Rantings of a chef in training

This is my journey as I return to school and work in a profession I once dabbled in as a means for funding an after college 7 year long ski trip...not as a viable career choice. I hope I entertain, enlighten and learn something from any readers I may attract.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Not enough Time

This evdeavor has taken a back seat to my studies.You will see what I mean. Marketing class= 1 project. Catering Management= 1 HUMONGOUS project (our only grade) Quantity foods= 8 hours a day x 2 days a week, and costing every recipe, and the expectationn we students will volunteer at at least one f&b event a month, and then trying to run my own evil empire as well. Yes, I love it! I love the time comsuming beast known as school. Yes, I had a hard start this semester, 2 deaths in the family and the stigma of sitting out after my car accident and not knowing my new classmates. But I will only put out a small rant.
Why aren't my chefs aware that all students are there to learn? I am in upper level classes. The weeding out has aready occured. The herd of students has been thinned. With Dean's List grades every semester, I obviously take my education seriously and work hard to prove I deserve to be treated seriously. But because I am a 36 year old woman, I have a hell of a time finding other serious students to pair with. I have been relegated to the dishroom more than I have cooked! Oh..and the partner I got stuck with is the one who shows up late, never gets or writes down the full instructions and spends part of lecture and daily breifing asleep! I spoke to my chef suggesting to him that maybe he could assign partners so we could be exposed to others in our class. I explained that I felt hindered by my partner and wanted to get the most out of this experience. Anything change? You betcha. The next meeting, it got worse. Of 12 students, guess who was doing the dishes? Me, my partner, and the only other woman in our class. Did I mention 2 of us are black, and we are all over 25 years old? Guess who was doing the cooking... all young males just like our instructor.Physical disparity? Perhaps... I hate the caste system employed by this instructor. I am a good student cook, I am serious, I am paying for this out of my shallow pocket, and I recreate every dish we make at home. I always am in uniform ready to roll, and I take the time to make a mise list and read and copy my recipes (even putting one on a card for my pocket and one in a plastic sheet cover for later placement in my binder) On my last cooking final, I scored a 98, and was the first student done, and first with a clean work space. I believe in myself and my abilities, and ask only relevant questions. I volunteer for everything I can take on but every damn time a boy gets chosen over me. I want to work hard, and learn. I am not training for a job in a dish room, I want to be a chef, dammit! Do I feel like part of a minority? Absolutely!!! Why are the older women singled out as weak and unworthy? I think I could go head to head with any guy in my class but if I never get the chance, how will I ever now? Please Chef instructors of the world, BE FAIR!!! If you have nontraditional students, treat them the same as the more traditional students! We are spending our own money, not Dad's, and are probably more focused than some of our classmates. (My opinon... I remember my first degree and the 6 years it took to earn and balance my very busy social life. Brought to you by the letters I for immaturity and U for unfocused) I want an education not a free pass to good grades via the you-can't-screw up-your grade-in-the-dishroom Express. I want to screw up, get yelled at and fight for a B. I want to accidentally burn myself. I want what the others get! I can stand the heat, put me in the kitchen!
How would you deal with this? I can understand the 22 year old boy who was quite vocal that he did not want to be my partner, youth. (yes, the little bastard hurt my feelings, but I actually appreciate his POV, I wasn't born old!!) I understand that the older students are more likely to exhibit professional behavior and may come across as uptight. (get to know me, then decide....we may have similar hobbies and tastes LOL) I get it. I am different than you. But, isn't the chef there to give all students the same education and opportunity to learn? If a student asks for a challenge, give it to them, if they fail, they fail. That's the thing about learning! If I fail, I will die trying to succeed. I went to school with the goal of being the best I can be, that's all. I didn't realize my Chef thought my goal was to be the best dishdawg I could be. I will not go so far as to use the word discrimination but it kinda smells that way......

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

School's in!

Yesterday was the official start of school. I don't have to be on campus until Wed, but my online classes opened yesterday. I have a real love/hate relationship with the first few days of the semester. I love getting the new school supplies and getting organized but I hate the cluster fuck that comes with setting priorities, and getting a feel for what can be last minute and what can't wait. Some classes are very casual and require only common sense, while others demand attention ASAP. I actually have already turned in 4 assignments, primarily start up stuff. I am as ready as possible for tomorrow on campus, having packed my knives, and cleaned my uniforms after 6 months of non use. I had to drop all in person classes last Jan after a car accident.I will be taking Quantity this semester which basically translates to working in the school's restaurant until December. I am excited about the pace, and the menu, according to the syllabus, looks great. We will be briefed this week on Fall's menu selections, and I will share it with you as soon as I can. I will also be keeping everyone up to date on what we learn in my classes and post recipes with technique notes and observations as they are discussed at school. Now I feel like I am getting closer to the mission of my blog...an outlet for school and life from an older student's perspective. Beware! Until I catch my groove and less serious students are weeded out due to natural selection, there will likely be lots of ranting. However as a crumb, I offer this... Public speaking online. Yeah, I found it humorous and sort of an oxymoron, too. That is until I signed up for my in person presentation. Now it makes a little more sense.
Okay, y'all..... it's go time!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mission completed!!!

