20 January 2006

Knowing the price of everything

Chefette begins this week giving thanks and praises to Kiwi chef Peter Gordon, for bequeathing unto the world his recipe for Fruit & Nut Biscotti. Made them in class the other day and was really pleased with the outcome. So generously crammed with apricots, dates, almonds and other little treasures, they make you realise what a rip-off are the ones from Starbucks, Costa, et al. These coffee chains have the gall to charge around £1 for what amounts to a bit of flour, egg and sugar, with the odd sultana or nut inside. In all, probably less than 5p's worth of ingredients. People, I'm outraged that they can get away with it, when there are much more delicious biscotti in the world that wouldn't cost very much more! (Okay, tirade over.)

Other than that, last week's class repertoire focused heavily on traditional gelatine-based puddings of the type that were probably popular in the 1950s and 60s (vacherin, bavarois, cold souffles, etc), and weren't hugely interesting to me. I'm willing to bet, though, that one of these will be on the practical exam. Lots of tricky technique -- mastering the stages of sugar syrups, bringing gelatine mixtures to setting point, folding in whipped egg whites and cream -- all the better to separate the men from the boys on exam day.

Top dem of the week was on Friday. We had an outside presenter come to the school to do a game demonstration. This chap worked previously as personal chef to the Prince of Wales for 11 years, and had several stints with Michelin restos before becoming a food consultant. He did a couple of pheasant dishes, including a crown roast with the breast and a crepinette with the leg meat. But the piece de resistance was a superb dish of pan-fried fillets of hare, served on a mound of earthy lentils and morels that had been enriched with veal stock. (He says that, with the exception of venison, he never uses game stock in game dishes, as it simply makes the taste too strong.)

Anyway, all the while he was cooking, he was tossing out any pearls of wisdom that popped into his head, whether about ingredients, the style of cooking he liked, or showing us successful alternatives to some of the 'rules' we've been taught. The more we get to talk to experienced chefs, the more I've come to realise: that chefs know the price of everything; that in order to be successful, you have to obsess constantly on how to make dishes that are profitable as well as delicious; and that anyone who launches a full-time venture into this cooking malarky at age 40 is going to have a harder time of it than those who started young, just because of the physical demands of the profession!

Last bit of news is that I got a lead on a paying job for a dinner party. A lady wants to hire a student, in the hopes that if the one dinner party goes successfully, they can do a number of dinner parties in the future. Anyway, I don't want to talk about it too much in case I curse it. Suffice to say it was a nice little confidence booster to find out that my name was one of only a few from our class put forward by the Scotsman.

A bientot a tous.

No comments: