Thursday, October 28, 2004
My cuttie patootie marzipan figures. The pig was, poorly, modeled after the little piggy bank in Toy Story. The penguin is entirely my design. I'm pretty proud of him.
Yesterday we made marzipan characters... 2-3 oz little figures. Very cute. I did a pig, a penguin and an inch worm. I really liked the penguin and pig... the worm, well, not so much, but we needed three figures so I made him. Pictures will be posted shortly.
Today we did cocoa painting. What a waste of time. OK, maybe a little esoteric, maybe something I'll do in the future, but it's basically painting, just with cocoa and cocoa butter on a pastiage surface. No, I didn't take a picture, it was just, well, not great. I've always had issues with the whole light and dark thing and painting, in any medium, is just not my forte. Anyway, the cocoa painting was the last project for the course. For all intents and purposes I'm done with school. Tomorrow is just getting my jacket signed... hmmm, wonder if I have a clean jacket??? :) We got a couple of class pictures taken tonight, so I'm sure I'll be posting one of those in the next few days or weeks. Sunday I'll do some retrospective writing on the program as a whole, but, for now, I'm just basking in the joy of the program being over. Funny, I feel like I could keep going for another 8 months.
Work: Yesterday was a little better. There was a little misunderstanding with the ginger shortbread (I thought I was just supposed to make it and freeze it, but Candice wanted me to actually roll it out and punch out the cookies. Whoops!) and I didn't get the chocolate cookies scooped, but other than that I got most of the production list done. I was totally hustling... I was sweating by the end of the shift and totally wiped out.
Today was a VERY good day. I finished the production list before the chef came in to work. Boy was I happy. Of curse, there was still trouble in paradise, but nothing she said could bring me down from my mini-milestone high. I even got a bunch of other things done. Very exciting. Anyway, I caught all the right busses and I got to school 20 minutes before class, so I had to share my good news with everyone!
Well I'm going to finish up my thank you notes and then go to bed. Good night everyone.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
My apartment is too bright so I'm having difficulty telling is you can see the trees on the right and left side of this piece. I'm thinking you can't, but maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, I made it in two hours and it turned out pretty well... well, scary at least! :)
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Anyway, here are the two pictures. Since the chocolate sculpture was supposed to be a 2 day project, I've decided to do another one for today. Should be a hoot! This time it'll mostly be dark chocolate with a little white chocolate.
Sorry for the short post... I've been a slug the past couple of days so I need to get moving and into the shower. I was up until 2 last night doing research for the marzipan project and for another idea for a 2-D chocolate sculpture.
Here are the pictures! Enjoy!
Here is tigger. This is a flat plate, all made of chocolate. Well, kinda chocolate, coating chocolate. It was a little sloppy. Part of the process intails banging the surface on the counter to shake out bubbles. Well, I must have banged a bit too hard because some of the orange smeared. Whoops! Well, I figure it's not bad for a first try.
Here is my lovely pelican. There are several different pieces here. The boardwalk base, the fence, the sun/moon, the background, the body of the bird, the beak and the foot. All separate pieces. I used spacers to push the body of the bird away from the background to give a more 3-D effect.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Saturday was graduation. Boy was it hard to get up. Amy and I went out to the Red Room for Cosmos and after three I was done! Wow! I'm really turning into a light weight! We had to be at the auditorium my 9, so I left the house at 8:30 and had to stop by the school to pick up my dress apron. What a scam! As if we don't spend enough money on school that we have to buy an apron that we'll only wear once. Oh well. It's done now. The ceremony was nice and the speeches were, for the most part, very good and insightful. After graduation we, popped over to the school to look at the chocolate sculptures the we went over to lunch/dinner. After amazing Viet Namese food and then a quick trip to Ghiradelli Square it was time for home. My little nephews were troopers, but they were so tired by 6PM that it was definitely time to head home. Last night was totally uneventful. After less than five hours of sleep Friday night, I crashed and was soooo glad that I didn't have to work Saturday night. (Friday my boss said I should take graduation day off and spend time with my family.)
Today I'll be heading up to St. Helena, but if I'm going to do that I'd better get my butt in gear and get moving.
Talk to you all later!
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Work today was better... at least I didn't totally suck. I wasn't great, but I wasn't horrible either. I got almost all the production list done. I didn't get the chocolate cookies scooped and I messed up the cat's tongue cookies (overmixed... more below), but other than that, it was all pretty good. I'm having difficulty cutting apples so they are the same size. When I "sauteed" them I wound up with some apple sauce and some apples... a bit disconcerting. So the cookies I messed up. Cat's Tongue (Longue du Chat)... basically they look like little, less exaggerated, dumb bells. Long and skinny with little bulbs at the ends. (I'm doing a horrible job describing them.) Anyway, it's a weird recipe. Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg whites. (what is this batter supposed to look like at this stage???) Fold in the flour. Mix in the salt, ginger, almond extract, ginger extract. OK. So those were the written instructions. WHAT A PAIN! After the flour is folded in the was just about no extra liquid to be able to mix in the salt and ginger and extracts. So, as expected, I wound up overmixing the dough. Great. Of course I didn't know I'd overmixed until after I'd baked off the first batch. Grrr. So I asked Candice if I couldn't just sift the ginger and salt in with the flour. She said, "Well that is where your culinary education should come in to play. You should be able to look at the ingredients and know how to mix something. So you should have mixed the dry ingredients in together from the beginning." Well, GEEEZZZZ. It was HER RECIPE! What's the point of even having written instructions if I'm supposed to figure out the mix methods by myself?!?!?! Anyway, next time I'll mix the dry ingredients together and I'm going to throw the extracts in after the egg whites. I can't think of any reason why they shouldn't turn out with my modifications, but I mean REALLY what about the next person who's going to have to make this recipe? What are they supposed to do? It just seems silly to me. Oh well.
