Stage! And so it Begins

Hello Everyone,

I am back! I finally finished by classes and survived somehow. The last few weeks of school were quite busy between services and final exams but everything went smoothly. The program is not over yet, the next step consists of two stages; banquet and restaurant. And so begins my real evaluation of my year in culinary school.

During my last few weeks in school I got the chance to work with very fine ingredients and used many challenging techniques, so I was feeling very skilled and pleased with my accomplishments. This came to a relatively abrupt end as I started my first stage. For a bit of background, I am working at a local Montreal caterer. My first day on the job was pretty basic, I was given some vegetables to chop, peel, and sort. I was being assessed by my superior and thought I did fine. Over the next few days my tasks variation became even more limited. On day two I made a mise en place for chicken kabobs, and proceeded to assemble them throughout the entire day. Day three consisted of squeezing liquid out of blanched cabbage, followed by packing things away in the fridge. By day four I was really hoping for some more excitment, but I was instructed to assemble mini egg rolls. I did so for the whole, entire day! This bring me to today, and unfortunately my tasks list was equally as brutal. I had to peel and shape regular carrots, to appear like little carrots. This seems quite ridiculous in my opinion, because the do sell those carrots at the market. I guess they are slightly more expensive and I suppose my boss is trying to cut costs by having free labour do it. My plan tomorrow is to try and discuss broadening my list of duties. I once hoped to work in catering but I am starting to reconsider, as a result of the intense monotony.

A massive bag of carrots similar to the one I tackled today!

Peeling and more Peeling

I am starting to sound quite cynical about this whole experience but I am still trying to remain hopeful. I have another week left to try and truly experience the up side of a catering business. I intend to make the best of it. This past week has also enabled me to really appreciate all I have learnt at St. Pius. I am able to identify every technique used in the kitchen as well as every single safety and hygiene violation being committed at my stage. I will not get into precise detail, but there seems to be issue with one employee and cleaning is hands after handling raw poultry, in addition to a poorly kept refrigerator.

I am awaiting with excitment the day my teacher appears at the job to see how my stage is progressing. I hope he is able to see what I see. But in the meantime, I hope tomorrow I get to cook something!




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Meat and Fishies

Hello Readers,

I hope all of you are surviving winter and keeping warm. I have been very busy over the past few weeks, and I have lots of good stories to tell.

Last week our class began the meat and fish module. Now as all of you know I despise baking, so I was very excited to be finally finished desserts and onto something more appealing. During the first day we got up close and personal with all kinds of seafood. First we got the opportunity to fillet a Dover Sole. This process was quite interesting as Dover Sole are flat fish (which i never knew) thus they have four separate fillet. After that came the mussels, which we all happily cleaned and excitingly checked for freshness. This done by tapping an open muscle shell and waiting for it to shut. At one point the entire class was knocking mussels on their work stations, creating a very irritating noise. The best however was yet to come… with the Lobster. According to the chef, the lobster tails had to remain straight in order to optimize the appearance of the final dish. The only way to ensure such a result is by sticking a skewer up the rear of the lobster. If I thought desserts were bad  I was mistaken. Not only did I have to handle a live creature but I had skewer it and finally ends its life by plunging the lobster into boiling liquid. I know my description is graphic but this barely does justice to what actually happened. With some coaxing from my classmates I was able to complete my tasks and actually cook that lobster but I think it will take some time before I try preparing lobster again.

On day two meat was on the chopping block. I got to start my day off bright and early by examining a massive lamb liver. I had barely recovered from my lobster trauma only to get thrown back in the kitchen with a liver. Each of us got a slice of liver and had to cook it to a perfect inner temperature. Somehow I managed to get passed the distinct liver smell and cook it properly. The chef was adamant that all students taste the liver, I could not, and would not consume it. I pretended to take a bite but the liver never entered my mouth! There are some items I just have no interest in consuming.

No Liver for Me

After our day of meat we got started on our mise-en-place for our first Table d’Hôte service. My team and I were on the infamous Hot Line, in charge of all the main courses. I had a few moments of panic during this experience. Usually we are allotted two days for mise-en-place for service, this was not the case last week. We had a half a day to prepare all the necessary requirements for our complex menu. I had to chance to debone 3 lamb legs, make a tomato sauce, chop vegetables, dice herbs all at top speed. By some fluke we managed to finish all prep seconds before service began.  During the actual service I was in charge of plating the quail dish. All my plates made it to the dining room with out being sent back by the chef, I was rather impressed with myself. I had to improve on my speed but my final products were looking good. My team survived service with few glitches and we left Friday afternoon completely exhausted but feeling good.

