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Thursday, September 30, 2004


last picture
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Alternate angle...
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Finally, here is my sculpture. I don't want to talk about it so don't ask any questions... for this picture only there is a quarter standing on end to give you some perspective on height and width.
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Squash... or is it Gourd?
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The entire Veggie Tales vignette
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Close up of the flaming heart...
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Another alternate angle
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Alternate angle
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Jennifer's underwater scene
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Dragon's head...
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Allan's dragon... it's really hard to see the face, even in the close up, but it was very cool. He did a great job.
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Ron's clown... the flash didn't go off, but I thought he did a great job... not a creepy clown in the least!
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Looks just like hime!
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Larry Boy... he even has a rainbow cape...
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Bob
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Close up
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Jeremy's Veggie Tales. Too CUTE!
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I just love the fishing pole...
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Close up
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Alison's Winnie the Pooh... little bumbble bees and all...if you're wondering what Pooh is hugging... it's a deflating balloon.
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Side view...
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Hoang's frog... isn't he too dang cute!
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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I'm so discouraged. I finished my sculpture tonight. It turned out ok, but I wasn't thrilled with the outcome. It's not like it turned out horribly, I just wish that all the work I put into it actually showed. I've never felt so inadequate. Every other challenge I've faced in this program felt manageable. OK, at the time it might not have felt manageable, but at some point in the project I just knew it was going to come together. I never got that feeling tonight. To add insult to injury I got four new blisters. Damn. As if that weren't enough I can tell that I've got a bad attitude. I don't know when it started, but I don't like it. At least I am aware of the problem and I'll keep looking for a solution every day until it shows up. I'm hoping everything will change when we start chocolates. I have a suspicion that I'll have some of the same frustration when I'm first learning to temper chocolate, but that is more science and practice than talent or skill. Those I can deal with.

Desiree and I took our finished pieces down to Chefs Amy, Ken and Renee to take a look. Chef Amy asked us how we were enjoying the class and we both replied that we weren't. The looks on their faces were heartbreaking. Chefs Amy and Renee more than Chef Ken because I'd already complained to him so he already had an idea of my feelings. I think Chef Renee looked most distressed. They just reminded us that confections and chocolates are an entirely different ball of wax. Thank goodness! I'm telling you, if I had to do six weeks of sugar I'd either 1) get very good, 2) quit by week 4 or 3) slit my wrists from the frustration.

I'm trying to be a team player when I say the following (and you'll see when I post the pictures), but this just makes me feel that much more inadequate :) : There were some DAMN FINE sugar sculptures tonight. My top three favorites were a Chinese dragon, a Veggie tales vignette and a coy fish display (even though the woman who made it used colored Sharpies to color the sugar). I didn't get a picture of the coy display (my batteries died), but it was very nice.

Anyway, tomorrow we start on the pastiage sculptures. The pastiage will be a two day sculpture: assemble the pastiage and make more sugar flowers. Yea. Two more days of sugar. 22 days until graduation.

Sigh. Tomorrow is another day. All I can do is start fresh, stay positive, and do the best that I can... even if it's not very good.

Good night for now. I'll post pictures of my project and the others that I took tomorrow morning.

Carissa

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Figure 7
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Figure 5
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Figure 3
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Figure 2
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Figure 1
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These are the two figures and the bow I made last ngiht. Not fabulous, but they are certainly starting to look like figures... especially the one on the right.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Tonight was another good night. I made a ribbon (whop de do!) and two men. I'll post pictures tomorrow morning. I did get a chance to talk to Chef about alternate ways to make my figure, I tried his way after dinner and after one stinker I got one to work out just like it was supposed to. I also talked to Ryan about it, I'm not sure I'm going to try it his way (he suggested blowing the figure out of one piece instead of the two... we'll see. I'll need to work with a significantly larger amount of sugar, but I don't think it's totally out of the realm of possibility. I thought I was going to have to cook up more sugar tomorrow, but I found some more black, so I should have enough to do my figure at least a couple of times. I also got my yellow base and two back up supports made. Hopefully I won't need them, but, just in case I'll have them.

Poor Desiree. She was working on her heart (she's doing a flaming heart... don't ask...) and Chef came by. He told her that it needed to be flatter so that you'd actually think it was a heart...instead of a butt. hee hee, poor dear. Then she said it would look better, more heart like, with the flames. Then someone mentioned that it would actually look like a flaming butt. poor baby. I tried to cheer her up by telling her it could always have commercial value... she could sell it as a hemroid ad. She didn't laugh... much.

On a different note... would it be too much for our class to be quiet? This is getting ridiculous. I know kitchens aren't quiet places, but we're trying to do work here and this work takes concentration. There are plenty of times when I'm so focused I don't even hear my name, but this is getting ridiculous.