Anyway, I've got another slightly annoying bit of news. So I'm only going to work Thursday, Friday and Saturday until the cafe opens. It looks like the cafe will be opening in two weeks, but she sounded pretty non-committal. Fine. I can get temp work (crappy boring office stuff) on Mon-Wed, but how long is this going to go on? What if I'm not going to be able to get full time? I mean I'd be able to make ends meet much more easily by doing the temp work/ cook work combo, but it's not what I want to do. We'll see. Anyway I need to figure out if I'm going to be a real full time or not soon or I'm going to have to look for another job. Grrrr.
On the upside, I got my first paycheck today. My first real paycheck for making people food. Very exciting... even if it was only $129. My first thought was, YEA!!! My next thought was, GOD GRIEF... how am I EVER going to make rent on this measly amount???
Well, it'll work out I'm sure (like there is an option for it NOT to). Good night for now. Talk to you later!
What a nightmare! Tonight was the chocolate box project. I actually made the box in about 15 minutes. I couldn't believe that the box construction went so easily. I thought I might even finish the project with tons of time to spare... no such luck. The DAMN bow was a huge problem. I had to re-make it 5 times. What a pain. In the end I just about gave up. I got something that kinda sorta looked like a bow, but it wasn't as nice as it could have been. Next time... no white chocolate on the bow... it's just too delicate and the melting temperature is just WAY too low. It's well below body temp, so, in addition to any other difficulties I had to worry about my hands melting the little pieces. What a pain! Anyway, it's done and I learned what NOT to do. (Sometimes that's even better than learning what TO do... or so I keep being told.)
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Cuttie patootie... It's a little hard to see her hair, but everything else is pretty plain to see. Soooo, what do you think?
So, as I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on my 3-Day chocolate sculpture. When you see the picture you aren't going to believe that the sculpture is actually made out of chocolate. Pretty cool. Anyway, I'll take more pictures with the digital camera tomorrow, the one that is going to be posted I took with my phone. Not too bad for a crappy camera phone! (OK, so it's not crappy, but heaven's only knows how much it cost me to send the one picture.) Anyway, I ran out of fabric for her dress, so that was a challenge, but it all wound up working out ok. I also melted the hand while i was working on the arm.. DANG... so I had to re-make that too. I'm still not happy with how the hands and feet attach to the arms and legs. Frustrating thing is that I still don't know how to attach them more naturally. The hair however was my pride and joy. I specifically did what I wanted instead of what Chefs Doug and Alex suggested. I knew what Raggety Ann's hair was supposed to look like and I successfully did it. Chef Amy said that she liked the floppy look of the figure... like the doll. I agree. I tried to have the angle of the arms and legs look a bit off to get this effect and I think it worked. If I'd had time I would have put red and white stockings on her legs. As it was I was one of two people who used color. The other person set out to make a Smurf but wound up making a blue M&M. Other than us though, everyone else did basic black (or brown in this case) and white. There were some very cute sculptures: Bob's Big Boy, Homer Simpson, a couple of South Park characters, a couple of Mickey Mouses, various animals and monsters, there was also a very memorable Hamlet (with Orick's skull at his feet) and bride of Frankenstein. I'll take pictures of the others tomorrow. Very impressive lot.
So, Candace called me last night and left a message saying the tit was a little slow and that I shouldn't come in until Thursday. Great. This is all well and good while I'm still in school, but this had better morph into a full time position after school gets out or I'm not going to be able to make rent! Sheesh! She did say I should come in on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Great, now I'm working graduation evening. Guess it's going to be a short celebration. Oh well. Talk about congratulations, you've graduated, now get your butt to work. Oh well, this is just the beginning of the special celebrations that I'll be missing due to work.
Speaking of work, over the past week or so I've re-formulated my five year plan. I see this industry being made up of four different components: restaurant, hotel, bakery, catering (catering just replaced casino tonight after sharing the four year plan with Chef Amy). So after spending one year at each place I should have a good idea of what I really like to do. I'm thinking that I'll save the hotel experience for last and do a combo of hotel and casino with a year in Vegas. Funny, I really have NO Desire to live in Vegas, but it would be a wonderful opportunity. I'm thinking Bouchon, but it's really too early to even thing about it. So, as I was writing this Candace called me (It's almost 11:30!) and asked me to come in at 10:30. She also said something about us talking. Great. Tomorrow should be interesting.
Anyway just wanted to catch you all up. Things are plugging along. As soon as I graduate I'll be starting a new blog to keep track of the new working experience. I'm guessing I won't be able to update it daily, but we'll see how it goes.
I'm going to post the picture of my Ragetty Ann and then go to bed... talk to you all later!
Monday, October 18, 2004
Today was another relaxing day, on the upside I got the house a bit tidied up and almost all the laundry done.