As promised, I am reporting on the catering gig. The result was flawless, with a call from my step mother last night giving me a glowing review, and promising more business. Getting there was a whole other story. As I said the other day, I had done a dry run and deemed the results good. Well, Tuesday morning was chaos. I woke up early to pad my production time, and thank God for that. The first two dozen biscuits were sad, pathetic, place adjective here. It seems that in my nervousness, I rolled the hell out of the dough and produced what appeared more like biscuit cookies. I cried as I took them out and examined them. I was frustrated, and sans coffee. Luckily, I was able to correct my mistake, and continue on to make 101 appropriately thick biscuits. Success. Next came assembly. As I cut and opened the biscuits, assembling them ten at a time, I used a basting brush to "paint" melted butter onto each side. Of course, in addition to taste, this provided much needed moisture since the goods would not be consumed until the following morning. Two large pieces of thick sliced ham, were then placed on to 98 of the biscuits. Wait...98? Didn't you promise 101 ham biscuits? Yes and yes. Sigh..... luckily, when I had the ham sliced at the deli, greedy little me requested a dozen sandwich thickness slices as well. So, I stacked those slices together and cut them to create the illusion of being the same. After all, the same meat was used for the others, and approximately the same thickness was achieved. As I packaged my wares in fancy little boxes (with cute name tags with the name of my operation on them) I began to think about delivery. They were due at 2:00. Of course my car broke down on Saturday, and the mechanic was coming to give last rites later Tues afternoon. (which in itself is another rant for another time) So at 12:30, I began trying to reach my best friend and "delivery guy" He has a no phone policy at the beach, and left me sweating until his 1:20 arrival. Personally I think he enjoyed it, as he loves picking on me like the sister he never had. At 1:50, Tuesday afternoon, the dropoff was complete. The lady who was actually in charge of coordinating the breakfast opened the boxes, and was pleased. Those are scratch! She proclaimed. She really thought I was going to use store bought biscuits and just pass the dish off as homemade. She also marveled at the size of the ham portion, smiling with anticipation.I was delighted that I had clearly exceeded her expectations. As I collected my check, I visited my stepmother's office. She has a great picture of my late father from back when he was still in good health. I clutched that check in my hand, hopefully the first of many, and silently thanked my Daddy for all he'd done and taught me. With tears in my eyes, we left and the first official job by my new venture was over.
Later that night, I was able to unwind by meeting my family, in from Atlanta, at the beach for some crabbing and fishing. Yup, despite the cookie biscuit fiasco earlier, Tuesday has to be honestly one of the best days of my life. I learned that I can do what I set my mind to, and fairly well at that. I just have to calm down a bit. I also learned to shirk my cheap ass ways and have ALL the ham for the next project cut uniformly and revel in the delight of a thick ham sammy should there be leftovers, or just not tempt fate and plan on eating turkey.
Last night, we had a celebratory dinner complete with steak, baked potatoes, and corn. I was so stirred up Tuesday, I had no time to immortalize the very first paid product I'd ever done, but I did take pics of dinner last night because it was so good, and really a celebration of my first solo success.It is featured in the margin. I know the potato does not look like a baker, but I am a skin girl married to Captain Starch so we split the potato for practicality and so he can hog all the chives.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Be right back....

lots going on... but there was ham biscuit success.....more to come! I will try to put down details tonight.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dry Run or The 5 Ps

Prior preparation prevents poor performance.
Yup, I don't know if you care to call me anal or just a dork, but I did a dry run on the extremely cost effective biscuit recipe tonight. It went well. So well in fact, we had bacon biscuits for dinner. The ham is being saved for tomorrow. I did make one ham biscuit tonght just to have the hub test for quality of portion size. I got a 2 thumbs up. All systems go!

