A Day In The Life Of An American Culinary Student Blog
As many of you know ChefTalk has a large number of culinary students who are part of the ChefTalk community. We thought it would be great if we could find someone who would journal there experience of going to culinary school from start to finish. ChefTalk is pleased to have had the weekly writings of Logan Worley. Logan attended Culinary School in September 2001 and has since graduated. While attending school Logan took the time to jot down his experience and posted it online here at ChefTalk. Below are the journal entries of Logan for the entire time he was at culinary school. Many of the entries have pictures. Read up on how to get ready for culinary school, and what the experience is all about.
Hello everyone... Nicko at Cheftalk has asked me to post journal entries to Cheftalk's "Day in the Life of a Culinary Student" board so that others considering the culinary field can see what I do at school and on the job. A quick background on me....
I'm 30, married, no kids and this is a career change. I will be attending Culinary School in September 2001. I have been accepted to the "Garnish Your Degree" (GYD) program at the Johnson and Wales Denver Campus. For those of you unfamiliar with the GYD program, it is a program for students who already have a bachelor's degree in anything. It's a one year accelerated program and I will earn my AA in Culinary Arts. I already have a Bachelor's degree in Business from Chico State University in Chico, California.
I currently work a cubicle day job and work at a fine dining restaurant 2-4 nights a week. We are starting this post long before my school starts so I can post throughout my restaurant experience now and my transition into school and beyond. To catch you up with what a "newbie" or culinary student can expect, so far I have done the following in my first 6 months....
- Peel, chop, dice, peel, chop, dice - Work pantry (salads, desserts, appetizers, pizzas) - Work "middle" (plating, saucing, presentation) - Work the Grill - Prep and work fundraisers, street fairs, art shows (including grilling 500 filets for a fundraiser, that was cool) - Take coworker to the hospital for stitches - Burnt my hand and thumb - Attempted (unsuccessfully) to cut off my left thumb
Upcoming Posts.... - Weekly posts on what I've experienced - Johnson and Wales Campus visit - Hectic holiday season - Moving to two new restaurants after the new year - Spanish language school in June - Any further trips to the emergency room
Being my first post, I don't want to ramble on. But I want to start with some advice that I got from the Cheftalk bulletin board. GET A COOKING JOB BEFORE YOU GO TO CULINARY SCHOOL! I cannot stress the difference between chopping parsley for 2 hours and watching FoodTV. To me, cooking in a restaurant is NOTHING like cooking for friends, family, entertaining, bbqing, etc. For the most part, it's the same plates night after night. Find a Chef that needs part time work, even offer to work for free. You may not remember every recipe, but you will learn technique. And more importantly, the increase in your confidence will be invaluable. You will also gain speed and efficiency in your movement. One day on the line and you'll find yourself moving faster in everything you do at work and outside of work (I'm typing this faster). I have been at my current restaurant for 6 months and after the New Year will be moving on to 2 high-end places to learn pastries. I have been lucky enough to be paid at my current restaurant, but I won't be at the two new places. But if I were working for big money, I wouldn't be going into the Culinary field to begin with. :)
Thanks for listening and more to come soon...
Cheftalk id "theloggg"
Table of Contents
Pretty normal week for a December, so I've been told. It's my first December in the biz. Worked 3 days , 2 at the restaurant, 1 at a catering gig for 100.
12/6/00 Worked the pantry and prepared dessert plates for 1 party (16 top). Not a bad night, no mad rush.
12/9/00 Worked the pantry and prepared dessert platters for 2 parties (47 and 22 tops). Made all the salads for the parties, which meant 47 caesar salads for one party, 10 mista and 9 caesar for the smaller party. It was a typical busy Saturday night and had to do the salads in the middle of a la carte orders. That put me in the weeds for a few minutes.
12/10/00 Worked a catering gig for 100 people. 5 of us worked it, 1 on the bar, 3 prepping food and 1 person as extra help/gopher. Did a lot of prep work. Made 6 cheese and fruit platters (manchego, asiago, feta, mozzarella), assembled 200+ bruschetta of three variations. Worked the turkey carving/oyster shucking table. Constantly refilling stations and whatever else needed to be done. That's all for this week. I'd imagine most of my posts will look similar to this until the New Year, which I have to work the Eve of. That will be my first taste of a "Chef's Schedule". I had my choice between working Christmas Eve or NYE. Fortunately, it'll be a very nice set menu (which I will get to enjoy as well) and we'll be out from behind the line in time to celebrate the New Year with everyone else. -Logan
12/13/00 We sold ½ the restaurant to software company for their holiday party, group of 65 or so. Same routine as the last party, 50+ salads in the middle of a la carte. Fortunately, this time a la carte was mellow so I never fell behind. Also "prettied up" the dessert platters. With ½ the restaurant working off a fixed menu, the night was a little slow. A break I would savor knowing what lied ahead for me on Friday...
12/15/00 I went in dreading this night. We had a full house (140 seats) booked all night and had two parties scheduled. When I got there, the chef told me to grab a coat I was going with him. Alright!!! Ended up going to another catering job for 100 or so people. Most of the food was already made, so all I had to do was assemble bruschetta, shuck oysters, get the presentation set up and refill stations when needed. Left the catering gig after a few hours (it could run itself) and returned to the restaurant. Place was packed, ended up working as a "runner", refilling stations as things were needed. Also pulled watercress for 45 minutes, not horribly exciting. Returned to the catered party to clean up and back to the restaurant to unload. Got done around 11pm, then went out with the Chef for a drink (or 2).
12/17/00 Worked the middle of the line (finishing the cooking from sauté, plating, saucing, etc.). What started as a mellow, low stress night quickly turned busy. We only had 40 on the books at 5:30pm (we are open from 5-9pm on Sundays) but ended up serving over 100. And my guess is 85% of the orders were for the sauté station, as opposed to the grill, which kept me very busy. -Logan
12/19/00 Started off shaving filet mignon for 10 plates of carpaccio. While I was prepping the carpaccio, the Sous Chef cut through her nail. No stitches this time, just a couple band-aids. The cooks were in a "let's see who can get one up on the next guy" mood. This involved everything from an olive down the back of the shirt, to an anchovy stuck to the back of a coat, to a handful of flour being unnoticeably thrown onto the back of pants. Not an eventful night as far as cooking goes. Worked the pantry, had a small party. Party salads and dessert platters during a la carte, but being a Tuesday night, things were manageable.
12/21/00 I was greeted with "If you have a dollar you can join the 'How Many People We're Gonna Serve Tonight' pool." We were going to be busy. We seat approximately 140, at 5pm we already had 125 on the books. And we had a small party in a side room. As it turned out, the Kitchen Gods were merciful. We ended up serving 138 and the Exec Chef won the pool with a guess of 139. You think he's done this before? Worked the pantry all night. Misread a ticket once and it caused a slight back up. Party salads and desserts during a la cart, but the timing was good so they didn't cause an order traffic jam. On this night I was the one who went home with flour on the back of their pants. Hope everyone has a good Holiday. See you next week..... Logan
12/28/00 - Mellow night, worked pantry. Unfortunately nothing exciting to write about for a typical busy Thursday night.
12/30/00 - Tonight the callus on my pointer finger turned into a blister. I was prepping most of the afternoon for the New Years Eve dinner. Diced butternut squash for 45 minutes, mirepoix for 45 minutes, herbs for ????, whatever was laying around for ????. Let's just say I was dicing and chopping quite a bit. Also witnessed my first wresting match between 2 line cooks that work together, but don't really like each other. One of those things that could turn serious if pushed far enough. Fortunately, enough of us were standing by to keep the humor in it as they tangled each other up. They played nicely the rest of the night. As far as food goes, it was a typical busy Saturday night and I was in the pantry again. Same pantry routine as the last 6 months...salads, appetizers and pizzas. After work I joined the Chef in the bar for just one drink....