School tonight was good. We are beginning our 3 day chocolate sculptures today. Of course, since I was a total slug yesterday I didn't have a THING ready, but, I came up with something. Don't ask me where I got the idea from, but I'm making Raggety Ann out of chocolate. I got the body, arms and legs, feet and hands, and head and face all made. I also got some milk chocolate modeling paste made. Tomorrow I'll make a batch of white chocolate modeling paste and then I'll be ready to rock and roll. She'll have a white chocolate face, red string hair, white mittens, dark chocolate feet, red and white striped stockings and a blue and white dress with a white apron. I sure hope it turns out, it sure looks like it might, but it's still too soon to tell.
I also talked to the Chefs tonight. They assured me that I can do this work thing. Yes, it is hard, but it will get better... or so they say. Chef Amy actually said she just about threw up every day for the first two years she was a line cook. (OH NO! TWO YEARS!!! I don't think I can be this wreck for two years!!!) On the upside they said I could do it. They also said I chose a pretty big challenge for my first job (new restaurant, new pastry chef, new career for me), but, again, that I could do it. They also said it would be a big challenge for anyone, green or otherwise. (Boy do I know how to choose them!) As for working alone Saturday night, even though I don't feel prepared, they assured me that I could do it and that it would work out. As for the quinelles that I don't know how to make, they suggested that i get a box of instant mashed potatoes to practice with, so I guess I know what I'll be doing tomorrow! :) So I'm not in over my head, sure feels like it at times, but they assured me that I could do it!
So, I just checked my voice mail and it looks like Candice has hired another assistant and now she needs to work on scheduling, so it looks like I've got tomorrow off work too. (That's actually OK, my Dad is in town on business, so I'll probably just hang out with him.)
Well, I'll post pictures of my little sculpture and keep you all updated on the job front. Still alive, still plugging away.
Talk to you all later!
Friday, October 15, 2004
So, I made two different batches of madeleins. (Not what I was told to do last night, so, again, I looked like a moron because the chef said, "Did you make the second batch of madeleins?" to which I responded, uhhh, No, just the one. Fine.) The first was with some Italian chestnut honey, the second with Marin wildflower honey. OK, so after talking to the chefs last night we agreed on what I was doing wrong. So I had everything ready. I transferred the pate a bombe to a bowl for folding and Candice asked me what I was doing. She said, I thought I made it clear on Sunday that you should do that all in the same bowl. OK, so, how is one supposed to effectively fold in flour and then butter in a K5 bowl? I'll do it her way next time, but this just seems VERY silly to me. I'm just imagining lumps of flour. Call me silly. She said that transferring the contents of the mixing bowl (the pate a bombe) to another bowl would cause the mixture to loose air. Yes, I see this point, but I've always thought of this as negligible. It is certainly a risk, but so are lumps of flour. I know the next time I made the madaleins (her way) I'm going to feel that much more awkward. Great.
Next, or more accurately, in between, I made the quince compote. I was totally prepared for rock hard, impossible to work with fruits, but honestly they weren't that bad. The down side was that Candice wanted me to peal, then cut in half and then use a melon baller to remove the core and then chop out the stem and bottom. OK. I did it, I'm not entirely sure that it was the easiest way to do it, but I did and after the first couple I did get the hang of it. I got everything together and on the stove when I ran into a problem. The instructions said to put a parchment lid on the pan. ??? What is that? So I ask. Candice says that I should just cut a circle out of parchment and place it on top. So I do. I lay out a piece of parchment, cut a circle and put it in the pan. She sees the remains of what I did and asks if I've ever done this before. No! DUH! If I'd done it before do you think I would have asked how to do it???!!!! She shows me to fold the parchment into a triangle and then again and again and again until there is a thin, almost cornet looking triangle of paper, then she used scissors to cut the top and then the point off. So the end product is a rough circle with another circle in the middle. OK, this I can do, but that was not what she told me to do.
anyway, I started this post during a break from class. I'm done talking about today. No, really, I think I've vented to EVERY ear that would listen to me. After I got to school I broke down and cried in the bathroom. Then went to get some water and started crying again. Chef Renee and chef Malia saw me and were sweet and sympathetic, but we all had to get to class, so I pulled myself together and got to class. Overall it was a good day in class. I got my fruit jellies re-made (totally screwed them up yesterday) and got my nougat dipped in chocolate. Chef Renee told me to stop by the chef table during dinner, but I just didn't want to talk about it, but sure as the sun shines, they tracked me down in the dish room. As soon as I started talking about it again I started crying. What a baby. Anyway, they reminded me of the pressure that Candice is under. I think the exact words were something to the effect of, "You'll never know the pressure Candice is under until you are there. She'll be the one skewered by Michael Bauer (Chronacle restaurant reviewer). Not you. She'll be the one getting her butt chewed by the executive chef. Not you." So that said, I also need to remind myself that I'm not stupid. I also need to remind myself that I will get faster and I will learn more and this will get easier. This is not a reflection on my worth... it may feel that way, especially in this field where we put so much of our heart and soul into our work. I mean really, how horrifying is it to think you totally suck at the one thing that you love. (I'm not sure if I'm alone here (I doubt it), but I still feel like I've gambled so much on this new life that if, for some reason I'm wrong I'll have no where to go. I mean really, how many times in your life can you REALLY start over and create a new life out of nothing? I'm not saying this is my last chance, but it's the first time, really EVER, that I've done what I wanted to do... something I love. No pressure.)