Anyway, the three day sculpture is coming along. I'm hoping it will all come together according to plan, but we'll see. If I get done early I'll start working on my pastiage sculpture. Unfortunately I'm going to need to start working on orchids (which I haven't ever done) and roses. I'm sure it will work out fine, but I'm a little nervous about my pastiage being dry enough. Again, we'll see tomorrow.

Not sure if I mentioned it in my post last night, but I sent Whitney an email yesterday thanking her for all her tireless work on the career hunt. Then I proceeded to warn her about an ethical dilemma that I felt the school was stepping into by putting students in contact with employers who were looking for employees during the strike. Basically I warned her that if the position went south it could come back to bite the school int he butt. But, assuming the students had full warning and were aware of the possible conflicts/problems that could arise from crossing a picket line and they decided to do it anyway, then that was their own decision. Well, wouldn't you know it she sent out an email today warning all the students she is working with. Frankly, I expected that email to come from the administration, but this, at the very least, was a good move.

Oh! I also petitioned to graduate today. It all went well and I'm all signed off and ready to graduate. Thank goodness! Once more piece of paperwork down.

Well, good night for now. I'm heading off to bed. I'll post pictures of the figures tomorrow and the ribbon I made.

Carissa

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Monday, September 27, 2004

So I was just talking to Dad and I came up with the perfect analogy for this class. It's like a bad dessert after an amazing dinner. All you remember is the bad dessert... the last thing you ate. Not exactly a fair judgment of the overall experience, but it happens all the time. Just like this class. It's unfortunate.

Tonight was a good night. I know in retrospect that it's due to the fact that I was doing something. Cooking... kind of. I miss making stuff. I don't really care what I'm making, but I like to see the fruits of my labor, or at the very least the pie of the fruits of my labor.

As I mentioned, I had a good night. I got the first base, background, supports and decorations done. I also got my first draft of my man done, my blown sugar component. (OK, so I was silly and said the following with out thinking..."Oh, I'm so glad, I blew my man and he looks good." hee hee, ok, so Desiree pointed it out... little perv that she is. hee hee) Anyway, he did turn out nicely, now I just have to do it again on Wednesday. I'll probably try a couple tomorrow, but I seriously doubt any of them will last until Wednesday, but I'll try. I also played around with my pulled ribbon. I think I'm going to make the ribbon with white and yellow instead of the all white I had originally planned. I think it will give the piece more definition. I also added gold leaf to my blue base and then, once it had cooled, brushed the gold off. This turned out very nice. There are some clean lines, which I wasn't really going for and that I don't really like, but there isn't really much I can do about it. The background also turned out nice, again, not like I'd expected, but nice. I'd wanted the blues of the background to grade from dark down to darkest, but I'd colored the first batch too dark, so the definition between the two colors wasn't as pronounced as I would have liked. But, I did sprinkle some gold powder onto the surface and it made nice celestial shapes that will look very nice on the finished product. If I have time on Wednesday I might re-pour it, but we'll see if I have time.

Well, I got something accomplished tonight. What a relief!

I sent out my thank you card to the Fairmont, I'll follow up on Wednesday. Nothing quite like a squeaking wheel to get noticed!

Good night, sleep tight. Talk to you all later!

Carissa

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As I'd thought, this weekend was pretty busy. Saturday was non-stop from 6-10:30... on the upside it mostly went according to plan and I was able to get everything done that needed to get done.

Sunday the plan changed, thank goodness. Dad missed his connecting flight in Taiwan and won't be coming in until tonight, so, downside, I won't get to see him. Upside, I got to relax yesterday. Ahhh, naps. Too bad you can't make money sleeping... I'd be rich in no time! :)

I didn't get a chance to write about it, but I got a call from the Fairmont on Friday afternoon (after work, before school) to come in for an interview either Saturday or Sunday. I choose Sunday, first thing. So I was at the Fairmont (three blocks from my house, how perfect is that!) by 9:45, filled out an application and talked to the HR person. We talked about why I was changing careers and then she looked at my employer... SPO. Hee hee. She said, Oh, you used to work for SPO? I told her that I still did and laughed. She said, SPO... the one that owns the Fairmont. I chuckled and said yea. It was a little awkward, but in a good way. She said that it was obvious that my enthusiasm and passion would work well at the Fairmont, which was good, and that she'd let me know. I'm going to send off a Thank you note today and then give her a follow up call on Wednesday. I also asked our partner in charge of the Fairmont to do his thing. We'll see how that works out. (honestly, I a little anxious about strings being pulled, but there is only one position and I've wanted to work at this place since I started school, so I might as well do everything I possibly can to not only let them know that I want it, but that I'm the best, most determined candidate they've seen.) Anyway, during the discussion the topic of the "labor dispute" came up. I mentioned that I was very uncomfortable and detailed the rumors I've heard about sabotage and harassment. I was assured that this was not acceptable and would not be tolerated. That's all well and good, in theory, but what happens in reality? I think reality is more of a reflection of the chef's attitudes. We'll see. Again, we aren't on strike yet. I still have a job. We'll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