12/31/00 - ...now I did say "just one drink", didn't I? Ahhh, New Years Eve. I was going to gloss over most of the details outside of cooking, but my Chef suggested I write about everything that went on during my New Years Eve. I learned a tough lesson about life in a restaurant; hangovers and cooking do not mix. After finishing a hard night on the line, it isn't uncommon to grab a drink after the restaurant closes. In addition to being a tough night, it was my last regular night at the restaurant. I thought I'd have a drink and talk shop with the Chef, see what kind of feedback he had for me, etc. Unfortunately, my "just one drink" quickly turned into a few too many. After closing 12/30, I sat at the restaurant bar with the Chef, my wife and sister-in-law. The drinks were free, so the Chef and I were quite liberal with how many we drank, how much we poured, etc. Saving you from the details in between, New Years Eve Day I ended up in the emergency room for dehydration. The hardest part of the entire evening wasn't the IV in the top of the hand (but that was a VERY close 2nd), it was the feeling of letting the line down. I know I'm a part time worker, and at this point not a very good cook, but there is a camaraderie that you build with your team. To not show up on time for an event like New Years Eve isn't fair to the others. I knew that I was still expected to be at work so after 3 hours in the ER and 2 liters of IV fluid later, I was standing on the line serving NYE's dinners. If there is one thing I have learned through my work the past 6 months and the reading I have done, it is that cooks show up, regardless. I felt like I had saved some face by getting there, granted I was late, but I was there. As for my actual working, it was a good night. We had two seatings, one at 5pm (which I missed) and one at 8pm. Served two types of salads with the NYE menu. One was a spring mix with balsamic vinaigrette with a warm goat cheese torta. The other was a roasted beet salad with raspberry vinaigrette. Midnight came, I passed on the champagne toast, said my good byes and went home. HAPPY New ye...zzzzzzzzzzzz... Next week I'll be starting pastries at a new place and hope my journal becomes a bit less dramatic. -Logan
1/6/00 - A new year, a new adventure and no emergency room! Started at the new place bright and early on a Saturday. First thing I made was Pate A Choux. It's a pastry made of water, butter, salt, eggs and bread flour that is used to make crème puffs, éclairs, etc. Then I went on to mix a Goat Fromage Blanc ice cream base. While I was mixing the ingredients for the Fromage I was baking off Apple Galettes and Brioche. After the Fromage I made Fig Tarts. I rough chopped dried figs, mixed with sugar, lemon zest and balsamic vinegar. Cut pastry dough into squares and laid the fig mixture onto the squares. Added a quick egg wash on the corners so I could fold over and seal. Pinched it closed with a fork and threw it in the walk in. I finished with Apple Tarts. Cut pastry dough into rounds, topped with an apricot something-or-other (a French word I don't remember), almond crème and a cone formation of sliced apples. At the end of the day I met the Exec Chef and we chatted briefly. He's a CCA graduate and spoke highly of Johnson and Wales (I was glad to hear that). He invited me to come in and jump on the hotline whenever I'd like. I'll take him up on the offer soon and keep you posted. -Logan
Got to the restaurant before the chef and started on the Pate a Choux. Felt very independent this week. Finished the pate a choux before the chef arrived and moved onto baking off the galettes and brioche. Made the fig tarts and the apple tarts again. Next Saturday the Chef will be teaching me a bunch of new things and I will be going in Wednesday to work the hotline. Gonna try to get in twice a week (one for pastries and one for hotline). Since my entry is a little short this week, I put together a list of a few things that have worked too help me prepare for culinary school. Take a Trip- I was having trouble narrowing my school choices so I went to check them out in person. Just a single day orientation/tour can help to eliminate schools and cities that don't work for you. I visited 4 schools, two I liked. One was good but too expensive, and one I thought was just ok. That was an easy way to eliminate two of the four. A decision between the remaining two schools was tough because I liked things from both, but Johnson and Wales won out in the end. I would not recommend attending a school you have not visited, especially if it's in a city you are not familiar with. To me, the city atmosphere/restaurant scene plays an important role in the entire experience. If your budget does not allow for a $20k+ school and/or you want to stay close to home, check local community colleges. I was surprised to see how many of them had Culinary programs. The cost was usually slightly above whatever the college normally charges per unit. Survey- As I started contacting schools I was finding that every school considered themselves the best around. I quickly learned that making a decision based solely on information from the school was going to be impossible. That's when I thought "Who would know better about hiring based on school reputation than Chefs?" So before I decided to randomly visit schools (which I could not afford anyway) I used a survey to help me narrow my choices. I sent a brief survey to Chefs in seven large cities, which included both cities that were close to a school I was interested in and cities that were not. I sent out 56 questionnaires asking Chefs whether they would hire one Culinary School grad over another based solely on the reputation of the school they attended (with grades, experience, everything else being equal). Of the 56, I received 31 back (55%) with responses. 70% replied with a "No Preference Given Based on School Reputation". The remaining 30% was distributed evenly between 3 schools. This survey worked great for me because I was not limited to a certain region. I would go back East as soon as stay West if I thought the school was worth it. If you know which part of the country you want to do your schooling, you can narrow your survey to that area asking for opinions on local schools. Not only did I get the advice I was looking for, I received plenty more. I received contact information, a few good words of encouragement, schools to consider that were not on my list (J&W was not on my survey but came back as suggested a few times and that is where I will be going in the Fall) and I even had two well-known Chefs offer me internships and a job if everything worked out. I'll be keeping those notes and holding one of the Chefs to it someday. This may also help you to eliminate schools, saving you from spending money on an unnecessary visit. Read- I recommend "The Making of a Chef" and "The Soul of a Chef" by Michael Ruhlman, "Becoming a Chef" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page and "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain. These are all entertaining and inspirational books that gave me a little taste of what I can expect in school and beyond. Some of these books are available here on Cheftalk. Volunteer- Look for experience wherever you can find it. If you can't find a paying gig, volunteer at a restaurant. I have had a paying job for the past 7 months. I will have one, and if everything works out, two non-paying gigs in early 2001. Just before I landed the paying gig in June I began looking for other ways to gather experience. I was going to start working at a food shelter doing prep work, but the restaurant job came around. I also tried to volunteer at Sur La Table as an Assistant for their cooking classes, but never heard back. If you have a Home Chef store in your area, they offer cooking classes where you can sign up to assist. On the tortuous retail side, I worked at Williams-Sonoma briefly to learn about equipment, make a little side money and take advantage of the generous discount they offer employees. You can never have too many toys. Get Feedback- After you start working get as much feedback as you can from everyone around you. In my case, too much feedback is better than not enough so you can decide which to weigh heavily and which to disregard. The info I will use the most is the feedback I got from my Chef during one of the last nights at my restaurant. He said "Stay busy." Even if you don't have anything to do, find something to do. There is always something to do. And by him telling me that, I now know the Chef sees more than you think and little things like cleaning the slicer or freezer when the pantry is slow can be enough to put you ahead of others on the line. These are just a few things that have worked for me. You can always find similar advice on the Cheftalk "Culinary Students" bulletin board.
1/17/01 - We have a 600-person party on 1/20 so I went in to help prep for it. Made and piped out 500 savory profiteroles. It only took me about 300 before I had the technique down. After I baked those off I made shortbread cookie dough (plain and chocolate) for checkerboard cookies. I met the Pastry Chef from a restaurant around the corner. My current chef worked for him a few years back. Once I've put in a few weeks where I'm at I'm going to start working with the other chef as well. I've only got a few months left to gather experience so I'm going to be fitting in work wherever I can.
1/20/01 - We were closed for dinner because of the 600-person buy-out so all we needed to do was prep for lunch and finish the pastries for the buy-out. I got in about 45 minutes before the chef and did my usual (pate a choux, baked the brioche and apple galletes, made the fig tarts). After the lunch desserts were behind me, I made zabaglione. I have made this before but this style was slightly different. The water bath was at a simmer as opposed to a boil, we used Muscat wine (had previously always used marsala) and we folded in whipped cream at the end. After the zabaglione I made 300 Russian Tea cookies. Those were surprisingly easy to make (butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, flour, toasted pecans). Baked off the cookies, went home and took a long nap. -Logan
1/25/01 -The night started out with me meeting the, for lack of a better term, "Super Executive" Chef. He's a well-known Chef that runs three restaurants in the area but doesn't spend a lot of time in the one I'm at. In our brief meeting he mentioned Johnson and Wales was a good school and I was glad to hear that. From there I mixed the dough for Madeleins, twice. I screwed up the first batch. I headed downstairs and talked with the Executive Chef (the chef that is there on a nightly basis) for about 15 minutes and then he threw me behind the line to observe. Compared to the last place I was at, this line is huge. There were 10-12 cooks running the line at any given time. The place seats 400 so I'd imagine we could turn out 300-800 dinners on any given night. The last place I was at had 140 seats and 200 was a busy night. I think the most we had cooking behind the line on a regular night was 6. So the new place is quite different. The volume is going to be great experience. I spent a couple hours watching the best cook, trying to remember everything he threw into every dish. Next week the Chef is going to start moving me around the line, cooking where I can. At the end of the night the Chef gave me some advice I thought I'd pass on. He said, when I'm in school try to work at a high volume place. He said my cooking skill will come through school and working on a daily basis, but it's the speed that really counts. Once I have the speed/volume down, I'll be much more valuable to the line. He also mentioned, if I can afford to stage (work for free) while in school, I should do it. He said to find the nicest restaurant in the area and offer to work for free if they can't pay. The experience of working at a well-respected place will benefit you greatly in the future and working for free shows the Chef a little more dedication. Unfortunately, unless I run into a boatload of scholarships, I don't think I'll be able to afford staging.