All the above being said I just need to keep reminding myself what Chef Ken said yesterday, I was born to be a pastry chef. So now, I cook. Now I learn. Now I suffer. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I will be better than today and the day after I'll be even better. (Geezz, I feel like I'm on some sort of sadistic 12 step plan for how to BECOME a pastry chef instead of 12 steps to STOP something.) Patience. Concentration. Dedication. Repetition. It WILL all come together. I'm sure of it.
Good night for now. My legs are tired so I'm going to take a couple of alieve and go to bed. Talk to you all later! Tomorrow I'm working 4pm until whenever it's all done. First time doing any sort of food service. VERY EXCITING. (I'm going to miss all these firsts if and when they ever stop coming!)
Well, good night. Sleep tight! Check back in with you all Sunday... some time.
Class: I made some damn fine caramels. The grouping was two different caramels. I made chocolate (which I overcooked a little, so they were a little firm) caramels. The soft caramels however were lovely. Thankfully I put a nice identifying mark on top of them because I raided the consolidated box several times for Chefs Amy, Ken and Renee. I also made cashew brittle and some very nice toffee. The brittle could have been stretched quite a bit thinner, but I was talking to Garth, so I was a little distracted, which was fine because we needed to do either the toffee or the brittle and I did both, so I was in good shape. Yesterday Chef demo'ed divinity, fudge and marshmallows (made with honey). Can I just tell you, these are some of my favorites, but by the end of the night I was totally nausious and I felt like my teeth were about to fall out of my head. Ryan asked me to try his fudge and I did, but, for the first time ever, I tasted it and the promptly spit it out. It was good, but I just couldn't eat it.
Tonight we made nougat montellimar (sp) and fruit jellies. Desiree and I made the montellimar together and it turned out lovely. The fruit jellies however turned out horribly. I forgot to add in the second amount of sugar and the glucose when the mixture started to boil. It looked ok, but it just didn't set up. I'll have to pay closer attention tomorrow. So tomorrow is a re-make of the jellies and dipping of the montellimar (basically a white nougat with candied orange and almonds... YUM!)
Work: So last night Chefs Amy, Ken and Renee gave me a little gift (no, it wasn't another box of salt!)... a Saint Martha medallion. I have to say I was a bit confused (at first I thought of Martha Stewart... silly me!) and terribly flattered.(Of course St. Martha is the patron saint of cooks...they said that the think the Pope un-sainted St. Honore... how horrifying!) How thoughtful and sweet and, again, totally unexpected! Very flattering. (http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/saintm05.htm) So, of course I ran to the bathroom and put it on and haven't taken it off since. Today was much better, I didn't screw anything up. I diced four sheet pans of brioche and toasted them. I also punched out 4 or 5 half sheet pans of ginger shortbread (stacked in the freezer to establish our par levels) and 6-7 half sheets of salted butter cookies. I also MEP some chocolate ice cream for Candice and a batch of custard for the bread pudding. The custard, what a pain in the butt!!! One of the ingredients was almond paste. Just silly. After everything was whipped together (frankly, there really is no point in whipping it... it's just cooked in the oven) it got strained through a chenois... do you have any idea what a pain in the butt it is to force almond paste through a super fine mesh? WHAT A PITA!!! The chinoise made sense... I guess... to strain out the orange zest, but I without adding heat I don't know exactly how the orange oil in the zest is supposed to get into the custard. So Candice saw the difficulty I was having and told me to heat up some of the base to help get the base through the chinoise. It worked, but the whole process is silly. Ok, while we are on silly, or maybe just plain bad, the brioche that I cubed for the bread pudding IS JUST PLAIN BAD!!! I tasted a little bit and 1/2 of it was under cooked (which made it impossible to cut). The bit that I tasted was just too salty. I talked to the Chef gods and they said I should make it. Well, as soon as I try the finished product (and maybe feel a bit more comfortable telling the chef exactly what I think of her brioche.). I talked to Chef Malia and she said that I should check the baker's percentage. The salt in brioche should be 2%... good to know. I'll pay attention to the salt percentage as soon as I get a chance to make it.
Well, other than that, I also started the pot de creme. (Yea, the one that gave me fits in Chef Alex's class... se la vie.. I'll be an old pro in no time!). The one we make is infused with earl grey tea.
Tomorrow I'll be making a double batch of the custard for bread pudding. Single batch of madeleins (more on these later). Double batch of quince compote.
First, quince compote. The only things I know about quince are what I've read in the Chez Pannise Fruit cookbook. Hmmm. So I know they contain a LOT of pectin (more than any other fruit out there!). I know they turn a lovely pink color when cooked (according to Chef Amy this happens from the skin and core, but my recipe had me removing these, so we'll see if I get the color... oh and this only happens if the fruit is ripe). I also know that they are hard... really hard. So I took a trip up to Chef Amy's class (she's in the middle of cost control, so I knew I'd get a chance to actually talk to her!) to learn how to actually CUT a quince. (I had to ask Candice what a quince even looked like! I've always been pretty good on the fruit identification front, but this is kind of out there!... well, not so much any more, but most of my fruit identification skills are from childhood.) Here are the instructions I got. Peal, sharpen your chef knife, cut the fruit in quarters and then core with your knife... don't even bother to do it with your melon baller. She also mentioned that many people cut off the tops and bottoms and mix a poaching/roasting technique to cook them down a bit. Once cooked the skin is easier to remove and they are also easier to cut and core. Tempting to mention this alternate method to Candice, but we'll see how her way turns out. (Her way may be stupid, but until I'm the chef and other people have to do it my stupid way, then I just need to suck it up and do it her stupid way. Sad, but true.) I'm also going to scoop out more of the chocolate cookies. All this being said, I saw the list that Candice had for me today and she much have changed it at least two times.