Next week we have another service, I will be stationed on the baked goods section. our menu is full of delicious dishes including some wonderful vegetarian options. Come over to St. Pius and have lunch with us!

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So Much to Say

Hi Everyone!

I know I have been very bad at posting lately but I am back and have lots to tell you about. In my last post a mentioned my class had a service coming up and it was definitely something you will want to hear about. During our three days on service my team was assigned to dinning room duty, as in being waiters and waitresses in addition to preparing canapes and hors d’oeuvres for all the guests. So my group got to work and established what we would be preparing. We settles on mini egg rolls with plum sauce, mini Monte Carlo potatoes, smoked salmon tartar on cucumber cups and finally a shrimp canapé with a Greek fish roe spread. While I knew these dishes would pose some challenges I was much more concerned for being a wait staff, and rightfully so!

The day prior to service was very hectic. All the mise-en-place was prepared and the team tried to organize everything as best as possible so we would not need to scramble the following morning. Despite our best efforts, the day of service arrived and we were not even near adequately organized. We rushed around the kitchen trying to find ingredients for a last minute sauce, since our plum jam (the main ingredient in the plum sauce) did not arrive in our order. I had to chop up all the smoked salmon, make the cucumber cups, and assemble the whole thing, while one of my team made deep fired the egg rolls and the others baked potatoes and began setting up the dinning room.There was a race against the clock to finish all the finger foods, and ensure the dinning room was perfectly organized before the firsts guests arrived at noon. I was sweating by the time lunch began.

Although I am a culinary student, there is no slacking when it comes to perfecting the art of waitressing, according to my Chef instructor. I got a brief and firm introduction to the appropriate serving methods, and I was told that all my moves would be evaluated. I attempted to make a mental note of all the pointers but as soon as the guests walked in my nerves got the best of me. One of the major serving faux pas, is passing food across the table. At one point during the service I walked over to my table with two plates in my hands and gave one to the first customer, as I put it down the customer sitting across from me put out her hands to receive her plate. I stopped dead in my tracks, what was I to do? My teacher was watching me and I could not decide whether I should give the lady her plate across the table or refuse it to her till I had the chance to walk around and give it to her properly. And, of course I made the wrong decision. As I handed the customer her plate over the table, my teacher let out a huge grunt, startling both myself and the innocent customer. My Chef, was appalled a my actions, and despite my best efforts to explain my side of the story she was not pleased. I went through the rest of service on edge, fearing I would make another fatal error.

After a relaxing weekend, we began our dessert module. Everyone loves dessert, and I am no exception. I learn how to make cookies, biscotti, pastry cream, butter cream, meringues, gluten free treats and even molten chocolate cakes in the span of just a few days. There were not any major disasters that took place doing desserts, so my teachers were pretty impressed with our skills. There were however, several instances of people sneaking off with many cookies in their mouths that were not meant for our consumption. I believe dessert week was the calm before the storm, the meat module!

My beautiful cake

Yesterday meat began. While only two days into this topic already I have seen a great deal. We started off by making sausages, both Italian and Chorizo. I had never seen this process take place and it was a special experience. I do not want to go into graphic detail but for all of those not in the know, natural sausage casings are intestines! I will let the photos do the rest of the talking on this one.

Step 1: The pork before we tackled it

Step 2: The pork being ground up

The casings, where Step 2 will enter!

Tomorrow we take a break from meat to prepare for our next service coming up this Thursday and Friday. We are preparing some wonderful dishes and I would love for you to come and sample our offerings! Stop by for a three course meal you  are sure to enjoy, I would love to meet you!

The Waldorf Salad featured on our Menu

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Happy New Year

Hello Readers,

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday season and had a chance to relax and eat lots and lots of delicious food! I took it easy and now I am fully charged and ready for school to begin tomorrow, I cant wait to get working in the kitchen again. Up next I will be learning more about menu planning, food costing, as well as Table d’Hôtes and lots of desserts.

I cannot wait to learn desserts

In two weeks my class we be preparing a second lunch service. I am excited to see what they menu will be consisting of. I will post the full menu and hopefully some of you can come by and try a delicious three course meal.

My class is really improving, just before the break we catered a holiday luncheon for 350 people. The meal was an overwhelming success. We prepared cold cut and crudité platters, hot and cold appetizers, numerous meat and vegetarian main dishes, as well as some tasty desserts. We also got acquainted with all the difficulties that arise when transporting food from one location to another. From loading up a truck safely, to keeping food warm as well as making do with tight space we managed to prevail. The success was invigorating and gave us something to brag about during the holiday season.

A buffet spread almost as delicious as ours

Tomorrow will be a busy day of cleaning and reorganizing, but hopefully we get to learn a few new dishes I can post about. In the mean time, I would love to hear about any spectacular meals you have eaten while on holiday!