I took a look at finances today. It's looking promising. I should be able to pre-pay four month's rent, pay off the credit card and still have money for expenses (not high living mind you, just the basics) for at least four months, possibly 5... and that's assuming I don't work at all... at the very least I'll be able to do temp office work, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Well, off to school. I posted pictures of my Mickey Mouse (or, more appropriately Mousse) cake that I made for Victoria's birthday... she loved it and it was exactly what Joelle ordered (or at least that's what she told me). So everyone was happy.

Talk to you all later!
CJ

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OK, so I was trying to make a torso and it just didn't go like I'd hoped, so I dae a fish instead... again, use a little imagination...
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First experimentation with blowing sugar apendages... left is an arm, right is a leg...OK, give me a break and use a little imagination!
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Close up of the writing... which is still hard to see...
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Before I wrote Happy Birthday...
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The Mickey Mousse cake... too dang cute... everyone loved it... of course there are probably 15 things I would have done differently, but that's what keeps this fun... learning.
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Friday, September 24, 2004

Last night was mostly fun and research. I did work with the sugar a bit, but not too much. I blew spheres for the first time. Pretty cool! As you can see from the posts before this, I've been working on my three day sculpture, it's due next Wednesday and it needs to have a minimum of three elements: pulled, blown, and poured sugar. Examples of each are: ribbons, swans, and bases and backgrounds. The three shaded green sculpture I showed to Chef Doug and he said that it might be too simple. There in lies the problem. Each of these drawings that I did today are more like 1-2 day projects. I can easily see the freeform blown man taking the entire last day, but even with my limited skills I can blow spheres in under 20 minutes. Pouring is really easy, there is next to no skill for that part (or so I say now!). And ribbons aren't all that difficult as long as you have room under the heat lamp to work and don't get the ribbon too thin. I just don't know. I think I'm going to have to go into the library today to take a look at the books. I don't really want to do any blown animals. It's just not something I'm really all that interested in. Maybe a fish (I love the way you make the tails!), but I'm not all that convinced... still mulling.

Anyway, as much of a traditionalist as I am, I think it's funny that each of my drawings were inspired by a different, relatively modern, artist. Matisse, Kandinsky, van Gough. There were others, particularly by Matisse and Kandinsky that were appealing, but I only have so much time.

I talked to Chef Mike last night about a gig he's doing down in Porta Viarta (sp) for the International Gourmet Festival. Very cool. When I got home he asked me for some dessert ideas. What fun! I was up until almost midnight trolling sites, looking for ideas, translating traditionally savory dishes into sweets. There were some guidelines, quick, easy, American (north/south) fusion, Aztec/Mayan influences where possible, not so labor intensive that you couldn't do 100 people per dessert (three were needed) in an evening. I think I was getting a little slap happy toward the end, but some of the flavor combos I remember even now are: cinnamon and chocolate, cayenne and chocolate, dulce de leche, mango-ginger-honey-yoghurt, sweet tamale, pina colada inspiration (napoleon of pineapple slices and coconut ice cream), margarita inspiration (meringue tartlet). We'll see what happens, but it was a fun exercise anyway. Wish I could have worked avocado in there some how... hmmmm avocado ice cream quinelle ....nope, can't think of anything. Something hot, or hot and nutty or crunchy. Something to balance out that fatty creamyness. Boy is this going to bug me!

Anyway, we'll see. I'm so proud of him! I was bragging about him and the festival to a couple people at school. It's all very cool.

So, today I applied for a scholarship to the Women Chefs & Restaurateurs conference in Louisville, KY. The scholarship only covers the conference dues, not transportation or lodging, but I figure if I can get in for free (it would have been over $300), then I can figure out a way to get there and where to stay. The nice thing is that I could fly from Vegas (the conference is the 5-8 of November) to Louisville and then back to SFO for less than $300. Not too bad. Heavens knows where I'll stay while I'm there, but I'll work on that later. First I have to get the scholarship, then we'll work on the other obstacles.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. I'm going to go into Chef Alex's class and make several cakes. Victoria's birthday (woman at work) is on Monday so I've been asked to make a Mickey Mouse cake... I think I'm going to affectionately call it the Mickey Mousse cake because it'll be white cake with chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache. Should be pretty dang cute. Anyway, I'm only making it with 1-6" and 2-4" cake pans (darling Chef Ken is bringing me the 4" pans... thank goodness! I know that 4" is practically a cup cake, but I wanted the right shape.