OK, madelines. So I talked to Candice Tuesday night and she said that my madeleins were heavy. So when she said that I was going to make another batch tomorrow I asked her what I could to to make sure that they turn out better this next time. She said, pay attention to the recipe next time. Excuse me!?!? What was I doing the first time? Well, I have to say I was a bit thrown last time because I burnt the browned butter and then had to wait for it to cool and I'd already made my pate a bombe... which then had to sit... loosing air. (This is where my problem occurred... I'm SURE of it.) But she didn't think back to the difficulty I had, she just told me to pay attention to the recipe. I did push her a bit and asked for something a bit more specific. Then she said that she'd noticed that I tend to overmix a bit. OK, point taken. So I followed up with Chef Rob and the other Chef gods and they said that madelines are tricky, basically a genoise. Then we discussed the problems I'd had before and they confirmed what I'd already thought, it was the pate a bombe. Make sure everything is ready before I start the eggs and sugar beating. You just can't let them sit. OK, this should be a lot easier tomorrow because I browned two pounds of butter today, so it is waiting for me... one less thing I have to fuss with. I'm sure it will work out perfectly tomorrow. Chef Amy also pointed out another detail... back when Candice was in school they didn't have a Food Science course. So it's no wonder she wasn't able to tell me what the problem was... she probably didn't know. (She actually said, It's easy... it always works when I do it.... yea right! What a load of crap!) Chef Amy also emphasized the need to only say at this job for a year. Yea, I know... it's in the plan.
This last point is even more funny, more ironic than funny really. I was talking to Mom this morning and I said that in 3 years I expect that I'll be a better pastry chef than Candice. Yea, I know, this sounds terribly cocky, but I think I'm already a better teacher and I just started at the place. I'm impressed with her constant smelling of the products and the emphasis she places on tasting things, but I've noticed twice that some of her desserts are just too sweet. Case in point... the fig tart (the fig jam is almost a toothache in the making) and the vanilla ice cream she made today. The first flavor you get IS vanilla, which is good, but then it's so sweet it just smacks you! She said that the flavor will develop and mellow while the ice cream sets, but I just don't see this happening. We'll see. Anyway, it was all interesting. (She also wasn't familiar with adding a little milk powder to ward of crystally ice cream.)
Anyway, one year. I'll try to suck her brain dry, but we'll see. In the mean time I'll just do the best I can and keep learning and getting comfortable in a real kitchen. Refining my taste, concentrating on the subtlety of flavors and my skill at production. I don't think I've said so before, but I'm SOOOO glad I'm still in school while I'm starting this job. I love that I can ask the chefs all the questions that cross my mind. They are so helpful and so willing to be helpful and encouraging. Well, that's it for now. More tomorrow night. OH, I did get a chance to talk to the chef gods about the big plan (3-5-10-15-20). They just thought it was perfect that I had the plan. I said they should check back with me in a year. :) Chef Ken said I was born to be a pastry chef... that it's in my blood. Well, I don't know about that, but I certainly do love this stuff and all the intricacies that go with it, lets just hope that I can hold on to that love during the painful learning process.
Well, it just hit midnight and I have to be to work tomorrow at 9, so good night! Talk to you all later!
Monday, October 11, 2004
So after sharing my good news with my teachers now they all want to come to the restaurant. hmmm, is that a good thing? Of course Chef Ken was making cracks about coming on October 23rd... graduation. Oh I DON'T THINK SO! There are two days I won't be working: 10/23 - graduation and 11/15 - French Laundry reservation. I think both are pretty good reasons to get off work.
I'm pooped. Tonight I finished up my nut candies (Rochers and Dragee hazelnuts) and started on the caramels. I got my chocolate caramel made (VERY VERY yummy if I do say so.) Tomorrow I'll make a nice soft caramel and then move on to the next batch that Chef Doug is going to demo for us tomorrow.
It's official, I'm not quite up to the working 13 hours in the kitchen stage. 5 hours today and then 7 tonight... it's a bit exhausting. That and I'm not sure how I'm supposed to make my uniforms last the whole week. So, the question of the hour is: How long can you wear a uniform and still maintain safety and sanitation standards? I have a suspicion that anything over 12 hours is pushing it. On the upside I work in pastry and not butchery!
Lastly, I've officially wimped out. Dad wanted me to do it and it's the laziest thing that I didn't want to agree to, but with as tired as I am it just seems like the best thing to do. I'm paying Desiree to drive me home every night until the program ends. I figured $2/night would be more than fair. She agreed, so for $30 I don't have to worry about schlepping home at the end of the night... up hill... 10 blocks. I know, I know, I'm a lazy lazy chef. Eh, why not take advantage while I can. On the upside Desiree benefits and I benefit.