1/27/01 -Got to the restaurant bright and early and started with the pate a choux as usual. Threw the apple galettes into the oven. This time I assembled the brioche and baked it off, usually I just bake them but we needed them asap for lunch. Made a batch of Zabaglione after the Brioche. After the Zabaglione I made 33 fig tarts (a few extra for the Super Bowl party I was going to. Free labor has to have some perks, right???) and 25 apple tarts. Today was the most time I have put in on a Saturday. I got in at 8:45am and left at 2:15pm. -Logan
Lately I've been thinking a lot about where I want to end up in the culinary world. I'm finding the more I work with pastries the more I want to do nothing else. It is truly amazing what can be done with 4 ingredients (flour, sugar, butter, eggs). I have been told that at my age (31) going the Pastry Chef route isn't a bad idea because of the shorter distance to making decent money. I can become a Pastry Chef in 3-5 years versus 7-10 years for a Chef. Since I have found a great pastry mentor at my current restaurant I'm going to take advantage of that and see if pastries is really what I want to do. I'll be focusing on pastries, and not the hotline, for the rest of my staging. Also, I have made a decision not to make any decisions. I am not going to decide which direction I will go (Chef vs. Pastry Chef) until I get through J&W. With all the new things I'll be experiencing in school it wouldn't make sense to decide without all the information. And I'm starting to drive myself (and my wife) crazy with all my talking about it. I sure am glad she's patient. My second pastry location has been arranged and I'll be starting there the week of 2/12.
2/1/01 -Got in at 6:00pm and found out the Pastry Chef went home sick at 4:00pm. There wasn't a ton of stuff for me to help out with but I was there so I put in a few hours and made a couple new things. The first thing I made was a Bonet (chocolate and Amaretto base for a crème caramel). After the Bonet, I made cranberry compote, which was the best cranberry anything I have ever tasted (if I do say so myself). Also cut a large sheet of fudge into 1"x1" squares. That wasn't very exciting, but the "trimmings" sure were good.
2/04/01 - Catfish can be blackened, Redfish can be blackened, apple galettes cannot be blackened. Burnt them so badly I felt sorry for them. A quick word of advice, timers are fantastic and very easy to operate, use them. Because of the torching I had a running nightmare Saturday night that I kept burning everything I threw in the oven. I'd wake up in a panic after pulling a burnt something out of the oven. Went back to sleep, burnt the next item, woke up in a panic again. So, other than burning the galettes, I made pate a choux, fig tarts, apple tarts, zabaglione and my new item was a coconut milk pastry. For whatever reason I felt "off" today. Had less to make, but finished later than usual. Not sure why, but everyone is allowed an off day every once in a while. Burnt a finger as well. Burning seemed to be the theme for the day. -Logan
2/08/01 - Put in 5 hours tonight. I was pretty busy and everything I made was new to me. Started with cinnamon dough we are going to use for heart shaped linzer cookies on the Valentine's menu. Next I made an almond jaconde that we use as a base of our chocolate mousse. Watched the Chef make an Italian Meringue and the chocolate mousse. We took a break and walked over to the other restaurant I'll be at to check out the kitchen and talk with the Pastry Chef. We talked for a few minutes and settled on Wednesday being the night I'll stage. So it looks like Wednesday at the new place and Thursday, Saturday at my current place. I'm finding that the place I'm currently at was the worst possible place for me to start, as far as a facility goes. The pastry area is huge, has two large tables, 2 convection ovens, 3 pizza/bread ovens and a huge window with a great view. From what I have been told, most pastry areas are a small corner in the kitchen. When I saw the new area I'll be working in I thought, "Where's the rest of it???" When we got back I made a batch of Almond Lace cookies. Those are pretty cool. They bake very thin and you can shape them anyway you want and fill them with whatever sounds good. I think we are going to use them as cups for sorbet. Since I was there so late, I got to help scrub the place down. But I also ended the night with a plate of sea bass and garlic mashpots, I'll trade free labor for free food any night.
2/10/01 - Started with the usual Saturday morning work. Got through the pate a choux, brioche, apple galettes, fig tarts and apple tarts. After the usual items I set the pantry for lunch service, something I hadn't done before. After setting for service I went back upstairs and started my new item for the week. This week I made apple chips. I thinly sliced apple on a slicer and poached them in simple syrup (even parts water and sugar) until they were soft. We tossed them into a low heat oven until done. They are used as a decorative piece on one of our desserts. Next week I'm thinking about going in at 5am to work with the baker. Opening a bakery has been one of the many things I've considered doing in the culinary world. With my recent exposure to pastries and breads I have been thinking about it quite a bit. If I can manage to fall out of bed at 4:30am on Saturday I'll make it in. If not, I'll be in at my normal 8:30. Within the next couple weeks I'll post the highlights and photos from my trip to Johnson and Wales in Denver. -Logan
2/17/01 - Didn't make it in at 5am to work with the baker, maybe in a couple weeks. Got a bit of a break this weekend. The pate a choux and fig tarts were already made so I moved onto baking the galettes, assembling and baking the brioche and making the apple tarts. After the apple tarts and family meal (the best part of the day) I made apple chips. This week my new item was warm chocolate truffle cake. This cake is unbelievably good and it is rumored that it got national attention as one of the best chocolate cakes around. The Pastry Chef told me he heard it was listed in Playboy as one of the best, but unfortunately we haven't been able to confirm. And if we did confirm it, it would only be to read the chocolate cake article. I met the catering chef for the three restaurants in the restaurant group. Upon meeting me he said, "Welcome to the world of hard work and low pay. And I love everyday I come to work and wouldn't want to do anything else with my life." That made my day. Not sure if the staging at the second restaurant is going to work out. The scheduling is a little tough for me to make. The wife and I only have one car so we have to make all this work between our day jobs, her night classes twice a week and my current staging. I'm trying to get into another place and I'm hoping they can be flexible on the scheduling. I'll keep you posted. Only 118 more days until I drive off to Johnson and Wales, can't wait. -Logan
2/19/01 - My week started out with getting my dehydration emergency room bill (see 12/25/00 journal entry). $800 for two liters of IV fluid, ouch. I LOVE medical insurance. Mid week I was at home cleaning out a file of miscellaneous papers and came across a survey I took while at Chico State. It was one of those self-interests/future occupation surveys. I had completely forgotten that, according to my responses, the number one listed career field for me came back as Food Services. Human Resources came in second. Human Resources was my career choice and major at that time. The oddest thing was that I had never considered becoming a Chef or working in the food industry at all. Maybe those career surveys do know what they are talking about.
