1) Stage Left Restaurant is no longer in the picture. After talking to the Externship Office, I found out that they were listed on the school's computer system as being a minimum-wage paid site. Between that descrepancy and the fact that the CIA no longer accepts new sites that are non-paid, Stage Left has been removed from the program. A shame as the place was nice, and they've lost whatever money and effort it took to get approval for CIA externs (I know it takes 3 months from request to approval, and there's a lot a site has to do for that approval).
2) I'm saved from paying a $100 late-registration fee for getting my Externship Site (the price for not going to that meeting on Wednesday) because I had my Practical that day and I was paranoid enough to make sure both the Externship office and the Registrar knew I would be at my Practical. That's when I also found out that nobody could find paperwork on me for said registration... but that's not too big an issue, since they can type up a new one for me when I send them a signed contract.
3) Speaking of contracts, I also got good new on that front: I have until the end of October to secure a site and have the paperwork in to the school. But that's a really concrete-hard deadline; failure to do so will result in a 'fail' for the 'class' (which goes on my record, and requires me to pay full-cost to do it over again: or, in this case, to restart the paperwork on getting an extern site). No, I can't extend that deadline, nor can I extend the time I'm gone on extern: it "jeopardizes my financial aid status and may adversely affect other aspects of my status in the fourth term". (Oh, for the curious, the externship is technically my third term of school.) But considering that I have a few weeks to "play with" that will be free of school itself, I should be able to lock down a site pretty quickly. Barring further disasters, in any case. This also means that I might still find a site that would allow me to take time off for Further Confusion, but I'm not holding my breath.
4) Walt Disney World is all but out of the picture as well... I finally got a response from the rep who informed me that "there are only a few places available for CIA students" and I'm essentially on a waiting list for an opening. Considering that I was supposed to have received an acceptance letter from them at the end of August, I doubt said 'opening' will appear before the October deadline.
5) In place of Disney and Stage Left, I've got a few new possibilities open. Barnards Inn, which is 30 minutes from my house, is on hold until I call them next week and find out if the new hires Chef Stone got worked out or not. Boulevard Restaurant, a fascinating bistro tucked in a strip-mall, is an hour from my house but comes highly recommended by the Externship office, has an owner-Chef who's a CIA alum, and at my brief interview with Chef Carol on Saturday appeared to be a likable non-nonsense kind of person I could get along with. I'm going to trail her next Tuesday and may well accept her site to extern at, in spite the fact it's going back to the commute I drove for three years from one end of the 287 to the other (the restaurant's in Mahwah, about 4 miles from the NY State border). And on the Externship Office's "Actively Seeking" list is another locale that appears relatively close to home called Hamilton Farm Country Club, a rather exclusive golf club tucked up in the Somerset Hills, not too far from Barnards Inn.
6) With all that externship stress off, I spent all of Tuesday night studying for my Practical... to the point that I forgot to go to sleep. This made for an ... interesting ... day in class, which was a comedy of errors for many people so I wasn't alone. 3 cups of chai helped keep me focused and steady.
Now, the chef assigned to oversee my Group's Practicals this block had a meeting with our Group Leader at the beginning of our Garde Manger class (which is also the first week of Practicals) and informed him that the chef wanted all the students taking the Practical to be at the Practical Kitchen a full 20 minutes before the assigned Arrival Time of 2pm. I was 'lucky' to have my Practical near the end of the times assigned for our group (Thursday was the last day), but it means that my team of six had to leave immediately after Garde Manger class at 1:30 to troupe over to the Practical Kitchen (a specially designed area completely separate from the rest of the kitchen-classrooms) and wait for the chef. And wait. And... wait? As it got closer to the 2pm mark, we were getting rather concerned that something went terribly wrong. We chatted to chefs that passed by and finally one chef, Chef Lopez (I had him in a class and liked him a lot) informed us that Chef Michael had called in sick, so they were in the process on finding a chef to run our Practicals. Yikes! Meanwhile, he 'ordered' us to go outside and enjoy the sunshine while we wait.
Several minutes later, the miracle several of my classmates hoped for arrived in the form of Chef Briggs, a female chef who had taught Group 212 back in Skills classes. I knew her from the Women Chefs & Restauranteurs club and liked her. Suddenly everyone was revved up and jubilant about the Practical, which really made the whole process speed by. As I said before, we don't know which menu we will be cooking until it's chosen at the time, and Chef Briggs simply fanned out the 6 cards and had each of us pick one in the order we were to start. I was to start last, so I really had no choice... but I got VERY lucky and got the Grilled Mahi-Mahi, the easiest menu on the Practical! Wheee!
Chef Briggs let us come up for our oral questions in any order (as long as it didn't interfere with someone else), and I nailed the ten questions down good... including giving detailed answers that others apparently missed. Yay! When it came to my turn to start cooking, I was raring to go.
Now, I was allowed a little extra head-start because of my ADHD, and I needed it. An unfamiliar kitchen and locating missing items became my bane as it slowed me down and distracted me from staying focused. In spite of that, I managed to get both my soup and the meal done _exactly_ on time. Chef Briggs was a little worried when I was down to the 15 minute mark and hadn't started my green-beans, but was thoroughly impressed with the result and my "command of spices". After all was said and done, I sat down with Chef Briggs and we sampled my work together. The mahi-mahi was fractionally underdone (I panicked when I forgot to oil the grill and the fish was sticking) but the color and seasonings were fine. Likewise the glazed carrots were a tad underdone but the glaze and taste were bright and lively. The green beans were perfect, the pilaf was perfect, the Pineapple Salsa was better than I expected (I was worried about the size of my small-dice, but Chef seemed pleased), and she burbled about my Cream of Mushroom Soup having "outstanding" flavor, even if it was a little too thick (I always grab too big a pot for the cream soups, as I'm afraid of them boiling over). In the end, Chef Briggs told me I had "great promise" and gave me a score of 90 out of 100. YAAAHOOOO!!!! It'll only be seen as a "Pass" on the record, as I didn't make the "High Pass" score of 95, but hearing the scores of others in my class had worried me that I might only barely pass, instead of nearly acing the test. I'm WIRED!! :D
How's _that_ for an update?