With just days to go before we had to begin preparing for our big Restaurant Week finale, we enjoyed a few super fun days at school. Early December in San Francisco calls for Crab (and Octopus!) Day. It is one of our founder’s favorite foods and the mascot of our school, afterall.
Caught only hours before and delivered to our kitchen, we learned how to boil and roast dungeness crab before cracking it for its delicious meat. Also, using Matthew Dolen’s method from 25 Lusk in SF, we blanched, poached and grilled the octopus. Kokkari’s famous lemon vinaigrette was served with this tender octopus dish.
And for the final fun day before we went head’s down in menu development, we celebrated with Donut and Burger Day. Yes, on the same day! This is only achieved by an early morning workout and a light breakfast. Donut Day began with our surprisingly easy yeasted dough being mixed, kneaded, cut out and proofing overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning happen to be Burger Day with our pastry friends, so this is how the 2018 collision of Donut Day and Burger Day occurred.
With our final exam behind us, which I’m happy to say was my best exam yet, we were able to focus on the culminating event of cooking school- Restaurant Week. This is where members of the community, guests of students, visiting chefs, etc. come in for lunch. It is run like a restaurant- there are two seatings, servers, line cooks, head chef, etc. We played all the parts (except head chef!) and it was definitely eye opening for me. At the time I had zero experience in the front of the house or back of the house of a restaurant, but nearly all of us felt more comfortable in the back of the house. This may seem obvious, we are professionally trained cooks, but the front of the house details are what really make a restaurant run smoothly. Serving people good food is a lot easier (to me!) than understanding someone’s dietary restrictions, remembering to bring them their second glass of wine, bringing a fresh spoon for dessert, keeping their water glass full, delivering the right plate to the correct person (darn you person at table 2, seat 3 that moved to seat 5!), removing their dirty plate in a timely fashion, etc. It’s no joke. I have a whole new appreciation for all people that work in restaurants with this experience.
To prepare for Restaurant week, our class took a few days to brainstorm any and all dishes that we’d like to consider putting on the final menu. We narrowed down the list, and came up with an amazing menu: amuse bouche, 4 appetizers, 4 main dishes, 4 desserts and a little give away treat for guests to take home. I learned so much with the process of menu development. I learned that while some dishes are tasty and so fun to make or eat, not all dishes make for an easy one to prepare ahead of time and finish on the line during service.
I must say, the final menu that was developed was pretty impressive. The plating was carefully planned, the balance of dishes thoughtfully considered, and there was a great deal of recipe testing to end up with our final dishes. They were beautiful. They were tasty. And we were proud to make and serve them. What an experience!