After I whip up the cake and mousse and crumbcoat the cake I'll head back home. Desiree and I are going to pop out to Building Resource (http://www.buildingresources.org) to see if we can't find her a nice old window pane... she wants to turn it into a message board and since it's been forever since I've been out there it should be fun.

No, that's not it... Katrina invited me to a wine and cheese thing with her at a local shop. Should be interesting. Might even be a substitute for dinner! :)

Somewhere in there I'll need to finish dishes and start and finish laundry because Mom and the boys are coming over on Sunday (2:30 ish) and then we're all going to go pick up Dad from the airport. Sigh, what is it that they say? No rest for the wicked? or is it No rest for the weary? Either way, I'm not getting any rest this weekend. Not to mention I've GOT to decide which sugar sculpture I'm going to do.

Well, it's almost time to go. I'm going to wrap up for the day.

Talk to you all later!

CJ

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Starry night. The big moon would be a blown sphere. the other circles would be stacked poured sugar (stacked onto the base). The clouds would be ribbons, maybe surrounded by spun sugar. The hills would be another ribbon and the mountain up front would be the funky lava sugar (for lack of a better name: sugar that you add royal icing to. it bubbles and foams and then sets with all these air pockets inbetween. It's commonly used for coral, but I think I could get a nice shape out of it for a rugged mountain... it also take sprayed color nicely... we'll see)
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OK so this is a little odd, particularly for traditional ol me. But I was trolling through art.com and ran across this and thought it would be a great way to add serious dimention to a flat painting. Each of the colored circles would be poured separately and then attached one on top of the other. So you'd have the discs growing out toward you. You'd also have alternate culminations for the last circle (innermost). A blown ball for two. A clear filled sugar. And absolutely empty space. There isn't much of a feeling of movement, except the growing color progression, but I'm not sure if I care. Kind of cool, VERY MODERN... here is my inspiration http://www.art.com/asp/sp-asp/_/PD--10076894/sOrig--CAT/sOrigID--9723/Squares_with_Concentric_Rings.htm?ui=215385AD2FED4CF38D45FD3420A32363
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This is my Mattisse inspired sugar sculpture. It's taken from the Iccarus portion of Jazz. I'm afraid my finished product will look too symetrical. I don't think Chef will mind that, but it's not really being true to the original. This is what I've been contemplating for some time, so it would be nice to try to do it. I'm not worried about the pulled sugar band at all... not in the slightest. I just need to make sure that it's sturdy enough to hold the stars and I need to make sure the stars aren't so big that they'll smash the ribbon. The color graded backdrop may present a challenge, but I think if I pour the blue part first and then swirl a bunch of black color into the same mold then the colors will blur and it will look ok... gotta move quick! The bases I'm not worried about in the slightest, just poured circles. Any feedback? If you want to see the inspiration piece go to: http://www.art.com/asp/sp-asp/_/PD--10041555/sOrig--CRT/sOrigId--35/Icarus__from_''Jazz''.htm?ui=6BF2DB37E9E843B78CA96D32991D9181
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First go at sugar sculpture project
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Thursday, September 23, 2004

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/22/dining/22BEAR.html
So disturbing I can't even begin to discuss it. $29,000 in scholarships? THAT'S IT! That's just a little over (not counting living expenses) what I paid just for the B&P program at the CCA. That's not even half of the tuition at the CIA! What kind of scholarship program is that? In this area of study, 29 - $1,000 scholarships don't make much of a difference to the students. I was under the impression that the foundation funded many students with full (or at the very least half) scholarships to various schools (of which, sadly, the CCA is not one). Very disconcerting.

Awards aside, what would Mr. Beard think of the situation if here were still here to give his thoughts? That is the ultimate question.

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Good Morning All!

I'm feeling awake and chipper and am in a far better state than I was in last night. I'm constantly amazed at how much better I feel after a good night's sleep. (actually the past few have been pretty sound, the bed hasn't even been messed up in the morning. yeash! talk about the sleep of the dead!)

Blisters are still here though they do hurt less.

I'm really starting to regret not having the disk for my camera last night. Dang!

I've added a new link over to the left. I know I've thoroughly enjoyed reading it, maybe you will to. (Simple Cooking... Hello John!)

No new epiphanies to share... I'm just getting antsy about work. I want it to end as quickly as possible so I can focus on life's next chapter. I've been researching new positions and making a list of all the places I'm going to have to bug to death until I get a job. I got a couple of leads from yesterday's Chron Food section... we'll see where those take me. Have I mentioned that I hate job hunting? It's filled with so much anxiety and the desire to please and say the right thing becomes so overpowering! ick. Funny, as I write this I don't think that need to please will ever go away, particularly not in this new career, but funny, it doesn't really seem to bother me. No apologies, no second thoughts. I love to cook. I love to do well when I'm in the kitchen. Dear GOD I hope I can do well enough just to get hired so I can learn more. (Have I mentioned how little I know? It's like with every class and every book I read, I know less. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? It's like with every new skill or concept I learn just enough to begin to understand that there is even more I don't know. It's like chasing a rainbow. Fun, but rather frustrating. hee hee, I must like to be frustrated because I don't see myself ever NOT chasing that rainbow!)