2/22/01 - Started the evening by making a quick batch of 24 apple tarts. Since I decided during the week of 1/29 that I wouldn't make any decisions on which way I would eventually go (pastry vs. hotline) until after school, I decided to jump on the hotline. Spent the evening in the sauté station doing a lot of watching and plating. I spoke with the Chef afterwards and he said I will focus on the grill for the rest of my hotline time. He feels being able to determine the temps and doneness of fish and meat will really help me out in school. My plan is to go in three times a week, twice on the line, one doing pastries. -Logan
3/1/01 - Tonight was the first night I actually felt like a cook. Just as the Chef said last week, he threw me on the grill and I worked with the line cook that has been at the restaurant the longest (3 years). My night consisted of chicken and pork skewers, salmon, rib eye steak and all the food that went along with them. Most of the side food was prepared in a sauté pan on the grill so the grill was a bit crowded at times. We also had a party of 17 that was having salmon so we worked that in amongst a la carte. I ended the night upstairs talking with the Pastry Chef and slicing a flat of strawberries from Oxnard Produce in Oxnard, CA, my hometown. -Logan
03/06/01 - I got to the restaurant around 5pm and started helping with the hotline prep work. Spent the first20-30 minutes deseeding and chopping olives. Grillorders started coming in shortly after I finished theolives. Tonight I worked with a cook that the Chefcalls his best cook. It's very easy to learn fromhim, he knows his stuff and is very patient. Thegrill work went pretty much the same as last time,skewers, salmon and rib eye. During a slow point inthe evening, the cook I was working with took off fora few minutes to grab a bite. Figures that as soon ashe leaves, 4 fire orders came in. I fired everythingand handled the situation like a pro, at least Ithought. The double order of salmon came back as too rare. Fortunately, the Sous Chef and cook said it was fine, these customers just wanted it done a little more than medium. Even though the salmon was cooked to an acceptable temperature, it sure is a frustrating feeling to have something sent back. I have to remind myself I've been working a grill for about 8 hours now, so it's possible that I make a few errors. But it's still frustrating
3/7/01 - Finally made it into the second restaurant. Thought I'd never get in because of scheduling issues, but it finally happened. For the first time I heard a Chef raise his voice. I'd heard the stories, but never actually been a witness to it. A waitress was trying to pull a plate away to soon and he snapped, Did I say you could take that? She didn't hear him and he repeated louder, she still didn't hear him. That was followed with a loud DID-I-SAY-YOU-COULD-TAKE-THAT!!! Then she heard him, as did everyone in the kitchen. I started the evening by making a banana cake. I flattened it onto two half-sheet pans and baked it. It looked like it was going to be the base of something because it was a very thin cake, maybe ½ inch thick. From there I made brioche. At my other place I bake the brioche off, sometimes I cover it in almond paste and then bake it, but this time I made the brioche. The Pastry Chef explained to me what to look for as it was mixing in the Hobart. After the brioche I mixed a coconut mousse. For whatever reason I don't remember much of the coconut mousse. I made four things in about 3 hours and the recipe ingredients and processes are starting mix together as I think back. Oh well, I'm sure I'll be making it again. The final dessert I made was Almond Mousse Cookies. These were really good. I made the mousse then added a mix of ground almonds and few otherthings. I threw that into a pastry bag and piped them out. Piping out cookies sure looks easy when thePastry Chef is doing it. Took me a few tries to make them look somewhat like the chefs. He said No problem, we'll pick out the good ones. I replied, All five of them?
3/10/01 - Pretty tired and the Pastry Chef was a pissy mood due to two hours sleep the night before (he has a1-year old with a cold). Fortunately he was in abetter mood within an hour or so. Started the day with the usual pate a choux, baked the brioche and apple galettes, and made the fig tarts. Didn't have to make apple tarts this week, we had enough made. After family meal I made almond cream and goat fromage blanc ice cream base. I could have just sat there with a spoon and eaten the entire bowl of almond cream. That stuff is so good.
03/12/01 -Took a bit of a break this week, March Madness got the better of me. My schedule will be changing quite a bit in the next few weeks. Because I'm leaving for school in June I want to spend time with the many friends I have in the area. I was lucky to have a bunch of college friends all end up in the Bay Area with me. Since my weekends are becoming booked, I'll be doing once or twice during the week. The change will be good experience because weeknight production is different from Saturday mornings. And it'll give me a chance to be on the hotline more.
3/17/01 - Started the morning with the usual pate a choux, fig tarts, apple tarts and apple galettes. We dropped the brioche from the menu and replaced it with a different loaf dessert. Not sure what it is called, but it's a Mediterranean dessert. I baked off the new dessert and made a huckleberry sauce to go with it. Followed that with helping set for service and whipping up some honey-whipped cream. When the Chef and I get around to it, he's going to teach me to make puff pastry. He feels puff pastry is an important thing to know, both for pastries and hotline food. Sounds good to me. Only 77 more days until I drive off to Johnson and Wales. -Logan
03/19/01 - Didn't feel like working the hotline tonight so I spent the evening upstairs making pastries. Started with pastry cream. It is very important to not skip the sugar listed on the recipe. If you do, you make a second batch. The second batch of pastry was much better. I split the cream into two batches, ¾ in one, ¼ in the other. I melted chocolate and added it to the ¾ container, added Grand Marnier to the ¼ batch. After the pastry cream I made an Italian meringue and folded the chocolate pastry cream into the meringue. I piped them into molds and threw them in the freezer. The frozen meringue will be set on circle of pate a choux, topped will a couple crème puffs filled with the Grand Marnier pastry crème and dipped in caramel, then topped with lattice made from pate a choux. So in short, I made the special dessert for Friday night. Also made a Grand Marnier chocolate sauce. Finished the night with a plate of rabbit with polenta, black trumpet mushrooms and a balsamic sauce. That's a great way to finish a night.
3/22/01 - Got a nice break this morning. The Chef made the pate a choux, the fig tarts are no longer on the menu and we had plenty of apple tarts already made. I baked off the apple galettes and made Madelines. Didn't use enough non-stick spray on the mold the first time so they stuck. Second time they fell right out. Next I moved onto our new dessert (replacing the fig tart), which is an Orange Flower Water Semolina Cake. The final thing I did was bake off Russian Tea Cookies. I left at 12:45pm and headed over to the second restaurant. I was kinda beat so I only put in another 1.5 hours. But that did give me enough time to make Cinnamon Pastry Cream and Cinnamon Chocolate Mousse. Saw what a broken pastry cream looks like and how to fix it. Learned the different stages of melted sugar (soft ball, hard ball, soft crack, hard crack). It's a bit tougher to work in the second restaurant because of the facility. It is very small and things aren't always easy to find. I get tired of asking where things are and I don't work there enough to know where everything is. Fortunately, the Pastry Chef is a patient guy. -Logan
3/29/01 - Every Friday the Pastry Chef puts a special dessert on the menu and tonight he had me experiment with a chocolate tart recipe hoping that it turns out good enough to be the special. As of my leaving the restaurant Thursday night the tart was going to be the special. The test run came out great, so unless something happens overnight I'll have my first dessert on a menu. I started with a proven chocolate tart recipe and made a few changes to it. My first step was the walnut crust. I toasted the walnuts, chopped them, added simple syrup, butter and a very fine hazelnut chop to form the crust. I pushed them into tart rings, chilled then baked them. I then filled the baked crusts with a Grand Marnier Ganache. They went into the walk-in to chill overnight. After the tarts, the Chef taught me how to make puff pastry. We didn't finish them completely because the dough needed to sit a while to lose the elasticity. I did get to make the dough and incorporate the butter block for three turns. The Pastry Chef would finish them tomorrow. Now I see why restaurants buy, instead of make, their own puff pastry. It is quite labor intensive. -Logan
4/11/01 - The economic downturn hits home. Received notice at my day job that I'm being laid off May 11th. Fortunately, I was quitting the end of May anyway. On top of that, the restaurant has been extremely slow so any work I do takes away from the cooks who actually get paid to be there. Production has been reduced and there isn't as much work to go around anymore. In addition to the reduced production, the Pastry Chef is now working days, which until May 12th, I can't do. So, it looks like I'll be spending more time at my second restaurant since the Pastry Chef there can use me Wednesday and Thursday nights. After I get laid off I'll probably spend the days at the restaurant(s) doing prep work and working the lunch hotline. The only thing constant in my life is change, and I like it that way. For the few hours I was in tonight I made the same Chocolate Walnut Tart I made a couple weeks ago. According to the Chef, the last tarts chilled overnight and came out great. They did well as the dessert special, so he's going to add them to the daily dessert menu. I made 10 tarts that should be on the menu 4/12/01. Pretty cool to have an item on the menu. As for personal stuff related to the move to Johnson and Wales, two moving companies are coming to the apartment today to gives us moving estimates. Only 67 days more until we drive off to Denver. -Logan
