Happy Labor Day, Friends and Family! I cannot think of a better placed 3-day weekend on the calendar than this one. Kids are back in school, weather is still nice here in CA, and it’s a great day to relax outside or a productive one inside getting ready for the week ahead.
After a lovely day biking on Angel Island yesterday, I’m playing a little catch up and reflecting on last week. I am happy to say I made it through the first week of cooking school! My feelings were all over the board, but last week went a little something like this:
Monday morning- Where am I going to park? How much traffic will there be? Will I like my instructors? Who are my classmates? What if I’m the oldest or only one with kids? Will my uniform fit or look dorky?
Monday afternoon- Parking and traffic was fine. My instructors are awesome. My classmates are younger AND older than me. There was a cool mom of 4. My uniform fit just fine and after a few washings will be less crunchy. I learned how to make a French Omelette, something that my kids can do better than me. But, at the end of the day, I felt overwhelmed. I got in my car, turned off the radio and felt like crying… there was just so much information to take in that I began to doubt my decision of going to school. What did I get myself into? Bedtime 8pm, if I can make it that late.
Tuesday morning- Today is a new day. It cannot be as overwhelming as yesterday and I can do this. I know where to park. I know how to put on my uniform. I know a few people’s names. My instructors taught me so much yesterday and even made me laugh. I’ve always wanted to know the best way to roast a chicken and make homemade stock.
Tuesday afternoon- I’m beginning to know my way around the kitchen. I learned how to dice a carrot (harder than you think!). Rather than my usual lunch at home of almond butter on a banana and standing in the kitchen, I sat down to a simple and delicious meal of roasted chicken, butternut squash and apple soup, salad and warm crusty bread. And talked to people- adults! I’m tired but it was a good day.
Wednesday morning- Feeling comfortable with the commute, I take the time to call my sister on the east coast to tell her “thank you” for inspiring me to follow my passion. Sister went back to school in her early 40s to become a nurse and I know seeing her do that as a mom allowed me to consider such a crazy idea for myself.
Wednesday afternoon- Highlight of the day was a talk by a guest Chef, Craig Stoll. He is one of the early deans of the cooking school and chef/owner of the Delphina Group in the Bay Area. What an honor it was to listen to his experience in the food world and strong work ethic behind his successful restaurants. He tells his chefs that you “lead by inspiring,” and that’s just he does. Feeling inspired by the talk, I called my mom on the way home to tell her about my week. I also was sure to tell her how she inspired me- my mom went back to school to get her master’s degree in her 60s and now is a licensed Marriage Family Therapist with her own practice. Needless to say, I come from a strong group of women in my family and they continue to inspire me each day. I think I’m going to do just fine in cooking school. It’s in my genes.
Thursday morning- Mac and Cheese today. Now this is going to be fun!
Thursday afternoon- An afternoon walk is not a bad idea. That Mac was no joke. My partner and I decided to use our new skills of making a bechamel sauce and make Mac and Cheese with smoked cheddar, roasted poblano pepper, scallion and baked with a parmesan panko topping.
Comfort food at its best. How did our chef instructor know we all needed a little comfort food this week?
Friday morning- Earlier start than usual so that the pro culinary (my class) and pro pastry class could have a Granola and Omelette Social. During my elementary school teaching days, an early Friday morning meant a box of donuts or bagels and that made us all pretty happy. But to begin a Friday morning with the sole purpose of tasting the 10 varieties of granola the pastry class put up all week? What a treat. It wasn’t all chatting, there was work, too. Our class had to teach them how to make a rolled French Omelette. I was impressed by their first hand at it! This a great group of people and I am excited to go through this journey with them.
Friday afternoon- In true Friday fashion, we got to do a fridge dive and clean it out by making a few things without recipes. Under some expert guidance of our instructor, my
partner and I made a delicious roasted carrot hummus and another team made a tasty fresh pea, mint and pecorino spread- all enjoyed on some toasted bread (crostini).
To finish the day, we had a butter tasting, a salt tasting and a peppercorn tasting. Have you ever eaten butter on a spoon?? Our family jokes that my mom likes some bread with her butter, so she would have likely enjoyed this exercise. I already knew that one of my favorite things about a good quality restaurant is the bread and butter. It’s either memorable or it’s not. Lazy Bear in San Francisco has bread and butter that you cannot easily forget. As for the salt and pepper tasting, let’s just say that if you still have that blue little canister of salt with the lady and umbrella on it, get up and throw it away right now. It’s gross and leaves a chemical taste on your tongue. I threw ours out over 10 years ago and magically (not) my cooking changed for the better. Diamond Kosher salt is the favorite of chefs, cheap and will change your cooking immediately if you make the switch. And, you will use less salt that you did before. As for the peppercorn tasting, black peppercorn is the most widely used. White pepper is used in foods where the black may stand out like mashed potatoes and white soups. I tried a Szechuan peppercorn and all I can say is it left my mouth feeling a bit tingling and numb with the faint taste of anise (liquorice) flavor. I was kinda glad it was the end of my day because my tongue had fallen asleep!
What an exhausting and exciting week.. A 3-day weekend is just what the doctor ordered, but I cannot wait to go back on Tuesday!