Well, just wanted to make a quick post to let you know I'm not all down in the dumps. Today is a new day! New challenges (new burns and blisters) and new things to learn.

Carissa

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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Rule One in the Kitchen...

There is no crying in the kitchen.

I mentioned earlier (in my winy post) that I had blisters on my fingers. Well, I have even more now and if that weren't bad enough, there were students in this class that were in far worse shape than I. (Sure would have been nice if some sort of advice on preventing blisters was given...) So, I started working. I got the trunk of my structure made and I hit a wall (figuratively, although it might have been literal for all the good it did me). I got out of class for a minute to try to clear my head. How was I going to finish this project? I didn't even have one flower made? My fingers hurt so bad and I was so overwhelmed with my total inability to do what I needed to do I thought I was going to crack. (Psyching myself up to even touch the sugar the first time today was a challenge!) I don't know how I started working again, but I did. I got the @)#($* thing done. No I wasn't happy with it, but I completed my 2 day project in one day. Trust me, there is no pride in completing this project early... just in completing it.

Ryan made an interesting note tonight, "It was like everyone was getting a sugar high just from touching the sugar." Everyone was acting weird. Hysterical even. It was like we wanted to do well, but our bodies and skill were so unwilling that we just couldn't and no one knew how to cope. Some people were really quiet. Others were laughing hysterically and making jokes... some were funny, others were just rude and inappropriate, stress relief I'm sure, but BOY as soon as the chef left the classroom the language went as blue as a sailor's. We were all just so frustrated. It was wired. Very weird.

Anyway, it's done. Tomorrow will be another video, yea, and we might do something with blowing sugar. It's supposed to be some sort of a day off, but even blown sugar will need to be lustered, so that will mean even more blisters. I'm having a hard time getting excited about it. This too will pass. I will get through this, but in the mean time I'm trying to take note of the shapes, colors, textures and techniques. At the very least I'm learning how to appreciate this work. Still doesn't mean I like it, but maybe that will change over time. Maybe not.

I rolled out my pastiage and cut it into some nice shapes. Hopefully I'll be able to make some flowers that will do it justice.

The high point of the evening was going with Jeremy and Ryan up to Chef Amy's new class of students and showing them the sculptures and talking to them. (The show and tell wasn't the high point, even though it was fun.) The high point came as we left class and we decided to smash our sculptures in the trash by the door. (I'm smiling about this now, even as I type.) I'd forgotten the disk for my camera at work, and the flowers would have probably melted by tomorrow, so there was no point in keeping it. The smashing and crashing and the audible sucking in of air by the new students was priceless. We were on our way out the door and just smashed the sculptures will one fell swoop. Very cathartic! I stuck my head back in the door and told students what they might not have heard so far, "Don't get attached." It's the best advice out there... it's just food and sugar sculptures are even less valuable because you can't even eat them! :) (You've got to keep at least a little humor!)

Anyway, this day is done. I've licked my wounds (figuratively, again) and I'm ready to go to bed and try to put this day behind me. Tomorrow is a new day. Fingers will heal, so will my pride. Well, it's true... No one can be good at everything ... and now I'm adding... and if they think they are, then they're just too cocky and proud to recognize their faults... not exactly something you really want in a chef.

Well, good night. Thank goodness my fingertips don't hurt... if I couldn't type I'd be in SERIOUS trouble.

Carissa

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I feel like I got hit by a train.

Between the cold classroom and heaven knows what else, I'm sniffly, sneezy and my eyes are watering. As if that weren't enough, the blisters on my fingertips got bigger overnight (on the upside they don't hurt right now!) and my shoulders are sore from that mean, cruel isometrics exercise called sugar pulling. I know, I know, I sound like a winy snivley wreck. PULL IT TOGETHER!

So I'm pushing the OD limit on echinacea and I've taken my daily vitamin. After I get to school I'm going to soak up some sun and then go to class (for pete's sake, you'd think I was a freaking amphibian!) and try not to freeze my butt off. I'm telling you! This is far worse than Vienoisserie!

Well, enough winy. Hope I didn't sound too jaded last night. I was annoyed and I'm still a little off balance with the whole new instructor, new classroom thing. I'll settle in soon and then be able to evaluate Chef Doug a bit more fairly.

Tonight, in addition to more #*&@#$ flowers I'm going to roll out my pastiage and make some initial structures for my sugar sculptures. I'm sure it will go fine.

