29 September 2005

First week

Lordy, what a week! It's been something of a shock to the system for Chef-ette to have to recalibrate her brain back onto "sponge" setting, and soak up information in a non-stop stream. All this back to school malarky takes some getting used to. Thank goodness I have a rum and diet coke sitting in a tall, icy glass within arms reach, as I set down a short recap of the highs and lows of the past few days...

First the highs. I'm really starting to love the morning cycle ride. To say that cycling utterly beats taking the tube is akin to saying that crisp, golden chips cooked in beef fat taste better than their soggy, pale microwaved cousins. Last Wednesday morning, for instance, the sun was shining as I rode along Rotten Row through Hyde Park. Looked up on my left to see all the Horse Guards mounted in formation, kitted out in full regalia, as two stunt men suddenly rode past on a horse at full gallop while a film crew zoomed along on a dolly capturing it all on celluloid. You certainly don't get that on the Circle line!

Chef-wise, I've been getting very good feedback on seasoning and texture of soup/sauces. It's also been a revelation to be shown the time-tested methods. I've read loads of references in cookbooks in the past that refer to the need for a 'whirlpool effect' when poaching eggs, but whenever I'd tried it, the egg white always ran into ribbons. Having seen it demonstrated once, it became clear in an instant what I've been doing wrong all those years. (To any foodies out there keen to do it the right way, having created a vigorous whirlpool with your wooden spoon, you need to let the whirlpool slow down considerably before easing your egg into the simmering water.)

On the downside, it's blatantly apparent that I have a lot to learn before approaching the professional standard. My julienne carrots were criticised for being too close to 'matchstick' size. (Who knew there was a difference between julienne and matchstick?) And I never seem to be able to get cleaned down until 30 minutes after the session was meant to finish. Presentation is also going to be a weak point. It's not easy to garnish finely chopped parsley in a perfectly straight line over hard boiled eggs napped with mayonnaise, I can tell you.

But the instructors have been pretty kind to us at the beginning, and so I've ended this week with more enthusiasm than dread.

Good weekends all!

26 September 2005

First day

First day of term today, felt good to be starting at last (even if we didn't get to cook). Consisted mainly with the staff introducing themselves and explaining the rules. Basically, it all boiled down to 'Don't Be Absent or Late' and 'Prepare For Class'. No surprises there.

Not sure yet what to make of the instructor for my class. He says he's really strict on "working clean". No doubt he'll have to drill some bad habits out of me (a tornado, who's used to sprawling bits and pieces all round a big kitchen). On the plus side he's Irish, so I'm hoping that he's long on people skills and common sense.

Only disappointment for the day was finding out how small the lockers are. Imagine trying to fit several food containers, two knife rolls, shoes, aprons, and uniforms, as well as a handbag, a cycle pannier bag and a helmet into a space the size of a small microwave oven. Am praying the receptionist will take mercy on me tomorrow, and let me hire a second locker for all my cycle gear.

Have found out there are two annual prizes, for the students with top marks in food and wine respectively. Definitely something to aim for.

25 September 2005

Back to school

Hello, it's Chefette here. Welcome to my mid-life crisis. I've quit the job in banking, bought the knives, and handed over the admission fee to a well-known London cooking school. Tomorrow, for the first time since grad school, I'll wake up with those first-day-of-school butterflies in my stomach, as I begin a 9-month course on cuisine, patisserie and wine.

I'll try to regale you with as many mouth-watering and amusing exploits as possible in the coming months-- and will hopefully make all you working stiffs jealous as all hell as I enjoy my career break.