cuisine :)
(Deleted comment)
chefmongoose From: chefmongoose Date: December 2nd, 2005 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, bake shops can be pretty different. The in-house one at Blue Logo Casino [not its real name] has a wall of about 6-7 floor-to-ceiling ovens, tons of big Hobart mixers, and one 6-burner saute oven. The microwave gets more use than that thing, I think. :)

Culinary really is an 'art', with no one 'right-way' to do anything, while Baking is a 'science' that doesn't have recipes so much as formulas and accurate measurements are required for the chemical reactions to work in the desired way.

Mmm.. somewhat. Baking mostly requires, more than cooking does, yeast and ferementation. Those require the science. And with baking, there's no chances to adjust the taste of something mid-way; if there's going to be one teaspoon of vanilla extract in that batch of tarts, it's next to impossible to change it halfway. I don't think the differences between them are that vast, though. It's just as scientific, but the science and the intuitive aspects are both there. The same way I can look at a Filet Mignon and know the temperature, some bakers can look at a tart and know the temperature's perfect.

That said, I'm a sucky baker. ;)

But "Cuisines of Europe and the Mediterranean" tried to cover the culinary styles of North Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and then lumped Germanic, Slavic, Scandinavian, and British Island cooking into one unit...

And Italian cooking is really Northern and Southern, at that; There's regional cooking within France to a degree.. that is an introduction sort of thing, indeed. I suppose they're trying to give you that fast sampling. but Oriental/Euro/American is a kind of odd division. Geographically logical, but it'd seem more sensible to do Mediterranean (Italian, Greek, Slavic, Spanish, North African, Arabian, Turkish) And then have a northern European course (Germanic, Scandanavian, British/Irish, and I'd say French should go here). But, if you have to squeeze it into 3 courses...

covered wine and appellation laws in many countries

While I'm still trying to find out what the difference is between Syrah and Shiraz. My guess is geographic protected zone. ;) Being a sommelier is a GOOD thing, and that certification can help indeed getting jobs. I have a bad wine palate and I'm rtrying hard to push it, but havent had the real chance without buying bottles for my own consumption. But I don't have Kage's tolerance nor paycheck. ;)

Good luck with FOH classes! -1-)

khromat From: khromat Date: December 3rd, 2005 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)

I say Syrah, you say Shiraz...

The grape is the same, Australia uses a syrah clone and dubbed it Shiraz.

That's the difference, essentially. Like the grape Granache is called Granacha in Spain, or the Muscadet grape (which is different from Muscat) being called "Melon de Bourgogne" in the Loire Region of France... Wine-grape genetics are convoluted, with 'clones' or cuttings of original plants, crosses between different grapes of the same family (vitis vinefera is the European wine-grape family) and hybrids between different grape families (like between vinifera and one of the North American grapes like vitis labrusca). Oh, BTW, most of the American species of grape aren't used for wines but for jellies and juice, i.e. Concord.

chefmongoose From: chefmongoose Date: December 3rd, 2005 11:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I say Syrah, you say Shiraz...

I figured it was a geographic clone, ayup. Similar to the way you can't call it 'Champagne' unless it's from Champagne, it's 'Sparkling Wine', etc.

*noddles* If there were only grapes for eating and/or juice, it'd be down to two or three varieties by now, with a few heirloom species running around. ;)

9 comments or Leave a comment