Not sure if I'll be up to writing tonight, we'll see, at the very least, I'll talk to you tomorrow!

Carissa

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Mamma calla and leaf-less baby.
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I have to say this looks nothing like a calla leaf, but I really do like the twist and bend that I gave it. (Carissa's General Rule of Critique: You must find at least one good thing and one bad thing to comment on, for EVERYTHING.)
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Calla lilly... eeeee gad!
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Another
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Close up
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7 hours and this is all I have to show for it. I can't tell you how many times I've chanted the mantra, "You don't suck, you just need lots (and lots and lots and lots) of practice!"
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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Dang sugar! I have blisters, or at least hot spots, on 7 out of 10 of my fingers. Yea. So, after 7 hours of pulling sugar I was able to make 2 leaves and 2 small calla lilies. Very depressing.

So, I'm trying to hold out judgment, but I'm kind of getting the feeling that my instructor is a bit of an ass. I totally respect the skills he has and the experience he offers, but his people skills seem, well, not great. I don't know, it's just a feeling, maybe I'm way out in left field, it's only the second day, but we'll see. I just can't seem to let this one alone. I've had difficult teachers. Teachers who I didn't really get along with, but I've never had an instructor give me grief or make me feel uncomfortable for asking questions. Now, let me clarify. I'm IN NO WAY saying that I'm going to stop asking questions for fear of being embarrassed, but hey, I've paid a lot of money to go to this school (as I've mentioned on several occasions!) and I plan on getting the most out of the experience even if that means I wind up leaving a little pride behind (probably won't be the first first time I'll have to do this... should be good practice!), but it's annoying. Yea, that's it, I'm annoyed. It's like the blisters on my fingers... it doesn't hurt, it's just annoying. (OK, if you want specifics lets just focus on sarcasm. Now, sarcasm in and of itself can be fun, even entertaining, but if it's taken too far it's just destructive, at the very least not constructive. There was a lot of sarcasm during the lecture tonight and during the class there were several comments made that, in my opinion, were totally inappropriate.)

Anyway, we'll see. It's only the second day of class, it wouldn't be the first time I've gotten a bad feeling at the beginning of class and it's all worked out just fine. Better than fine even. Anyway, first impressions. We'll see.

Other than that, of all the classes I've had, I'm feeling the least competint in this class. All the other classes seemed like they were based on skills that were learnable... maybe this is my one thing that I'm just not good at. Damn, I was really hoping that my one thing that I wasn't good at was breads. Oh well, maybe there are two things that I'm just not good at. Stink. Then again, maybe it's just practice and effort. Of course, more practice and effort than I've had to expend so far. I don't know. I'm just wishing I wasn't ending this program on such an off note. Time will tell.

So, today was the career fair. Why do they even bother inviting the Baking and Pastry students? I actually had two different employers bemoan the fact that another B&P student was asking them if they had any baking positions open. Excuse me! I did pass out half a dozen resumes, two to two employers who didn't hire B&P students, so we'll see. There was one relatively positive lead, but it was for a position that won't open up for another two to three months. Stink. I'll follow up with them, but I'm not overly optimistic. Now, here's what I want to know... why wasn't the Bay Bread Family represented? Or Tartine? Or Specialties? Or the Fairmont SF, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons or Hyatt? These are major hotels and restaurant employers in this city! A good half of the employers were casinos and a good half of the employers (if not more) were also from out of the city. Who would have thought my desire to stay in the city would make the job search so difficult? Guess this just means I'm going to have to work that much harder to get a job.

Well, good night. I've unburdened my soul... again. Good night nurse!

I took pictures of my poor pathetic calla lilly, so you all can see them tomorrow.

CJ

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Candy, Confection, Show work
Let me being by saying that I'm a little bent out of shape at the use of videos to instruct the class. I did not pay $25,000 to learn from a video. Second, the rationale for using the videos (that many students pay better attention to the TV than an instructor) is weak at best and seems like a cop out.

That irritation being said, I enjoyed my first day of this class. Now that I've been through several first days in new kitchens I think I can put this in slightly better perspective. I wasn't as excited as my first day of Cakes class (first date excited), but not filled with dread like my first day of Cost Control (which, all things considered, turned out just fine). Me and my thoughts aside, WHAT THE HELL is going on with my classmates. During the lecture (which covered EXACTLY the same information as the video) there were less than half of us who took notes. My notes, I have to admit, were a little anemic, but at least I had some instructions. Then, when we started to cook it was sheer and utter chaos. What ever happened to MEP? Why don't you have all your tools ready? At what point in your spiral toward chaos are you going to ask questions? It's the first day of class. New teacher. New subject. IT'S OK TO ASK QUESTIONS!!! Good Grief! If you can't ask questions on the first day, then WHEN CAN you?