Well, nighty night. I've got to run some errands tomorrow and then be at work by 11. Looks like it's going to be a short day tomorrow. (I'm curious about how we're going to make ice cream in a couple of hours. Maybe we'll just make the base and then churn on Wednesday.) Speaking of which... I wonder how I'm supposed to keep track of the hours I've been working... and even mroe importantly than that, when I'm going to find out how much I'm making. Oh and Chef Rob said that I shoudl be asking for WAY more. Well, we'll see. When the discussion comes up I think I'm going to ask for my pay to be re-evaluated after 3 and 6 months. That way they get off easy while I'm learning and then I get a couple of chances to earn more once I actually know what I'm doing. We'll see.
OK, this time for real... off to bed. Talk to you all soon.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
I am the first assistant pastry chef at Myth, a brand spanking new restaurant sandwiched between the Financial District, Chinatown and North Beach... the place isn't even open yet. Tomorrow night is the party for the investors and it looks like next Tuesday will be the soft opening, but who knows.
Anyway, tomorrow is going to be my official first day at work. 9-2PM and then off to school from 3-10. The pastry chef (Candice) wants me to split my time between production and plating, so I'll be working a couple of days in the morning and then a couple of days in the evening. Overall it should be a great experience. Candice also wants me to collaborate with her on ideas with desserts. She's been great about having me taste every product she made and asked my opinion. Very nice.
I'm tickled pink! Couldn't be happier and I'm NOT MAKING $8 and HOUR!!!! Even better.
Had to share the good news.... I'll be catching up with the normal blog from the past couple of days.... including my birthday before I go to bed.
Thursday and Friday were good days in class. Chef Doug is either warming up to us or we're warming up to him. I've even seen him smile a few times. I finished my fist three truffles (nougat truffles, hand rolled dark chocolate truffles, mocha diamonds) and moved on to the nut truffles. On Friday I finished the Three Brother's (2 caramelized hazelnuts cemented onto a chocolate disk and then dipped in chocolate) and tomorrow I'll do the dragee hazelnuts and the, ummm, what are they called, candied almond slivers tossed in chocolate and then grouped into little clusters. Anyway, those are due by 9 tomorrow night. I'm kind of curious how well I'll do in class after working all morning. I'm sure I'll do fine. The nice thing about this job is that I can just pop over to Market street and catch the street car up to the school (which is 4 blocks off of Market). Perfect.
OK, so it turns out that the truffles we are making are going to be served at graduation. hmmm, I don't mind eating my truffles, but I KNOW I don't want to eat some of the truffles from some of the other students. Oh well, guess that's one more thing for me to avoid! :)
So Friday was my 30th birthday. Very nice, lots of drinking, lots of good friends and a very strategically placed photo booth. ;) Anyway I had fun. Desiree and I wound up waking up around 1 and were human by 2 and off to breakfast by 3. We went to the old Titanic Cafe, which is now Dennis Leary's new restaurant Canteen (right next to the Commodore Hotel). They were just closing, but the chef said we could still come in and order. Thank Goodness! I was ravenous. Desiree ordered the Caesar salad and loved it, I thought it had a bit too much dressing, but she liked it. I was craving something sweet and something salty, so I ordered two breakfasts. I never expected to be able to eat them all! I got the apple pancake (a bit too much cinnamon in the cinnamon to sugar mix). It was composed of perfectly tender apple slices and a nice eggy batter. Tasty. The second breakfast was corned beef hash and poached eggs. The corned beef was fresh and in perfect proportion to the potatoes. It definitely fit the fill on the salty scale. The eggs were a bit too poached, but this is my fault because that's how I asked for them. I should have asked for exactly what I wanted, but I was hungry and a bit hung over so I wasn't as exact as I could have been. (Last time I got corned beef hash with poached eggs they were a bit snotty, and I really don't like snotty poached eggs, runny, but not snotty.) Anyway, it was good, exactly what I needed.
I went back to Canteen for breakfast this morning and got the breakfast bread pudding with Mexican Ibarra chocolate. I was disappointed that I couldn't taste the cinnamon-y chocolate that has been one of my favorites since childhood. (My dad used to keep a box out in the garage and I would occasionally run into it and sneak a bit... it's so wonderfully different from American chocolate!)
Well, it's the beginning of a new week. Filled with new food and new challenges. Tomorrow morning I'll be making the cutest little Twinkie shaped pear (amazingly ripe pears!) and sour cherry claufouti and some plum upside down cakes. Candice said that she's expecting 300 people for the party... I can't imagine that I'll be able to make enough of anything to take care of 300 people. Well maybe. Let's see, let's assume 5 desserts to choose from, that's only 60 servings of each. So, cookie sampler (not too sure that 3 cookies counts as a sampler, but we'll see), fig tart, pear upside down cake, cloufutis. Not sure about any others, but I'm sure the ideas are out there.
Well it's getting late, I should probably head off to bed. Just wanted to catch everyone up to date. Talk to you all later!
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Anyway, tomorrow is going to be a busy day. Make nougatine, cut and assemble on the interiors. Temper milk chocolate and dip nougatine truffles. Temper dark chocolate and enrobe mocha diamonds and hand rolled truffles. Assuming I get all that done, I might be able to carmelize some hazelnuts for the three brother's and dip them in dark chocolate. I'm not holding my breath on the last list item, but it's something to shoot for. On the upside, I'll be able to start working at 2 instead of 3, that should give me a nice head start.
