The Beginning – Term 4

Our Term 4 started with a First Aid course and the first couple of weeks we were back with the pastry students who were with us during the 1st and 2nd Term.

Our first day in the kitchen we found a Mystery Box. Each student had 1 starch, 1 vegetable and 1 protein. And we had to come up with a recipe for two trays of buffet style food (1 tray for starch and the other for the protein).

My box had a leg of lamb, parsnips/green capsicum and lentils.

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We had 2 days to do some research, cook and present the dish. It’s funny how I would see what a couple of my classmate got and immediately get the image of a dish I would do. But then I would turn to my ingredients and my brain would just freeze.

I made Crepe Parcels with the Lentils and Vegetables along with Lamb Schnitzel with Caper Sauce.I wasn’t hundred percent happy with it but everything tasted amazing. And I never ever thought that caper sauce would taste this good. It was almost addictive that I had to do it again at home.

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In class we learned about culinary and restaurant history.

Did you know that Italy had a great influence on the French cuisine?

Caterina de’ Medici and Maria de’ Medici were from the House of Medici, one of the wealthiest and most influential family in Italy. They respectively married Henry II and Henry IV of France. When they moved to France they brought their personal cooks and their cookery ideas.

I was fascinated by the story of the pioneers:

  •  Boulanger who opened the first restaurant and the sign he wrote was “ Boulanger sells restorative fit for the gods”. Restaurants used to sell beef consomme where unwell people would go to get restoration.
  • Careme who had the greatest influence in the culinary history. He was a great writes as well and published eight cookbooks. The first chef who was concerned with the art and beauty of cooking and plating. He developed creative decorations for buffet and centre pieces. He had a great influence in kitchen equipments and chef’s uniforms.
  • Escoffier was known as “The Chef of Kings and the King of Chefs”.
    He was inspired by women in making restaurants elegant. Women were not used to go out dining at restaurants. And restaurants didn’t need to have cutlery at the table. The fashion of that moment required women to have white gloves most of the time. So Escoffier revolutionised everything so that women wouldn’t have to worry about getting food on their gloves.He developed new dishes and sauces and many cookbooks with precise quantities/methods t follow.He gave the brigade structure to the kitchen that still remain till this day.

 

We learned about the creation of menus and buffets.

Our next practical was on desserts for buffet. It is much complicated to make food for buffet than a la carte. You must take in consideration that the food must be individually portioned, easy to serve and if it can hold its shape/taste etc for circa 2 hours.

Chef assigned everyone a dessert and mine was Opera Gateu (my favourite). I have never ever done an Opera cake but knew that there were so many items involved. I relied a lot on my friend Sunnie who is a pastry student and she guided me a lot before the day I had to make it came.

I decided to change things up a little bit. I made an Earl Grey Tea Ganache and I admit that chocolate and earl grey make the perfect marriage ever. We had to do one whole cake for 10 portions and 10 individual ones. And I decided to deconstruct it a little bit. I made Macaroon with Coffee Buttercream Filling and Coffee Praline.

I made a mistake with the macaroon batter as they came out flat. And I made a mistake in layering the opera. The last layer should have been buttercream and ganache on top while I just put the ganache. Overall I was satisfied as I made Opera the cake that I consider is the most difficult to make. And it tasted just like it should! Chocoffeeishly Good :)

OPERA GATEU

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 OPERA MACAROON

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Another day in the class and we learned about pates, terrines and galantines. And everyone got assigned what to do. I had Pork Pate en Croute (hot water paste) with a sauce.

But unfortunately I had a shoulder injury and missed the class.

I asked Chef that I was really eager to make it anyway and he gave me a chance to make it for the final buffet.

I couldn’t wait for our curing and preserving class to come. I was assigned Salame, Lambcetta (lamb pancetta) and Bone marrow and Onion jam. Even if I have Italian backgrounds I have never ever made any Italian cured meat. And I learned that it is really easy and cheap to make your own cured meat. You must pay extremely high attention to hygiene as you are dealing with raw meat. And you need a hanging space in your fridge. The supplier didn’t have any lamb belly so I ended up with the pork. Some students had a go at smoking. All done without a proper smoking gear which made things adventurous and fun. Got addicted to smoked mussels…My mouth is watering just thinking of them. They tasted like chargrilled corn and the sea.

We had to wait the day before the buffet to taste the salame and pancetta. And I was way more than proud of what I had accomplished thanks to a great challenge. They came out beautiful and tasted incredible.

PANCETTA

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SALAME

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A couple of weeks before the buffet was time for us to make our centre pieces. There were margarine carving, salt dough sculptures and logs to be done. We really really had fun binging out our creative side.