What have you eaten during holiday time?

It is great to be back to reality 🙂

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From Lunch Service to Lunch Exam

Hello Loyal Readers,

School is really getting busy! First off my class had our first lunch service, for the Simple Menu module. My team and the good fortune of being placed in the baking station, my absolute favorite. The first day went relatively smoothly, apart from accidentally baking 4 types of bread instead of 5. The second day was a slight disaster on the baking front. With baking duties also comes dessert. One of the dessert options was a cream puff. Normally, the cream puff is not a difficult good to produce, however this was not the case on day two of service. One member of my team had prepared the mise en place for the cream puff dough the previous day. Somehow when the ingredients were mixed together the consistency was off and that batch had to be dumped in the garbage. The next step was to make another mise en place for dough. This batch made it to the oven but once in the oven they failed to rise, so batch number two had to be a thrown out as well. At this point, service was about to begin and the dessert really needed to be prepared. Finally a third mise end place was organized and the teacher made the final batch of the cream puffs. Thanks to my teacher Chef Dominique this dessert made it out of the kitchen and onto our customers plates!

If only our first two batches of Cream Puffs looked this good!

After a nice weekend to recover from service we started the week off with canapes in preparation for the midweek exam. Canapes, for those who are not familiar, are intricate bite size finger foods. I learnt how to create beautiful salmon rosettes, compound butters, flavored cream cheese and delicate garnishes for canapes. I actually enjoyed creating this bite size wonders, despite the tedious process it requires.

Smoked Salmon Canapes

Wednesday was exam day, and a very “interesting” day it was. The exam was testing Simple Menu items; Caesar salad, fettuccine Alfredo, and a variety of canapes. I started off with creating the pasta dough because of the resting time the dough requires. I then went on to the salad which went almost perfectly, until I nicked my finger with the veggie peeler while making Parmesan shavings. I bandaged up, assembled the canapes, and finished off my pasta dish. My exam was over but the best was yet to come.

My class had a substitute teacher during the afternoon part of the exam. This chef, being unaware of our normal exam rituals went all Hell’s Kitchen on us when she assumed we were acting rude and immature. She was corrected as soon as the yelling subsided. Events like this just add to the excitement of being a chef in training!

Looked something like this

Thanks for reading! Recipes will be posted midweek 🙂

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Many Early Morning Wake Ups, Breakfast Service and more!

Hey Guys,

So let me give you a brief overview of the last 10 days! My class began our first service ever and it was breakfast!

When a class has service this means that we are serving customers in the dining room at the school. Each day started off with my alarm buzzing at 5:30a.m, in order for me to be ready in the kitchen by 6:30a.m. This in itself was extremely difficult. The way the service works is that the class is split up between four stations; dishes and waiting tables, fruit and take-out counter, baking, and the hot line.

My team started off on fruit and take-out which is not too stressful because everything can be prepared prior to the orders coming in. The next station we tried was service (dish pit, and waiting tables), since I had never been a waitress before, this tasks was mildly nerve-wracking. Sure enough, my first customers EVER were my parents, and one might think they would give me an easy time but this was not the case entirely. I took their orders with ease, but as I found out later, I apparently poured cold coffee and was not too polite. I tried harder to impress non-family members the rest of the day, which was mildly successful!

Once the service station ended, I made my way to the baking section. I believe most of you are aware of my feeling towards baking but there was no escaping the assignment. I made several doughs, breads, buns and mise-en-places during my long morning but somehow I made it through. The last station I was assigned to was the hot line, this was by far the most demanding of the four. This station is where all the hot food is prepared,  for a breakfast service included french toast, pancakes, eggs, home fries, and omelets. This was intense! As soon a customers entered the dining room the orders came flying in. I had a slight freak-out when I was running low on pancake batter and a group of 15 came in for their meal. The hot line was definitely in my top 10 of most stressful moments but somehow I made it through.

A Mighty Stack of Pancakes

Overall breakfast service was a challenge but definitely a good learning experience (I guess that’s why we’re at a culinary school and not in a full-fledged restaurant yet). I came home everyday totally wiped but feeling really good about my accomplishments. This service truly tested our character but I feeling energized from the experience, although physically exhausted.

Next week we start our simple menu service! Come by and have a delicious three course lunch for $10. I would love to cook for all of you!

A Simple Menu Pizza

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Update :)

I know I have not written in a while but that is because I have been amassing great stories about my breakfast service experience. We finish breakfast tomorrow after 8 exhausting days so check back tomorrow for a wild post!

In the meantime, check out this cool pic! Crackle took the day off, and I got to fill in! Yippee!!!

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