Last night I barely slept, I blame it on a few factors. For one, I have been waiting for my first day in a kitchen ever for a long time coming now and two, I am going into this with NO cooking background experience (hence the capital letters for dramatic effect). Growing up in a household of strong Hispanic woman who dominate in the kitchen wasn't easy. I hardly ever got to dip my toes into the kitchen pool, thanks to my mother, Kika, and Baba for always holding the fort down and never needing help in the culinary department. As a result, I was of no help in the kitchen, expect for recently I’ve done my fair share of dishes. Today, I woke up ate instant oatmeal -ironic I know coming from the girl heading to culinary school- boarded the 6 train and off I went down to soho.
Upon arriving at the ICC (International Culinary Center formerly known as French Culinary Center), I instantly was a chicken without it’s head on. I went in the wrong entrance and couldn’t find the students services center where I needed to go to get my ID badge - yes, I know so official. Finally had an executive chef get out of the kitchen and direct me in the right direction. I met up with my group- 2 girls from Paris, 1 from India, 5 boys (none are for me, but super helpful around the kitchen because of their experience), and then other girls 1 who is Asian, 1 from Tennessee straight out of high school, 1 who has been to culinary school before, and then that leaves me! Got my badge, went into the locker room and changed into my uniform. Hair was a mess but luckily got covered by the chef hat. (See picture below- I’m front row center- duh!).
My chef instructor’s name is Chef Butler, but we can only answer to him with “Yes, Chef!” or “No, Chef!”. We said our introductions and why we wanted to be here blah blah blah. At the end of my answer I threw in… “ I also love watching the Food Network” which I instantly regretted because the instructor went off on a whole tangent about how this will NOT be the food channel and if that’s why we are here- we have a better chance at getting a job there if we go to an acting coach because that’s all it is. Oops! Don’t want to give him the wrong impression! Also I didn’t help my cause when I leant on the counter because my feet were hurting and I was hotter than the streets of Ghana. When the instructor, in the middle of class, asked if I was tired, I said no “It is just so hot in here, I’m going to pass out”… he laughed and asked what I did before. Later in the lesson, he says wow I’m hot, how come nobody said anything.. staring right at me as he made that comment- haha and I told him “I’m keeping my mouth shut”. That’s probably where the saying comes from “If you can’t take the heat, get out the kitchen”.
So, today to jump to the “meat and potatoes” of the day- we learned how to cut vegetables using different French knife skill techniques. For instance, we used the julianne, jardinière, macedonie, and brunoise techniques meaning we cut veggies in all pretty shapes, sizes, and in different arrays. We used turnips, carrots, onions, and shallots to try our newly learned techniques on. Emincer means to thinly slice food and ciseler means to finely dice onions and shallots. We kept all the extra scraps to use in our mirepoix which are unshaped chunks used as aromas for stocks later on.
We also learned how to make vegatables A’Langlaise which is used to cook vegetables prior to service for reheating at the time of service. We also learned how to prepare vegetables A’ Letuvee which is preparing vegetables to order or a la minute. In addition, I learned a parchment paper technique that I must have asked my partner to explain and help me do multiple times because I kept messing up. What happens in the culinary classroom is that the chef instructor demonstrates at the front of the room how to carry out the technique and then you are supposed to become a sponge and absorb every step. Well here comes the chicken without her head on again. We had to prepare these dishes in thirty minutes and then present them to our chef instructor. Ugh hello!? Come again. I didn’t know I volunteered to be on the TV show Chopped on the first day of school. My poor partner Mai, she is super sweet and a lawyer back in India, was only able to boil her turnips, didn't even get to the tomatoes nor carrots. My first go around I let the turnips turn brown because I put too much butter and not enough water- oops… I guess listening to Paula Dean all these years really isn’t such a good idea, you end up in trouble! Frankly, I thought my browned turnips were delicious, but that wasn’t the assignment. My second go around came out good. The instructor said I did a great job with the tomatoes, but I need to work on those knife skills! I barely sliced my finger- thank the lord! But, two of the boys did.
This is a picture of my work space and the dish to your left are my final vegetable products! Wohoo go me! Go me!
Day one was a blur and my “dogs” aka feet are on FIRE. Cue the Alicia Keys song “this girl is on FIRE”. Even with my Holland-esq kitchen clogs on, standing on your feet from 9-3 with ONLY a 30 minute lunch break is no joke- brings me back to my Teach for America days. I thoroughly enjoyed my day and look forward to another epic and comically entertaining day in the kitchen as this little lady continues to learn simple kitchen tasks like where the stove is.