4/28/01 - Been sick all week. I think the 40 eighth graders I took to DC last week wore me out. Was able to get out off the couch this morning for a few hours, but ran out of steam quickly. I was able to make apple and banana chips used as dessert decorations and a chocolate sauce. That was all I could handle before heading home. Still waiting to hear on my Johnson and Wales financial aid, should hear in the next couple weeks. Only 49 more days before we take off for Denver. -Logan
5/3/01 - As Kristy and I get closer to our move to Denver I'm finding less time available to get into the restaurants. I'm going to try to get in once a week between now and June 15th, but we'll see how the schedule looks. The lay-off date at my day job was extended to May 24th, which is good news. I'm thinking about going into the restaurants during the day between my lay-off and the move. Finally secured a moving company for June 18th. We heard today that we finally got an apartment. It's four miles from the school and has a convenient bus route if I need it. We are excited about finally paying reasonable rent. Never really thought I'd be excited about paying rent. But when a 700 sq. ft. one bedroom rents for $650, I get excited. We pay $1040 in the Bay Area with less space. My summer plans are firming up. A friend is getting married in Guatemala July 28th, so I've decided to attend a Spanish language school since I'll be down there. Looks like I'll spend 4 weeks after the wedding in San Andreas (near Flores) going to school and living with a Guatemalan family. I have seen how speaking Spanish is extremely helpful in the restaurant business. I've only been in three restaurants, but in all three, knowing Spanish would help me communicate with the other cooks/staff. Only 39 days until we leave for Denver, 123 until school starts. Not that I'm counting or anything.... -Logan
5/14/01 - AWork has definitely slowed down for me. Actually, it's more like a stop than a slow down. Due to layoffs at the restaurant I spent most of my time, it doesn't look like I'll be getting back in before I leave. I can still get into the second place but I'm not as comfortable there. The pastry area is tiny and the Pastry Chef and an assitant already rub shoulders in the very limited area. Stick me in there and it gets a little too crowded. I'm also not as familiar with where everything is and I feel like I have to ask for too much help. I'm just going to ride out the rest of May without staging and concentrate on getting the details of the move finished. I heard back from Johnson and Wales financial aid and I was granted a $2000 scholarship. I stressed the angle of what my income will look like after I graduate and have large loan payments to make. With me cooking and my wife teaching, we aren't exactly gonna be in the highest tax bracket. Looks like they saw my point and granted me the scholarship. The program will now cost me $20,000. I will be talking to a J&W planning rep soon to apply for a student loan to cover the $20,000. Have yet to hear back from the James Beard Scholarship Foundation. Other than J&W and the James Beard Foundation, I didn't have much luck finding scholarships or financial aid I qualified for. About a year ago I made contact with a Chef in Seattle and he made the offer of letting me do my internship at his restaurant. I sent a follow-up letter a week ago letting him know what I've been up to the past year and informing him that I was still interested in doing an internship at his restaurant. I'll let you know if I hear anything back. I also sent a letter to a Chef in New Orleans about the possibility of doing an internship with him but I never heard back. I called the restaurant last week as a follow-up to the letter with hopes of arranging a chance to meet with him when I am in New Orleans Memorial Day weekend. The restaurant informed me that the Chef is on medical leave but they would leave my name and number in his mailbox. I haven't heard back. I'll call again this week and see if I can speak with the next in charge to arrange a visit when I'm there. Bought my ticket to Guatemala and the language school deposit is paid. All my shots are current and my Spanish books have been dusted off. 34 days until we leave for Denver, 119 until Johnson and Wales starts. -Logan
5/28/01 - Week of 5/28/01 Johnson and Wales Financial aid got back to me and they granted me another $4150, so my total grant is $6150. That reduces my tuition to $16,000ish which is really cool. Now I'll borrow $13,500 instead of the entire $22,000. Still waiting to hear back from the James Beard Scholarship Foundation. I was in New Orleans last weekend so I arranged to meet with the Chef in one of the more upscale restaurants. We spoke for about 45 minutes on the possibility of me doing my internship with him. It sounds like I will have a shot at getting in there since I made contact with him so far in advance. 18 days until we leave for Denver, 102 until school starts. -Logan
07/02/01 - We finally made it to Denver. The drive was uneventful and more scenic than I had expected. The drive through Southern Utah and into Colorado was very cool. Unfortunately, we had a slight snag when we arrived at our new apartment complex. It wasn't exactly what was shown on the web. To put it nicely, it was not as maintained as the web pictures made it appear to be. So after an evening of stressing about where we were going to live, we set out to find a new place. The next morning we signed a lease with the first place we looked. We are very happy with the apartment we ended up with. It's about 4 miles from the school, same as the original place. Then we had to do another address change and get the new address to the movers before they showed up at the previous Denver address. Last week I checked in with the school and gave Kristy a tour of the kitchen facilites. The campus looks even nicer when there isn't snow all over it. I believe school starts September 10. Still haven't heard back from the James Beard Scholarship Foundation, but because of our two address changes we hadn't received any mail as of 6/27. We left for Maine on 6/28 to visit my parents, I sure hope there is mail when we get back 7/5. Speaking of Maine, I've eaten two lobster rolls (I love that lobster is so cheap out here), one crab roll and had a great dinner at The Lucerne Inn. I recommend it if you're ever in the Bangor area. My parents invited their friends over last night for me to cook for them and for the salad I did a mixed green with roasted red peppers, gorgonzala cheese, carmelized walnuts and a roasted red pepper balsamic vinagrette. For the main course I made grilled salmon with a mango salsa, garlic mashpots, asparagus with a balsamic reduction over the top. It turned out pretty good. My trip to Guatemala is all set for July 25-Aug 25 and I'll be doing some cooking down there. That should be a really cool experience. I'll end this journal with a quote from my Dad I think you'll get a kick out of. We were watching FoodTV and they were discussing olive oil. My Dad says to me "That olive oil is a big thing in the chef world. Is that like a natural Pam?" -Logan
- What an interesting couple weeks I've had. I was in Guatemala July 25th through August 6th and was able to eat some good food and some not so good food. From July 25th through the 28th I was in Antigua for a wedding. From the 28th through August 6th I was in San Andreas for Spanish school. If you've never been to Antigua, it's a tourist town and a good way to see Guatemala if you want a little of the culture but still enough touristy things to do. Unfortunately, the regional food in Antigua (and Guatemala in general) is not really great. I was lucky enough to find good Thai and Mexican food not far from my hotel. A Peace Corp friend who was in Guatemala for 2 years recommended we try the street food to get a taste of the local flare. We tried Papoos and Tamales. The Papoos was a tortilla with a little cheese baked in, topped with a thin layer of avocado and cabbage that had been mixed with vinegar. The tamales were your typical chicken tamales. Both were very good but I am not happy to report that we all got a case of "Montezuma's Revenge". My advice is to look at and smell the street food, don't eat it. Stick to the restaurants. From what I gathered, Guatemala is a poor country so the food doesn't vary too far from corn tortillas, tamales, eggs, rice, beans, avocados, onions, tomatoes, bananas, potatoes and cheese. Every once in a while you get pork or chicken. You get a lot of pork if the Dad of the house you're staying at decides to slaughter the pig at 2 a.m. twenty feet from your bedroom. Not only do you get startled by a scream like you've never heard, but you get to eat chichirones (fried pork skin) with tortillas and lime for breakfast. I tried them but can't say I'd eat them again. Before I left the States I knew I was going to be eating limited ingredients and it sounded good to me. However, I found out quickly that not much creativity goes into the dishes so you get them pretty much straightforward. While I was in San Andreas I stayed with a local family and the home food I ate contained at least four of those ingredients at every meal. Unless the family and I were eating slightly stale corn flakes with powdered milk, or Top Ramen. Overall, I would say don't go to Guatemala for a culinary vacation but visit Antigua for a nice look at the history and culture of Guatemala. I am surprised at how much Spanish I picked up in only a weeks worth of schooling and two weeks total in the country. I asked that my instructor gear my lessons towards Spanish used in the kitchen, which I'm sure will prove to be useful. We spent one afternoon in a traditional cooking class where we made Tamales de Chipoline. I had never eaten or cooked with Chipoline and I haven't been able to locate any information about it on the web. To me it had a very dull flavor. During my last weekend in Guatemala a group of seven students took a trip to Tikal to see the Mayan Temples. If you are ever in Guatemala or Belize, try to get to the Temples. From Flores, Guatemala, you can take a roundtrip bus ride to Tikal for $3. During our tour the guide pointed out wild allspice and coriander leaves. He said the Mayans used to make an anesthetic for dentistry from allspice leaves. I took a bite of a leaf and it did slightly numb my mouth. That's about it for my adventure to Guatemala. Once I get my film developed I hope to get some pictures posted. I finally heard back from the James Beard Foundation and they are in the process of notifying applicants on whether they were awarded a scholarship or not. Johnson & Wales starts September 4th, all my paperwork is in order and I can't wait to get started. -Logan