Quick comment on dinner. This batch of students working in Ceryl's is doing an amazing job. Dinner tonight was good, very promising. The soup, both last night's batch and tonight - last night was carrot ginger and tonight was a really good fresh veggie with a nice chiffenod of basil on top - was very nice, very noteworthy... obviously. Anyway, it was all good. Katrina made a good point, this is the first batch of students where someone (the sous chef in this case) said, "Order the soup. It's good. I made it!" That really speaks volumes. Anyone who is willing to brag about something they made has to be proud of their job, not just the work they put into it, but also the end product. I ran into Chef Kate (Butchery) in the dish room and mentioned how pleased we were with dinner. She commented that her and Chef Bob (Butcher Bob) were also happy to have them in their class. She said there were a lot of overachievers. Uh, yea! That's kind of what it takes to do good work in this life. You have to keep shooting high... not just shooting, you have to actually EXCEL! Anyway, dinner last night and tonight was a pleasure, especially after the schlock from the prior three weeks.
So, I called to follow up on the interview from Monday. The owner said he was glad I called because he had so much going on. Now I'm REALLY glad I called. Anyway, he said that he'd hired the pastry chef. Good. He said that he wanted to to give her a chance to settle in and give her a chance to review my resume. So I didn't expect a call for a day or two. You can imagine my surprise when, in the middle of lecture, I get a call from an unidentified 415 number. You have NO IDEA how much I wanted to take that call, but there was a message so I knew I'd be able to get back to it at the first break. I wasn't even out the door before I was checking that message. I called her back and I'm scheduled for another interview tomorrow at 1:30.
After class I stayed to talk to Chef Doug. Even though he can be a real curmudgeon I know he has tons of hiring experience, so I wanted to get his advice on the second interview. He had great advice. Be humble (first thing). Show your enthusiasm. Show you want to learn and that you are a team player. All things I can do and all things that I did during the first interview. So basically I just have to be myself and stick to the basics and I'll be fine. I mentioned to Chef Doug that I was nervous and he smiled and said that was a good thing. Yea, I know it's a good thing, but still, nervousness is still nervousness. I just need to keep telling myself that it will be fine. Yes, it's a good opportunity, but I'm starting at the bottom and they know that, so it shouldn't be a problem.
Well, there was so much excitement today and last night I fell asleep heavens knows when and forgot to set the alarm. Not exactly the way I want to start tomorrow. Oh, last bit of news... I got my last paycheck today, very nice, so Monday I'll be able to go in and prepay my rent for the next couple of months. YEA!!!
Again, this time for real, good night. I'll talk to you all later.
Anyway, last night Chef divided the class into thirds and we started making truffles. 1/3 made cocoa vanilla or dark hand rolled truffles, 1/3 made mocha diamonds, and 1/3 made nougat truffles. I was in the nougat truffle group. I'm glad. First I started the cream scalding on the induction burner (around the stove just gets too crazy and people are acting like self interested idiots again... or maybe they are just being themselves, who knows.) while I tracked down the other tools I needed. While the cream was melting the chocolate Desiree and I worked together to get all the materials together that we'd need... 2-1/2 sheets of parchment, 1/2 sheet pans, everything we'd need for tempering. Next make the ganache, or more accurately, slowly emulsify the chocolate and the cream. Next, cream up the butter in a small cup and add some of the choc mixture to the butter. Next, incorporate the chocolate butter mixture back into the choc/cream mix. Not too difficult, you just need to think of air as a contaminant and try to incorporate as little into the mix as possible. Next, pour finished ganache into a pie tin. (This will help it cool faster... the faster it cools, the sooner you can pipe it out. Most of the ganaches that we'll be working with need to be piped the same day they're made... if you don't you'll wind up with a hard block of chocolate... still tasty, but not exactly easy to portion out into truffles.) While the ganache was cooling I set about tempering some chocolate. Heat to 120, remove 1/2 of the mass to the slab, agitate until cool, reincorporate into the mass, stir out any lumps (more agitation) - aggitation=crystal formation - , check the temp... at this point you should be at 89. If you're too high, or too low, then you need to re-table the chocolate or re-warm a little. I needed to re-table a little. After my chocolate was tempered I poured it out onto one of the 1/2 sheets and spread the chocolate 1/16" thin. Then I used my 1" circle cutter to cut out circles through the chocolate (this will be the base for the ganache that was cooling and will provide a surface to rest on the dipping fork when it comes time to dip the chocolate. Perfect!) So, of course, while I was spreading and cutting my chocolate cooled too much and I had to re-warm. Not a prob, I got the temp dead on the 89 degrees and then went to do the second sheet. One of these sheets of discs will be used for a candy called the Three Brothers (three candied hazelnuts if I remember correctly) and the other is for the nougat truffles.
Just before dinner I piped out my ganache. I had a nice even consistency (some people's looked very lumpy... downright ugly!) and I wasn't having any difficulty portioning or cutting off the top of the truffle with the pastry bag. (Basically what you are doing is piping out a large pearl - the size of the disc and about equally as tall - and then you stop squeezing and do a little rotation to the right - clockwise - and then you're done. Not too bad.) Chef came by the table and watched my work and said that I was doing a good job (high praise from this guy who seems to be 90% sarcasm and 10% sincerity... but maybe I'm wrong... wouldn't be the first time!). Portions... I got 69 portions out of one sheet of discs and one batch of ganache... at $1 each... yeee hawww! Very Nice! :)
After I piped out the ganache, but before dinner I made the ganache for the mocha diamonds and poured it into the bars. The mocha diamonds are a cut truffle. This is where we pour the ganache between bars of stainless steel until it crystallized and then we cut the bars away and let the mass sit overnight. Then we spread tempered chocolate on the top and bottom and then we cut it into it's individual pieces... at that point we are at the same stage in the process as the nougat truffles. My ganache took forever to set up. I figured an hour would be more than sufficient, but it was about an hour and 20 minutes before it was even close to being able for me to cut the bars away... who knows. I'll show Chef today, maybe I'll re-do it.