So, Chef Doug does his lecture/demo on cooking sugar. Take soaked sugar (sugar, isomalt, water), cook it on a low temperature until it just begins to boil stirring the whole time to prevent clumps forming on the bottom that could later lead to crystallization. At this point impurities will rise to the surface. Skim these off with a mini sifter. Add glucose (liquidose). Crank the heat up to high. Stop stirring... excess agitation can cause crystallization. Skim off more impurities. Cook until 250. Add coloring. Cook until 280. Add tartaric acid. Cook until 315. Stop cooking by plunging pan into water filled bowl. Dry the bottom of the pot (very important. if you don't any drop of water from the pan into your sugar will re-introduce water that you've just spent the last 1/2 hour cooking off). Pour molten sugar into forms or onto lightly (1-2T) oiled marble. Flip the outer edges into the middle and then stretch (to slightly aerate) and turn the sugar a couple of times. (How long you're supposed to do this is a little unclear. Maybe I'll get more clarification later.) At the point that the sugar is cool enough to do the little twisty, stretchy, pully part, you can stretch it out and fold it in half (like if you were taking a thin ribbon and wanted to make a thick ribbon). Stretch again and cut into individual portions.

Now, the only reason we made so many individual portions (1/2 of the class chose a color and cooked up the sugar, so this yielded about 15 different colors and about 8-12 individual portions of colored sugar) is so that we'll only have to cook up sugar a few times over the course of the class. This seems a little odd to me. Chef Doug already said that the only way we'll learn how to do this is with practice and experience. That being said, wouldn't he want us to have to cook sugar more than 3 times (max) over the course of the class? I do understand that there is a lot of information to cover, but actually cooking the sugar is pretty much a fundamental that if we don't get it we won't ever be able to practice. Hmmmm.

OK, so, I got my MEP together, and started working. For once in the course of this program I didn't come to class prepared. I must have been delusional to think we wouldn't be cooking the first day! Anyway, I had to borrow Desiree's candy thermometer and mini sieve. Thank goodness she brought her digital thermometer and that she was about 20 minutes behind me in the process. There was a horde of people over at the stove, so I decided to use the induction burner (OK, so it wasn't really my idea, Chef suggested it and those of us who paid attention jumped on the idea.). Boy did that save me a lot of time and grief! Start to finish the process took about 1/2 an hour. Not too bad. I do have to admit that I forgot to skim after I added the glucose and I kept stirring for a couple of minutes after I added the glucose. I also don't think I cleaned off the sides of the pot as much as I should have, but Chef Doug did get a chance to take a look at my sugar, so I'm guessing crystallization either hadn't started yet, or I was lucky. Either way, I'm glad I'm writing this down because next time I'll remember the steps better.

OK, so I have to share an incident from last night. I just about peed my pants I was laughing so hard. It's partly a sad story, partly a scratch your head and wonder story, and part just plain funny story.

So there are a few of us working on the induction burners. Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with induction burners, they use magnets to heat (not sure about the whole process), so in order to get them to work you need specific pans. This is not news to any of us. We've been using induction burners in once capacity or another since basic skills. The special pans are also pretty distinct because they have pretty thick solid bottoms. If you don't use the special pans, the burner won't work and may beep at your or flash a red light. Either way, wrong pot, no action. So one of the students decides that she wants to use the induction burner to cook her sugar. Fine. She had already put her soaked sugar into a pot and put it on the burner. The burner beeped at her. She asked Chef Doug to come over and tell her what the problem was. He told her she had the wrong kind of pot and that usually he checks to make sure he has the right kind of pot before putting anything in it. (Makes sense. No heat, blinking light, beeping sound... wrong pot. Quick and painless test!) So she goes, gets another pot and moves her sugar into the new pot. Now instead of beeping the burner is blinking at her. Hmmmm. 3 guesses what the problem is? Oh no, she called Chef over Again! She asks him what the problem is and then says, "Don't tell me I grabbed the wrong pot again.", he looks at her squarely and says in his deadpan voice, "OK, I won't tell you that you've got the wrong pot again." And walks away. Now while all this is going on I'm three workspaces down on the same table as this girl. I'm working and overhearing the whole thing and I'm trying not to loose it. I turn my back to this girl and look at Desiree and my eyes get big and my body is wracked with laughs that I just can't let out. I just wanted to yell, COME ON PEOPLE! Let's just use a little common sense! Good Grief! But as Chef Doug said toward the beginning of the lecture, these days (as if this was EVER the case!) common sense is not all that common. I've been saying this for years, but in the chaos of having multiple new concepts thrown at us we're bound to loose sight of the common sense things. Sure, once you point them out, we're going to hit our heads with our hands and say Oh! Of Course! We're very much like novice jugglers who are just learning how to add additional balls while juggling. Sure we can do two balls, with ease, but then one ball is taken away and a club and a knife are thrown into the mix. It is what is is. There are always going to be people who do better a juggling (inside and outside the kitchen) than others. I just need to focus on what I'm doing. So far so good. I could have done better, but today is a new day and I'll try to do my best again today.