I received my registration and orientation material this week. My orientation is September 1st starting at 9am. From 9-1pm I'll go through registration and book and uniform distribution. At 2pm there is a Student Orientation Mini Session, at 5:30pm a Welcome Reception, followed by evening activities at 8pm. Along with my orientation information, I received a list of clothing and materials that will be distributed to me. The uniform/supplies I'll receive includes 3 chef's coats, 2 chef's pants, 4 aprons, 6 side towels, 1 neckerchief w/slide, 2 chef/skull caps, 1 pair of black shoes, 1 dining room vest, 1 dining room pants, 1 dining room shirt, knife kit and textbooks. We have class four days a week so I am going to pick up at least another coat and a few more aprons. I already have three pairs of pants so I think I'm ok on pants. I think it's worth buying extra clothing because I have been told by a J&W graduate that if my uniform isn't spotless I'll get sent home for the day. The grooming standards look pretty strict. My hair has to fit under my hat (not a problem with a shaved head), side burns have to be up an inch over the bottom of the earlobe and I can't have any facial hair. I was bummed to read I cannot wear clogs and watches are not allowed. My clogs are the most comfortable shoes I own. Oh well. Look for a more colorful journal in the next few weeks. I am going to be adding pictures on a regular basis. Still no word from the James Beard Scholarship Foundation. Only 18 more days until school starts. -Logan
I heard back from the New Orleans restaurant I was attempting to secure my externship with and the Sous Chef said he is expecting me to be there next summer. So it appears my first choice for an externship has been confirmed. If that didn't make my day.. I still haven't heard anything from the James Beard Scholarship Program. I received an email three weeks ago saying they were in the process of notifying students, but had yet to receive any news so I called them Friday and got the same response. School starts in nine days, finally down to single digits. -Logan
9/1/01- Today was the first day of orientation, and other than a little confusion on the school's part, it eventually went smoothly. I did learn that in the program I am in I have to do my externship in one of two hotels/resorts that partner with the school. Unfortunately, I was unaware of this and spent the time and energy setting up the externship in New Orleans. I'm still going to try and extern at the New Orleans restaurant, just after my required extern is over. It's too good of an opportunity to pass up on it. Fortunately, the two places Johnson and Wales are partnered with are well-respected places. The one I want to extern at is a 5-Star, 5-Diamond hotel.
9/2/01- Didn't spend too much time at the school today. Only went in for an hour to attend the Career Development orientation. Since I need to start looking for part-time work right away I thought that was an important orientation to attend. My first actual day of culinary work is next Wednesday. -Logan
First week of school.... 9/3/01- Spent most of the day at the school for the third day of orientation. Sat through an Academic Orientation that seemed to be more directed at the students that were coming straight from high school. After the academic session we broke into our college specific groups and went over the rules concerning grooming, absence, tardiness, uniforms, etc. After lunch we met with our Chef Faculty Advisor. My faculty adviser is a Chef who has seen and done it all. I was hoping I would be assigned to him because of his age and experience. It'll be nice to pick the brain of someone who has worked all over the world and in all aspects of the culinary world, ranging from hotels to owning his own restaurant to cooking on an oil tanker. He's seen it all.
9/5/01- First class, first cut….kind of. We received our knife kits and as we were opening them (they were flat on cardboard with plastic over them) the Chef said "And be careful not to cut yourself while opening the kit." I responded with, "Chef, can I get a band-aid." I wouldn't really call it a cut, but the timing was pretty funny. I'd say it's more of a nick, but it drew blood. The class was relieved to hear I had cut myself because the Chef made everyone nervous by posing the question "Who will cut themselves first?" "Stocks and Sauces" started with uniform inspection, which I had no problems getting through. Everything was in place and ironed, I was freshly shaved and had clean fingernails. We moved into a lecture on sanitation, knives and cuts (of vegetables, not my finger). We then broke into groups and startedpracticing our knife skills with potatoes and carrots. After 30 or so minutes of slanted macedoined potatoes and crooked julienned carrots we headed to the dining room for lunch. I was surprised to find out how well we eat. The servers in the dining room are in the Dining Room class and they treat it like we are eating in a fine restaurant. We started with Escargot with Wild Mushrooms as the appetizer, followed by a beef broth soup with noodles and mushrooms. Our entrée was Trout Amandine. We were being served French style so we finished with a salad. The servers were quite nervous because this was their first day of class also, and many of them had never waited tables before. After lunch we returned to our class and did a quick review, received our homework and began sanitizing and cleaning up. We took a little too long on our clean up, but that is to be expected, it was our first day. We left the classroom cleaner than when we started and left the first aid kit with two less band-aids. I wasn't the only one who had trouble opening their knife kit.
9/6/01- We finally started cooking. Spent the day working on knife cuts, making chicken stock, espagnole and tomato sauce. I did most of the chicken stock and it turned out great.
9/7/01- We continued our cooking today with turning our espagnole into a demi-glace. After getting the demi-glace to a simmer, we moved on to a béchamel. We made the béchamel then turned it into a mornay. So far our sauces are turning out pretty good. I'm having a heck of a time getting the Fondante and Chateau cuts down. I interviewed at a large steakhouse today and was told I would hear back Monday. The job is for a Broiler Cook and the hours are pretty demanding. It would be 35-40 hours a week, on top of school. I have a working interview next week at a Mediterranean restaurant looking for line and banquet help on Friday, Saturday and Sunday days. Those hours are more desirable for a student, but then I don't have any days off between school and work. Then again, I may not be offered either job. I will be adding pictures soon, but first I need to clear it with the Dean because the pictures are being published on the web. -Logan
9/10/01- My team had its first real challenge today in making consommé. We rose (as did our "raft") to the challenge and were successful at floating a perfect raft. We broke through the raft and strained the consommé until it was clear. I think the Chef was impressed that we pulled it off on our first attempt, and it tasted good. I was so proud of it I took a picture, which I'll get posted soon. My knife cuts are coming along, but I'm having a heck of a time getting the tourne down. My knife test is Thursday so I better start practicing more. I'm hanging in there on the daily quizzes. Three quizzes down with a 92% average. Continued my job search and found a place interested in using me for Holiday work starting 11/1, but has nothing open right now. I never heard back from the steak house I interviewed with last Friday so I'll assume I didn't get the job. No worries, it was 35-40 hours on top of school. I was able to secure another interview for Wednesday at Whole Foods in the food prep area, and I still have my working interview on Friday.
9/11/01- The day food didn't matter. After we received the news about the World Trade Center the class lost momentum. We continued we our work, but like everyone else, we weren't into it. I don't remember what we did in class, really wasn't important. Amongst those affected by the tragedy were employees of the Windows On The World Restaurant.
9/12/01- A bit of a gloomy day. We were all at school just going through the motions and discussing what happened yesterday. I finished up my paper on the Cuisine of Mexico, focusing on mole and the ancho chile so I could study for my practical and the quiz that were coming tomorrow.
9/13/01- Today we took our practical exam and I'm happy to report I made it through. My knife cuts were all there but were slightly off, just need more practice. The sauces I had to prepare were mornay, béarnaise and beurre rouge. I got through the béarnaise first. I thought my sauce was a little high on acidity but Chef thought it was fine. I added a little more butter and that mellowed it out. The consistency was good. Next I got the bechamel going for the mornay sauce and moved on to the beurre rouge reduction. As the milk for the bechamel was reducing I finished off the beurre rouge and presented it to the Chef. Another good sauce, 2 down 1 to go. I then moved on to my roux blonde for the bechamel and tempered it into the milk. The sauce thickened up soon enough and I strained it. Halfway through the mornay I was told bechamel was needed for production so I didn't add the cheeses and cream to it (which would have turned the bechamel into the mornay). Instead my bechamel passed the test and it went to the kitchen to be used for lunch. I never heard back from the steak house. The Mediterranean restaurant interview for 9/14 was cancelled because they had already temporarily filled the position. My interview with Whole Foods went well and they want to bring me back in to meet with the Chef. It looks like a good opportunity for me at this point in my career because of the exposure to many types of food, exposure to healthier cooking and they are flexible around my school schedule. Next week I have one more Sauces and Stocks class and then I move on to Continental Cuisine. -Logan
9/17/01 - The other half of the class took their practical and we all took our written final exam. I'm pretty sure I got at least 90%. After the exam I moved on to production. We had to get espagnole, vegetable, veal and white beef stock out before the practical half of the students finished their knife cuts. They would need the stoves for the sauce part of the practical. We got the stocks and sauce out and started cleaning. This was the last day of stocks and sauces, we were on to Continental Cuisine Tuesday.
