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Monday, April 2, 2012

Tighten Up!

    This week I started a new class: Modern Banquets. Our class has gotten to the point in the curriculum now where they don't fool around. It has been six weeks since I have been able to actually cook anything (3 weeks of meat and fish fabrication each) and I can't tell you how good it feels to be back in a full kitchen again. The primary reason why things become serious now is because our class is now cooking for the school. No not the part of the school where old women get all dressed up and take a tour bus to our campus to dine in any of the 4 critically acclaimed restaurants plus the cafe--Apple Pie. I won't be cooking in those restaurants until the end of my time here at the CIA. No, what my class and I are doing right now is preparing buffet-style lunch for the students and facility.
The last time our class was actually cooking together was Skills I aka Culinary Fundamentals with Chef Speckamp!!! Love that guy! So old school, so German. He always has a witty come back no matter what you say. For example, I was chosen to serve the Yankee Pot Roast out of one of the chaffing dishes during service on Monday and Speckamp rolls through. He walks over to our current chef (I'll get to him in a minute), and they converse to each other in German, laughing in tongues I could not understand. I just assume they were singing our praises (but probably not). Chef gets to my section, the last on the line and I whisper to him in a joking manner, "hey chef I gave you a few extra pieces...but don't tell any of the other chefs or they'll all want extras" he smiles and quickly replies "Yes Peter, this will be our little secret" and winks before vanishing out of the kitchen. BOSS.
     As I was saying, the last time we cooked together as a class we were just preparing dishes for Chef Speckamp to taste and grade. Now students are using their meal swipes to eat my food. Its a big step. In skills, you could have a sub-par dish and only one person would taste it--Chef Speckamp; who would simply give you a lower grade. In banquets, however, if you make a sub-par dish you have to serve that to hundreds of hungry culinarians. This is there lunch!
    Each week the class is divided into 4 stations: soups/apps, veg/starch I, veg/starch II, and protein/sauce. My team was chosen for protein/sauce this week (easily the hardest station in the kitchen because of all the things you have to get done before service). At the CIA you always hear rumors about your next chef, and all the horror stories that go along with the next class. Every chef tries to intimidate the students the first day, and Chef Riley did so to perfection. We're all waiting outside of the kitchen when Chef Riley shows up. We all say "good morning, chef!" in our enthusiastic culinary student voices but Riley says nothing. He just walks past everyone, unlocks the door to the kitchen and slams it behind him. Everyone went dead silent and I thought to myself "Oh f_ _k!, hommie don't play..."

    If first impressions are everything, then the first impression my class had of Chef Riley is that he is going to eat us ALIVE! Its the first time our class would be cooking together in six weeks. Naturally we're all going to be a bit rusty when it comes to cooking. Couple that with the fact that our class has had some bumps in the road in terms of getting along, and you got yourself one recipe for disaster soup...Time to "tighten up!" The phrase tighten up has been universally adopted by almost everyone in our class to basically say to people, "get your shit together". If everyone is laughing and chatting loudly in the hallway before class and our lookout sees our chef approaching, typically "HEY, TIGHTEN UP!" will be uttered amongst the ranks.

Note from the Editor:
  • I want to continue to talk about my new class, but I figured if I dragged this post out any longer that my readers would loose interest so I will cut this post off here and continue on in the next few posts. Consider this post the refresher course for what is to come. 
  • I have chosen not to make this class a multi-part "series" the way I did with meat fabrication (and failed to do for fish) because I did not want to force myself to write something about the class for every single day; but mainly because I could not come up with a clever title for a series involving banquets...

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