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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Final Assessments, Part I

    If this post goes off trail more than usual I apologize in advance. I've been up since 3am this morning cross-training in K-16 (my next class) or as many of you already know, "the exgirlfriend". We will be starting the breakfast rotation in K-16 on Monday which means my sleeping schedule is screwed. For 7 class days I will be going to class at around midnight and wont leave until 9am or so. This is our high volume production kitchen which means they can pump out some serious plates during a service (especially lunch). In order to know your station and get to know what needs to be done for day 1 you need to trail in the kitchen for a breakfast service. I don't want to get to deep into it, otherwise this post will carry on forever. I will have a post all about my K-16 stage in the near future.

    What I really wanted to talk about was part I of my 2nd term practical. An all encompassing exam to test your knowledge on everything you have learned up to this point. To review, part one is a 100 question multiple choice examination. You are allotted 1.5 hours for the exam, which is more than generous...even for my characteristically slow test taking. Really slow. I never was the guy who finished first, in fact I am usually one of the last ones along with the girl who speaks English as a second language.

    That clip was from one of my favorite movies: Real Genius with Val Kilmer. I was, and still am not that guy. This is not to say that I am a bad test taker I just take my time. I do the test, mark any questions I don't know or hesitate on. When I am finished I go back and review the questions I was unsure about. Once I do that I skim the test to check for stupid miscalculations and what have you then tally up my scantron to make sure I didn't mistakenly skip a question (my 8th grade teacher once told me that a student missed question 29 on his scantron and did not notice. Every question on his 100 Q test was one question off so he failed his final. Ever since then I double check. Every. Single. Time.). This used to drive my UB buddies nuts! Most of the time we would carpool to exams and they would have to wait around an extra hour for me to finish. What can I say? I'm a thorough test taker.... 

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." ~ Abe Lincoln
    I finished the exam and felt pretty good about it overall. The proctor told the class we could come back in an hour for the results. We all went to farq and discussed questions we were unsure of. Most of the Qs people were unsure of I knew I got right so my confidence was building. An hour later we all walked back up to the 4th floor to see our scores. Its on a pass/fail basis with an extra category for high passes (95% or above). Chef Jones, a quirky British guy (hes the dean of the Culinary, not the CIA but the cooking hes a pretty big deal) came in with our scantrons to give us the results. "Well we certainly have an interesting group on our hands" Chef Jones said in his awesome British accent. "We must have the Harvard group today. Everyone passed the exam and the lowest grade was a 71". Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but I already knew I at least passed it. I wanted that high pass. "alright chaps, how do you wanna do this? We can do this one at a time privately or I can just say your name and your score out loud. Since you all did well I think the second option will be a lot faster. Dontcha think?" Sure. Lets do this!
    He starts calling out names one by one and their respective score. A couple mid 80s to start with a few near high passes. "Peter...ham? Hahm?....97." The first high pass of the day, YES! "Great job chap! Now I want you to do the same tomorrow to get a high pass on the entire practical" "Yes Chef." He continues down the names, and my friend Eric (our group leader) also got a 97! We were the top scores until the last girl beat us out with a 99....

    Weeks of everyone worrying and frantically telling stories they heard about the practical was finally almost over. I got the high pass I wanted and a tremendous weight is now off my shoulders. It feels pretty damn good. I was talking to Eric after the scores were given and we both agreed that although we did extremely well we wish we could've seen the Qs we got wrong. Here we are, second highest grades in the class, high pass and everything, and we still want to know more. I am not an overachieving snob, I just love this stuff so much. I want to know what I missed. I think that's where passion comes into play. Any other test I would take the grade and not ask questions. I love and respect what I do so much that I want to be the best at it.   
    When Chef Jones rifled off the scores I would not be lying if I said I didn't want anyone to beat my 97. Now I am not the overachieving type who is pissed if they don't get a 100, I just want to be the best, and I think you need that drive, that passion to carry you through.

 "The game is my wife. It demands loyalty and responsibility, and it gives me back fulfillment and peace." ~ Michael Jordan

    The success I have achieved from this test and finding an externship location in the same week is exactly what I needed now that things are coming down to the wire. In one of my previous posts I talked a little bit about momentum. I said that as is in sports, you need to hit your stride at the right time. Plenty of people do great 90% of the time but struggle to close it out (i.e. Lebron James). Others sit middle of the pack and then explode at the finish. If you love playoff sports you know as much as I do that you have to be like the second type. I knew that my work in class was slumping a tad so a perfect finish would be needed to carry me through to the next stage. I am a firm believer in the powers of momentum. I saw a Nike commercial one time (and I'm sorry for the abundance of sports related analogies for those of you who aren't sports fans) promoting their "Elevate your game" campaign, where a then young Carmelo Anthony went through practices and a rigorous training sequence. The commercial showed Anthony practicing one-on-one with his personal trainer/ball coach against scenes of him signing autographs for fans and attending meetings for a project he was working on with the community. Back and forth the commercial went, showing Anthony going through plays with his ball coach in the gym. The last play in the gym he practices a move and shot before the commercial transitions to the final seconds of a close NBA game. The coach calls a time out to draw up the final play. The young Anthony looks on as the coach draws up the same play he did in practice. The commercial ends with Melo walking onto the court as his words echo in the background: "why wouldn't I want the last shot? When I know I've already made it..."

    That commercial aired in 2006 and I still think about it to this day. I donno why I love it so much. I guess its because I think that sometimes everything you have done could be for nothing if you do not make the right choices down the stretch. I believe in this not just in sports, not just in cooking, but in life! When things are close you have to possess the ball and make the right choices. Some of the greatest athletes were born under moments like this. So for me this practical exam is more than just a test. Its an opportunity to do as Carmelo did. Its a chance to stand amongst greatness, even if for a brief moment in time...

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