9/18/2001 - First day of Continental Cuisine. We started with a brief lecture that covered much of what we had already heard in Stocks. Not really an exciting day. We had to do production for a small group, 30 or so. We had way too many students for 30 plates so there was a lot of watching. We knew production would pick up Wednesday so we just got used to our new surroundings.
9/19/01 - First day of real production and I was randomly picked as "Chef of the Day" or "Chef de Jour" as we like to call it. Didn't do any cooking today but I got to run the kitchen from 8:30am until we were done around 1pm. I made sure everyone had their ingredients and that we stayed on time for our presentation plates needed at 10:50am. We got everything finished and the presentation plates looked great. The "Sous Chef of the Day" and myself ran the line well and food went out quickly. The Chef was impressed with the class being that this was our first day of production and 75% of the class has never worked on a line or in a restaurant at all. Today was the best day I've had so far.
9/20/01 - Got my Stocks and Sauces grade, just got the A (90%). One down, many to go. I met with the Dean today and he gave me the OK on taking and posting pictures.
9/21/01 - Went out and got myself a stage. I took the advice of a Chef back in the Bay Area. I was staging (working for free) at his place and he said while in school stage at the best place you can find. I can't afford to stage only, so I'll do it once a week. I'm going to start staging at the best French restaurant in town. I'm pretty excited about spending three days a week at one job that has a wide variety of food, one night doing an eight hour shift at the French restaurant and cooking in school. I think the combination of the three is going to really help me out.
9/22/01 - Helped out the Chef at the Pepsi Center during the first Avalanche pre-season game of the year. I interviewed for this on Friday but decided it wasn't really for me. The job involved at lot of standing at a buffet station and serving, carving or finishing cooking. As it went, I stood in the Press Room and carved beef brisket and pork loin for 3 hours. Didn't see it as experience that would push me forward so I just worked the night. At this point in my life I need fast line work. I'm 31 now so I feel like my experience needs to be line and prep work. I thought the Pepsi Center job would be a great job for a younger student or someone without any experience. Just my humble opinion. Somewhere on the page is my first picture. I never know where it's going to be posted due to formatting issues. I know it isn't a horribly exciting picture, but to my group it was the result of an unbroken raft. It is our successful attempt at Chicken Consommé. To those in culinary school or the business, it may be a little more exciting. -Logan
9/25/01- About half way through Continental Cuisine. Today I was assigned the lemon orzo. At the end of making it I was salt and peppering and I gave the pepper just a little too much of a squeeze. Fortunately, the pepper easily lifts off with a small layer of orzo. I'm getting through all my quizzes in this class a little better than the last. Which is surprising to me because these are tougher questions (short answers as well as multiple choice and T/F) and I'm studying less. Maybe I'm just listening a little more in class, who knows.
9/26/01- I was randomly drawn to take my Continental Cuisine practical, and I'm happy to report I flew through it. We moved to a new menu for the practical so we hadn't made any of the recipes that were going to be assigned. I was assigned the pheasant and lentil soup and I nailed it. The flavor was there and my timing was on. The only bummer was the fact that I forgot to garnish it with chives. That night I was sitting in orientation for my evening job and I sat up and almost screamed "AHHHHH, the chives!!! I forgot the chives!!!!" No worries though, the soup was great.
9/27/01- Watch what you wish for. Today I was feeling a little tired so I thought being assigned sanitation (a.k.a. dish duty) would be a nice break from cooking. I think the class used every pot and pan in the classroom, then went across the hall to borrow more pans, and invited that class to drop their dishes in my sink. Myself and one other person did dishes for 4 hours. I managed to cut one finger on a sheet pan and another on something, not sure what. Both were minor, only requiring band-aids. Along with sanitation we were also responsible for a smoked salmon and caviar appetizer. I got the idea of cutting rounds of rye bread, toasting them and making a napoleon. We used the bread scraps to make breadcrumbs, which we used as a garnish. I zested a few lemons, added a couple small lemon wedges and arugula for more garnish. The Chef was impressed with our creativity. I've added a picture of the final product.
9/28/01- This was the first evening at the restaurant I am staging at, and this is going to be a great experience. The first thing I did was make a brine for duck. After that I cleaned up some scallops, worked on a few salmon fillets, made an onion concoction for the salmon, cleaned up some monkfish, cleaned up 2 beef tenderloin and broke down 6 ducks into breasts and legs (roasted the bones for stock). I was also fortunate to try sweet breads for the first time, sample the lamb and two desserts. I love the size of this place, 80 seats. Three cooks run the three stations (sauté, grill, pantry) with the Chef doing all the plating. It's a very cool place and I'm lucky to get this opportunity. Can't wait to get in next Friday. -Logan
10/01/01- Continental Cuisine was the same as it ever was. I was assigned the eggplant maite, which is a thin slice of chorizo sandwiched between two thin slices of eggplant, then deep-fried in a batter. Not very exciting to make, but pretty tasty.Worked my first closing shift at my evening job. Decided it's too much work to clean for two hours at the end of a shift and get home at 11:30pm with school at 7am the next day. Maybe I'm a wuss. Instead, I'm going to take advantages of a few opportunities to make the same money in a fraction of the time. I've decided to worker smarter, not harder. The job also turned out to be not what I expected, which is partially my fault for not asking more questions. I thought I would be starting in pizza and rotating into preparing food from scratch, turns out slicing and selling pizza is a different section of the kitchen than scratch food. Pizza cooking isn't exactly something that will push me towards my culinary goals. I'm finishing out my current schedule and moving on. In the meantime I'm going to try and add a day to my staging gig.
10/02/01- Last day of Continental Cuisine. Got through the final in about 10 minutes, don't think I missed more than a couple questions. We'll have our grades next week.
10/03/01- First day of International Cuisine. We had limited service today because it is also the first day of dining room service. The school takes it easy on the first day dining service students. Many of them have never waited tables. I'm not really looking forward to that class in 8 more days. The International Cuisine Chef is going to be different than anyone I've had (or worked for) so far. She is a bit more aggressive than the last two Chefs and a lot more vocal. It's a nice change. After two low key Chefs I've been looking forward to a more vocal style. It's important to me to not only be exposed to different cooking styles, but different Chef styles.
10/04/01- Well, because of our Chef's vocal style, we (myself and a partner) had 1.5 hours to thaw a partially frozen half turkey, roast it, make gravy and cranberry relish. On top of that, my partner was assigned dish duty by the Chef of the Day. Which left me to myself to make the entire lunch. Got the turkey under cold running water during lecture to help the thawing, but it didn't thaw it completely. Because of the lack of cooking time, I removed the leg and wing. I threw the bird on a rack over my mirepoix and started browning it at 400 in the convection oven. Moved onto the cranberry relish, which took only about 15 minutes to make. At this point all I could do was wait for the turkey to finish browning. The turkey was close to browned when I took its internal temperature..43 degrees..and dropping. The middle was still cold (read: frozen) and I had about 1 hour until service. Once the mirepoix had the proper color and the turkey was browned I moved it to a 350 oven. I cut a few slices in the bottom of the breast, wing and leg to help get heat inside the bird and into the oven it went. I then started on the gravy by deglazing the roasting pan with chicken stock. While the stock was reducing, I started the roux to thicken up the gravy. Unfortunately, we didn't have any clarified butter around so I had to take care of that first. Finished clarifying the butter and made my roux. Tempered it into the gravy and we had great gravy. The flavor was right on. There was 5 minutes until we need to present our plates to the dining room staff, and the turkey temperate read 162. We would have it ready. I carved a part of the bird and put my plate together with the other items. The picture is of the turkey plate with a potato cake, a boiled "mushroom" potato, grilled asparagus and cranberry relish. Chef closed the day with a review of the food and said the Roast Turkey was "very good". Very cool.