First solo gig

I am very excited today. Tomorrow I have my first solo gig. I have always been focused on being a caterer, for that is why I chose to go to school. I am only halfway through my formal culinary education so I made the choice a long time ago to NOT tell people I am going into catering so I could learn the business through experience and classroom time. Of course those close to me, my cheerleaders, have all known my ultimate goal and subsequently requested a favorite dish from me from time to time. That has been a great practice ground, and I have honed techniques and strategies during these "dry runs." Now I have entered a new dimension. I got a call last week from my stepmother asking if I would like to try my hand at the "real thing" that is, cooking for people I don't know, and attaching my name to said efforts. Assured that this would be easy and really nothing I haven't done before, she made a simple request and I said yes. So now, I am really looking forward to making a favorite southern treat. The ubiquitous ham biscuit. Actually I am looking forward to making a hundred of those bad boys. Easy? Yes. Probably a little boring and redundant? Yes. But I cannot wait! They are due tomorrow for consumption on Wed. morning. I will be making them tomorrow so they will be ultra fresh when I deliver them. I am excited for the opportunity to make a little money for myself doing something I love. It's like my own Olympics. I have been training and dreaming about the day I finally started making money for myself not someone else. Cocky? No. Nervous? Yes. But I am sure the staff will enjoy my offerings, and hopefully call me for more. I still am not looking to go full fledged yet, as catering management is actually a class I start next week. I do hope though that I will field a random call here and there for an order. I feel like I can do this if it is only word of mouth, as the big caterers will always be a first option for most of these folks. Plan B is exactly what I want to be right now. I accept that really this should be my current station in life. I am not yet ready to run with the "big dogs" I know this. A hundred ham biscuits is not exactly a foray into the wide world of catering but a good start. I will finally get feedback from strangers, not afraid of hurting my feelings. I am thrilled! I have made my shopping list, and found cute boxes at the paper store, and am ready for the challenge. I have printed an invoice as required by stepmother's employers. (yeah, I felt like I was "playing office" when I designed and printed it, just like a little girl!) and competitively priced my product. I will take pictures and post them tomorrow. If the oven craps out, we'll have a rant, otherwise this happy chef in training will be back tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thanks for making me who I am.....

I lost my father back in May. It was very difficult and I swore off funerals for at least a year. This week I had 2 more I had to go to. I just want to thank Gram and Gary for helping me become the person I am today. Y'all both had the list right, God, Family and Country. Thank you for loving me and teaching me........

Not such a pleasure

Again, one of my top 5 fave blogs has gone to hell. It seems there is a troll who has effectively turned me off. This nutjob managed to post under several different names, with each one having a different unsavory point of view. I am saddened that this psycho chose to turn a healthy discussion area into something where normal people like me are afraid to comment due to the rediculous replies. Nevermind the fact that I witnessed personal attacks on folks I respect who come off as balanced, opinionated (in a healthy way), and far from malicious. This jerk went so far as to dig up private info and threaten to exploit a person who in my opinion really has nothing to hide. This is disgusting. I am seriously considering issuing a warning not about this site but the fringe element of freaks the blogger's (well deserved) fame is bringing. I refuse to name names.Why won't I do it? Simple. I respect the owner and am capable of discerning blogger from commenter. It would not be fair to the blogger. This person is busy doing what attacted me in the first place (writing very well) and does not deserve anything but praise. Still this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. There is no effective way to eliminate the bad without alienating the good. I am frustrated by the lack of courtesy the troll extends to his host the blogger and the otherwise amiable audience and participants. I am uncomfortable by the threats and personal attacks. If you have aggression you need to turn loose, join a fight club or take martial arts or ride your bike as hard and fast as you can (call Ed for safety lessons, he is what is rght with cycling...a proactive educator) Do something, anything. Just please get out of the belltower with your laptop. When used by fairly sane people, the comment section of any blog can be enlightening and fun. I have learned plenty of great things and had many lol moments. When used irresponsibly, it can turn an otherwise good experience into one that leaves people on the fence about further particpation. That is where my seat is these days.
So..... what can be done? Obviously the blogger can delete comments at any time. I got rid of an advertisement on here the other day because all 5 of us that know this corner exists don't need to deal with that. But what about the highly successful blogs run by folks who may not be able to monitor comments daily (or monthly as is all I need) How should that work? As exhibited on the blog in question, replies from the other commenters only added fuel to the 7 named snake's fire. (yup something like 7 screen names!) Ignoring this kook only spawned other screen names and opinions, and the frequency of seeing his/her names on the screen actually shot up. The need for attention was amazing. Now after being called out in an equally scary way (I choose not to elaborate but let's leave it at fire with fire) the troll has gone back under the bridge. But not before doing exactly what he set out to do....scare off particpants. I am done with commenting as this is the second freak I've encountered in 4 months. While I doubt any of these sociopaths could ever actually track me down, I am sick of being afraid of comments and threats. I am sick of negativity on other's sites. I have my forum for ranting, and it affects nobody's readership but mine. It's like being at a pool party versus giving one. You can play Ratt's greatest hits at your house and that is fine. I'd opt for a mix of beach music. You can do whatever the hell you want at your house but it does not have to be okay at mine.The same is true for my cyber living room. If it is not appropriate or in the spirit of the blog you are visiting, go and put your fingers of fury to work at your own site.
Still she digresses. Has anyone got any creative solutions for dealing with lunatics on a blog? Or to tie this into food somehow, what do you do when your favorite restaurant is not as appealing because of a few bad patrons that are always there when you are? How do you breach this without being "that complaining dude"?
Lastly a crumb for thought..... does Ratt even have enough songs to warrant a "greatest hits" or does that just falsely imply they had more than one hit?