I was looking on google for an idea for a margarine carving. I really didn’t want the classic christmas theme. I wanted something different and fun. I stomped onto a half female bust and I posted it on Facebook. My classmates reacted well to the idea. And so I decided that I was going to try to get it approved. My chef gave us white paper…Yess!

SKETCH OF ORNELLA

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My partner was Bruno, a talented chef and friend. I am so happy we created this together and we had fun making it. Lots of laughter and lots of ‘it’s getting hot in here’ moments. But as usual there was also a scandalised reaction by others. We were satisfied with our work and at the end we both agreed that if it wasn’t going to get on the buffet we would take her for a drink. Bruno baptised the bust as Ornella. And Ornella made it as the centre piece of the dessert table.

There aren’t many women in a commercial kitchen. Due to so many reasons:

It is a physically hard and very demanding job, it can be a roller coaster emotionally and you need to be someone with a very very high self-esteem and self-control. You must be able to stay focused and block any emotion even when your head chef is yelling your ears off. You need to be able to understand that during service everyone is under pressure and whatever is said is not meant personally. You need to leave your attitude, tears, fears and personal problems before you step into a kitchen.

A kitchen is well balanced when men and women are working together. I believe that men and women are not the same and have different ways of seeing things. These different views and opinions can be united and create a balance in a kitchen.

STRUCTURE OF ORNELLA

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I may be a little controversial but I actually enjoy working with men. Here is a description of me by hubby: a man’s brain trapped in a woman’s body with a feminine spirit. I absolutely hate dramas and love straight talking (mixed with dirty jokes).

And I absolutely love the fact that Bruno calls me bro, makes me feel part of the boys club…lol

COVERING ORNELLA WITH AL-FOIL

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Some other times kitchens are run by chef’s who just think that women are not capable to cook. They tend to think that women should stick to pastry or not cook at all. They are free to have an opinion and to set their kitchen in the way that works out for them. That’s ok with me!

ORNELLA ALMOST READY

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The bust was meant as a celebration of women in every aspect of life. And if someone saw porn or perversion in it well I just can say “get a life”! Life is too short to worry too much!

Disclaimer: Ornella was not made out of dust nor mud and no male ribs were involved!

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The most nerve wrecking experience in the whole term was making the ginger bread “light” house. We still managed to make it with a great team work. Thank you Pinkie :)

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And after our written exam, came the last two days in the kitchen. We were coking for the end of term buffet. The guests were agents and people from the hospitality industry.

I loved our buffet menu. It really looked interesting and delicious!

Final Buffet Menu

We worked our way very smoothly through the two days preparing everything. We finished right on time without stressing or running around. Everything was ready before the guests arrival.

SEAFOOD PLATTER

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MIXED MEAT PLATTER

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ANTIPASTO PLATE PER TABLE

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GAZPACHO WITH GARLIC CROSTINI SERVED IN SHOT GLASSES

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BANOFFEE SUNDAE

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WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY TIRAMISU

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WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY TART

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WATTLE SEED PANNACOTTA

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VIETNAMESE PAPAYA SALAD & BABY BOK CHOI HOKKIEN WITH WAFU DRESSING

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BOCCONCINI AND HEIRLOOM SALAD & POPATO AND CHIVE SALAD

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TWICE COOKED CRISPY PORK BELLY WITH SUGAR DIPPED CRAB APPLE

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SALMON GRAVLAX

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CHARRED STUFFED BABY SQUID WITH KIMCHI AND ASIAN FLAVOURS

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There was a strange feeling those days. It was as if everyone deep inside realised that it was the last two days where we all were going to be in the kitchen all together. I would like to believe that everyone tried to make the most and the best of it. The food prepared was incredible and beautiful. Wow how far along have we all come! It was also a bit emotional to have a good laugh with a bottle of beer at the end.

I would like to thank my Head Chef from work for taking his time to show me how to make good decorations on my pate en croute. I also made a Smoked Salmon parcel (was supposed to be a tian) with Potato Salad, Avocado Cream and Citrus/Chilli Dressing.

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Our last term at the college will be the beginning instead of the end.

The college is a protected environment where we were learning and we were expected to make mistakes. We were being trained for our future. And the future just begun!

Photo courtesy of ACAE 

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It is time for us to start a hands on experience in real kitchens. It is what we have all been waiting for.

Who knows where this life will lead us and where each one of us will be in a couple of years from here. I can only say that I had a memorable and precious year.

I have some amazing plans for the future and will be working hard to make them happen.

Usually people get into this profession at a very young age yet I made the decision at 30.

But I am glad I got into it at a mature age and convinced that it was truly what I wanted to do for life. I am glad I had hubby, my dad and brother (who kept encouraging me from Italy), amazing friends and classmates that have shared the ups and downs of my personally challenging year.

Thank you!

marco

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