So, after this portioning stage we let the truffles sit out at room temperature overnight (I'm thinking a minimum of 10 hours). During this time the outside layer of the truffle crystallized and dries out and creates a surface for the tempered (dipping) chocolate to adhere to. This stage is also important, because if air bubbles form between the ganache and the tempered chocolate, mold could grow... eeeeewwwww! So I got everything together and tonight I'll just make the dark chocolate hand rolled or the cocoa vanilla... who knows, if I don't have to re-make the mocha diamonds I might make both. The more the merrier!
Well, two days until I'm unemployed. No word on the possible job front. I'll be calling today to follow up (squeaky wheel syndrome). Hopefully I'll get good news. My replacement is learning... not nearly quick enough, but she is moving along.
Anyway, I need to go figure out what to do with my remaining retirement money and collect my last paycheck! Talk to you all later!
Monday, October 04, 2004
The pastiage project is done. (I actually finished it on Friday.) Unfortunately, I forgot to put new batteries in my cameras, so no pictures. It turned out ok, but the best part of the project was finishing it. I'm done with sugars. No, it wasn't my favorite, but I did finish it.
Now on to chocolates. As much as I didn't like sugars, that's about how much I like chocolate. The lecture Chef Doug did today was about as good as it gets. He was on fire. In addition to humor he was full of information, not just about the chocolate, but also about the business. It was great. I could have kept him going all night, but there was ganache to demo. Chef demod a passionfruit ganache, two different hand rolled truffles, and the filling for what is going to be mocha diamonds and lastly the filling for cocoa vanilla and nougat truffles. It all smelled so good and I hadn't eaten anything all day besides coffee, a banana, a diet coke and a few tic tacs. Thank goodness for a break, some tea and some nice bread. Breads class did a good job on the whole wheat bread today. It was still a little warm, sweet and exactly what I needed.
So,the last thing we did tonight was our first run of tempering chocolate. I have to say that I'm pretty happy...I tempered my chocolate the first time. Thank goodness. Anyway, it was a relief. No art, just following the instructions. Period. End of story. We'll see how I do when I temper tomorrow.
SOOOO, the big news for the day... (drum roll please).....
I got a call on Friday from Teresa (Shane's Aunt Colleen's Friend... how's that for six degrees of separation?!?!?!). She left me a message in the evening... I didn't get it until late Friday night. Apparently, one of her clients (I think she's in wholesale produce) is opening a new restaurant and is looking for a pastry chef. She told him all about me, my enthusiasm and my good grades and he wanted to meet me. So I called him first thing on Saturday and after talking he wanted to get together and meet on Monday... today. I met him after work and he showed me the place. It's still being set up (the tabletops haven't even come in) but the owner showed me around the place... it's amazing. The kitchens are as big as the restaurant. In addition to the main restaurant there is also a cafe associated with it right next door. So, in addition to the desserts for the restaurant the pastry chef will also be overseeing the baked goods for the cafe too. Overall the restaurant and cafe will be serving the usual plated desserts, laminates, your usual breakfast baked goods and ice creams. Very nice. Anyway, I was just giddy by the time we sat down... to talk and it just got better. He's extending an offer to the pastry chef today and then he's looking for a couple of assistants... I'm up for one of those positions. So we started talking about my availability (it works almost perfectly with what he needs) and about where I see myself. I told him that I was looking for a team I could learn with and from and a place I could have some fun doing it. I also made it very clear that I'm just beginning to learn... and learn how much I don't know and how excited I am to learn. About him... left working at Gary Danko two weeks ago after working with him for nine years, in addition to helping open Restaurant Gary Danko. He also helped George Morrone open the 5th Floor. Very impressive resume! Anyway, he was looking for a new challenge and wound up hooking up with his major investor and settling on a casual California French cuisine. Something a little less intimidating than all the other California French restaurants in town. (There's no reason to be scared of food... it's just FOOD!) I love that idea. Good food that is more approachable than the other restaurants in town. He had similar philosophies on dessert... no fancy tuille or caramel paste garnishes (less froo froo, more time to concentrate on making amazing quality desserts... think Town Hall. So, it was all very exciting. He liked my enthusiasm and passion, so that was all a good sign. So, assuming that the pastry chef accepts the position, he wants me to meet her to see how we get along. All promising signs. Again, cautious optimism. We'll see what happens. I'm getting the feeling that this could move very quickly. I'll keep you updated.
Last note... Chef Amy was right... there really are only 12 pastry chefs in this town... the rest is smoke and mirrors. Than, and it really is WHO you know, not so much WHAT you know. Networking is really the key. Even if it doesn't work out this time, networking really IS where it's at.
Well, off to bed now. Too much adrenaline today... I'm pooped. I've also been training my replacement... it's been interesting.
Talk to you all soon.