Culinary School: Day 2

I waitressed all throughout high school and again in college and I loved it.  All of the smells of the day's menu wafting up once you punched through swinging doors to enter the kitchen.  The hustle and bustle of the cooks, waitresses and sometimes management flying around the kitchen, yelling, slamming down plates, pots and pans clanking, knives snapping up and down rhythmically, I loved the excitement of it all and I didn't realize how much I missed it until I went to culinary school.

Grilled Chicken with Kumquat Cranberry Chutney
Yesterday I had a 14 hour day in the kitchen.  I was up at 6 AM to get ready and to take the T out to the other side of the River and then didn't get home until well after 10.  It's my own fault really, I scheduled my class and weekly seminar back-to-back so that I could free up some time for the rest of my week to accommodate a part-time job of some sort.  Not to mention the thought of rushing out to Cambridge another day of the week just for a three hour seminar didn't really appeal to me.  However, as long as my day was, it certainly didn't feel that way.  The hours seemed to tick away and I was caught up in the buzz and excitement of the kitchen, not to mention a whole day of learning.  No bones about it, it was long, it was tiring and by the end of it I was so exhausted that I was just happy that I mustered enough energy to take a long hot shower, enjoy a quick glass of wine, and call it a night.

Rich with cinnamon, ground star anise, ginger and cloves
So what are some of the highlights of my day?  Yesterday's focus was on fruits and spices followed by a knife skills seminar.  Some of my ah-ha moments were realizing that green beans are a fruit (they have seeds, and I know the rule but really? Green beans? A fruit?), a quince tastes sort of like a really tough pear, a pomelo sort of like a grape fruit, I actually do like guacamole (after all these years!), cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world (preceded by #2 vanilla bean and #1 Saffron) and for as long as I've been holding a knife I've been doing it all wrong.

Fruit Compote
In addition to all that I learned, I also got a lot of hands on kitchen experience and got to try a bunch of new things.  I made a personal deal with myself that when I started culinary school I would try everything that I possibly could and that I would challenge myself by volunteering to make things that I had never attempted before.  Yesterday I made a fruit compote (basic yes, but I had never made one before so I wanted to give it a whirl) and my shining star of the day, grilled chicken breast with a kumquat cranberry chutney.  This plated beautifully and tasted good, rich with spicy cinnamon, ground star anise and cloves.  I was really proud of this dish because with the exception of cranberries, salt, pepper and chicken, I really hadn't worked with most of the other ingredients and especially not in a commercial kitchen.

Sweet and spicy, thick with reduced dried and fresh fruits
Additionally, I realized yesterday that the other part of the whole kitchen experience that I missed was that sweet satisfying exhaustion that sweeps over me the instant I stop running around like a chicken with her head cut off.  There is such a beauty to it.  Face glistening with sweat, legs so sore I just hope they hold me up for a little while longer and feeling so out of it that I have to think hard to even remember my name.  There is such a sense of accomplishment and pride in all it.  That feeling was earned and in this particular case, was accompanied by mass amounts of new skills and knowledge that make all this worth every penny.


Olga @ MangoTomato said...

green beans are fruit? Just like a tomato? Interesting. So are cucumbers fruit too b/c they have seeds?

Now I know cardamom is the most expensive spice: I thought it was saffron. It's like I get to learn with you :) Thanks!

Daisy said...

You learned so much in such a short amount of time. thanks for sharing it all with us. You journey is pretty incredible so far.

Jen said...

I'm loving hearing about your adventures at culinary school. The chicken sounds amazing!

Elizabeth said...

Omg, I would love that fruit mixture with some crusty baguette and some cheeeese.

Alicia said...

Those pictures are GREAT - such gorgeous colors!! I'm so excited that they're letting you photograph!

Amy said...

I KNEW I would love reading about your adventures at school! I love your description of the happy exhaustion - it's great, isn't it? Congratulations to you for doing what you love!!!

Megan said...

I did not know that about green beans!

When you were talking about loving the smells, I was remembering how much I loved the smell of bread baking when I got to Flour in the morning... but I really didn't like all the food smells clinging to me after I left at the end of the day!

Your compote looks fabulous!

Kruzon said...

There is a new, less expensive, informal type of culinary arts school springing up across the nation. They fall under the label of recreational culinary arts schools. They are usually held in some ones kitchen, similar to a Tupperware party, with as few as 4 students to a class where hands on technique intensive classes are delivered. One such school is opening in Portland in May 2011 and will be training recreational chef's for their personal cookery enjoyment and entrepreneurs for their affiliate home based cooking schools.

Mom said...

Katie everything looks so good! So proud of what you have accomplished so far....fabulous!!

Justin said...

I really can't wait to keep reading all of these posts. It's like going to Culinary School vicariously through you. Congrats again on taking such a huge and awesome step.

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