OK, so as I mentioned earlier, 1/2 of the class cooked sugar. The other 1/2 made pastiage (like gum paste, but without corn syrup or gum traganth(sp)). It's actually a pretty cool product (I'll be making it tonight). Powdered sugar, corn starch, gelatin... hmmm and something else. Sift the starch and sugar together, add the gelatin and the other item, incorporate and knead. You'll get a nice soft, slightly firm, but malleable product that you can then roll out, cut into shapes, dry and then use as a structure for hanging other sugar structures (like flowers). Kind of neat! My half of the room will be making the pastiage tonight. It's really easy, so with any luck we'll be able to play with some sugar and try getting it to luster and make petals.

All that said and done, today is the career fair. I've got 20 resumes printed up. The cleanest uniform I could muster and clean shoes. I'm leaving work at noon today so I can spend a couple of extra hours at the career fair. I think I'll hit up the Fairmont first. Wish me luck!

Back to work. I've only got a little bit left of today and, as usual, more to do that I have time for!

CJ

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Today is the first day of Candies and Confections. We're going to start with sugar sculptures, which I have to say I'm more than a bit nervous about... not because of the difficulty of it (which I know it is), but because of the blisters and wear and tear I'll be getting on my fingers. If I wasn't working at a computer this wouldn't really be an issue, but I type all day so this could cause serious problems... we'll see.

Nice weekend. Lots of R&R. Still don't really know what my problem was on Friday, guess I was just in a funk. It happens. I got almost everything done that I'd hoped. Laundry, garbage and curtains hung. YEA! Everything was at least 2 weeks behind schedule and the curtains had been waiting 3 months! Anyway, it was nice. Stocked up on sleep and Finished Soul of a Chef (which I didn't really want to finish, I wanted more... now I really can't wait until my dinner at the French Laundry!). I didn't so much as cook myself an egg. Funny, even thought I didn't cook, I think I thought about food and this next class for almost every waking moment. Funny. I went to a couple of art galleries and looked at the fused glass products. I keep telling myself... anything that can be done with glass can be done with sugar... we'll see.

Anyway, just wanted to make a quick post. I'm not sure if there will be any picture taking tonight, but I will be taking pictures of my work as it progresses so you all can see.

Wish me luck! (not that luck has ANYTHING to do with it!) :)

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

I got my grade in Plated Desserts last night... 104% and another A+ with honors. YEA!!! I didn't get a perfect score on the final (couldn't remember the fat percentages of milk, but that's about it). My menu was pretty, but after looking at it for the first time in two weeks I realized (too late) that the font was down right microscopic, but the process was fun. With the dawn of all these scrapbooking shops making a creative, polished menu is now easier than ever. (Great, now in addition to being critical of every restaurant's food, I'm going to be critical of their menus too. grr)

Anyway, no cooking yesterday. I don't know what my problem was yesterday, but I felt totally dejected... like the wind had been sucked out of my sails. So, no cooking this weekend. Movies, laundry, dishes. I went home last night and slept until 10, then ate like a total bachelor. (pizza, chips, beer, toblerone.. ok so at least I chose a good candy bar!) R&R this weekend. Time to get relaxed and recharge the batteries before a new class.

Well, I just put another movie in. So I'll chat with you later.

CJ

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Friday, September 17, 2004


Barney's sorbet station... this was fabulous. The pineapple sorbet was in a carved out pineapple and then he did hash marks over the top of the sorbet to mimic the pineapple design. The cantelope sorbet was in a cantelope. The honeydew sorbet was in a carved out honeydew. The only eyesore was the blueberry sorbet (which I have to say tasted freaking AMAZING... I have yet to have sorbet this good at ANY restaurant in this city... get this man a CONTRACT and chain to the ice cream machine in the back of some restaurant and you're sure to have a hit on your hands!) If we'd had time it would have been nice to make an ice bowl with fresh blueberries floating in the ice to show off the sorbet, but the flavor MORE than made up for the display. Overall this was a very tropical, and visually appealing station.
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Moon pie... one of the plated desserts... not mine, but they sure were tasty!
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Fruit tartlets... no, I didn't make them, yes, they remembered to use sugar!
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More chocolate decorations... too damn cute!
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More close ups of the chocolate deocrations
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Close up of the chocolate deocrations
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More pate au choux... the swans had little rainbow sprinkles on them... very cute, but VERY Safeway!
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