10/05/01- What a night. Got to the restaurant at 2pm and the Chef started me on cleaning monkfish and lamb. After finishing those he showed me how to crown a pork rack and how he makes duck confit. He knows I have a personal interest in mushrooms so he's gonna show me how he uses them. Then he threw me on the line. It was only my second night, it was either sink or swim. Granted, it was the pantry so I wasn't actually cooking, but it was a challenge because his salads, soups and appetizers have a lot to them and a very particular way they needed to plated. This will be a great challenge for me in getting my speed up because not only do I need to be fast, the plates have to look perfect. I know this experience is going to help me immensely in reaching a few goals I have, so I am going to be staging there twice a week now.
10/07/01- Did my last shift on my evening job. Not a horribly exciting event. Sliced and sold pizza for 8 hours, glad that's over.
10/9/01 - Quite a dull day for me in the kitchen. My assignment was Boiled New Potatoes with Dill. Cut them up, boiled ‘em, drained ‘em, added clarified butter and dill and off to the steam table they went. Worked the pantry at the restaurant tonight. We had 80 on the books for a Tuesday, which is a busy night. That included two large groups of 30 and 14 people. It was the normal set-up of 1 cook on sauté, 1 on grill and 1 in the pantry. Because of the large number of reservations we had one person floating to help wherever. He was mainly there to help me, but I managed to hold my own. After the rush was over the Chef pulled me aside and told me he is putting me on payroll after we change the menu next week. I will get paid whenever I work the line. If I'm there cleaning fish, making pasta, etc. I won't get paid, but once I'm on the line I clock in. Pretty cool, I was hoping this would happen. Received my grade from Continental Cuisine and it was an A. Two grades down, many more to go. 10/10/01- My assignment today was the Creole Chicken Stew. Myself and one other guy made it through without any issues. Seared the chicken stovetop, sautéed the veggies and deglazed. Thickened the sauce with roux and sent the stew on it's way. Aside from the Chicken Stew, I bombed my first quiz. Why the heck am I being quizzed on what Christopher Columbus did just because yesterday was Columbus Day? Granted, she covered this stuff in lecture, but I really didn't think I would be quizzed on it. I haven't received the quiz back, but I'm sure it isn't pretty. We had our first casualty of the year. One student decided the program wasn't for him so he dropped. Down to 19 students.
10/11/01- Today I made the She-Crab Soup (pictured right) and worked the middle of the line. We've taken it upon ourselves to cook the food a la minute instead of making the food beforehand and throwing it into the steam table. It seems to be working ok, but today we were unorganized. The steam table was turned on way too late so our food cooled down too much. I had to throw the first few soup orders into a sauté pan and heat them up for service. Sauces weren't where they were supposed to be and the steam table was not laid out in a pattern that flowed with the plating. We also ran out of plates and soup bowls because the pastry class got to them first. On top of that, the guy running the grill was trying to set everyone on fire by deglazing over the flame. I saw the three-foot flame in the corner of my eye and a few other classmates who were at lunch saw it from the back of the dining room 50 yards away. I referred to him as "Backdraft" for the rest of the day.
10/12/01- This was the hardest I have ever worked in a restaurant. Our books were full, we had plenty of walk-ins and we had a wine tasting party of thirty. The wine tasting was a separate menu than the regular stuff so we basically added a few things to the current menu. There was a period of calm before service where we all glanced at each other thinking, "This is way too mellow." We all knew something was about to hit us, and it did. At about 7:30pm the orders started coming, and I didn't breathe until about 9:30. It was a solid two hours of moving 100 miles an hour. When it was finally over I looked at one of our line cooks and said "I guess you get used to this….kind of." He said "You never get used to getting your butt kicked." Right then the other line cook looked at us and faked a vomit action while bending over. That pretty much summed up the night. -Logan
10/15/01- My assignment for the day was Marinated Breast of Chicken with a Roasted Garlic Custard Tart and Roasted Pepper Coulis. Not a tough assignment, just a lot to make. Not much too talk about today. Made my food and went on my way.
10/16/01- It just dawned on me that I've been forgetting to talk about the two afternoon classes I'm subjected to every Tuesday and Thursday. Today I had Professional Development in the afternoon and the class is a bit repetitive for most of us in the "Garnish" program. We've all had at least one of these classes while getting our bachelor's degree and now we have to sit through lectures on functions of resumes, formats of resumes, how to interview, etc. The bright side to it is that it's almost over, I think we have 3 classes left. Very easy night at the restaurant. Worked the pantry and finished early. Went home to wrap up my American Regional paper due tomorrow. The region I chose was the Pacific Northwest, focusing mainly on the Seattle area.
10/17/01- Last day of American Regional Cuisine. Today was pretty busy with a paper due, my final and my practical. Our final was a 50-question test ranging from meaningful questions such as different cooking techniques to useless questions like "This accompaniment translates into ‘Rooster's Beak'?" (answer: pico de gallo). Not sure why that question is on a final exam of American Regional Cooking. Are you picking up on the sarcasm because I missed the question? And I just drank my share of Gallo beer in Guatemala and I totally blanked on "Gallo" as rooster. Oh well, it happens. My practical turned out well. I like the way this instructor handed us a main item and said "Go at it." Other than the assigned cooking method, we could do anything with it. My assignment was Grilled Lamb Chops. I decided on Grilled Lamb Chops with Two Apples, Carrots and a Rosemary-Honey Carrot Sauce. I immediately got them marinating in oil, apple cider and dried mint. For the apples I sautéed one batch and grilled another. For the sauce I juiced a few carrots, added some rosemary, garlic, a little curry, shallots and brought it to a boil. Strained it and added a touch of honey to sweeten it slightly. Just before service I heated the sauce and finished it with a small amount of butter to thicken it. Chef seemed to be pretty happy with it and like the "Harvest Feel" it had with the apples and carrots. The only thing I slipped up on was that I did not taste my carrots, they were slightly undercooked. D*@# It!! Here's a picture of the final product, sort of. There were more apples and carrots on mine (they were eaten in the tasting), the original chops had nice grill marks and a spring of mint as garnish. 10/18/01- First day of Dining Room Essentials class. I'm not too sure I'm going to enjoy this. The instructor is a Frenchman who has been in the business for 25 years, and he seems to enjoy yelling…a lot. At first I thought it would be a nice break from the kitchen, now I can't wait to get back in the kitchen. My assignment for the day was bartending so I got an easy intro to the dining room. All I had to do was keep the glasses full. Unfortunately the other student assigned bartender had just bartended for 3 years prior to school so he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder of how things should be done. I'm thinkin' "It's just soft drinks." Made it through the day unscathed, only 8 more classes of Dining Room to go. Found out mystring of A classes is over. Got an 86 in American Regional, but I'm not sure how. Most of my work averaged a 90 and I did the extra credit assignment so I'm gonna have to meet with the Chef to find out.
10/19/01- Worked the pantry tonight. Not a horribly busy night but I got in at 2pm and I had the station from beginning to end, so I had to do all the prep and setting up. Then at 4:40pm one of the cooks told me I had family meal, and it is supposed to be served at 5. Great, 20 minutes to get the meal out. Fortunately we had Yak patties (I know, that's what I was thinking) for Yak burgers. We had Yak burgers out by 5:05. Mmmmm, delicious Yak. -Logan
10/22/01- Dining Room continues. Unfortunately I don't have a lot to write about with this class. We have a short lecture, the instructor raises his voice a lot and then we run the dining room for an hour or so.
10/24/01- Took the day off from school. Everyone needs a break and my need for a break happened to fall on a Wednesday. Went with the restaurant to a March of Dimes/Star Chefs fundraiser in the evening. Our restaurant served two small plates. The first was seared diver scallops on a bed of fennel fondue with a tomato coulis around it and the second was lobster bisque. Both were a hit, but the lobster bisque was definitely a favorite of the entire show.
10/25/01- Not too exciting of a Dining Room day today. Took another quiz, Instructor did his normal amount of yelling and I waited on one table of three people. Seemed to serve fine everything without any issues.
10/26/01- Welcome to the jungle. I've been spoiled with the restaurants I have worked in to date. I showed up at the restaurant and I was given the option to stage there or go over to, what we'll call, restaurant "C" to work the line and earn a little money. I jumped on the chance to go somewhere new, so I headed over. I got there and it was the absolute smallest kitchen I have ever seen. It's about 15-20 feet long and the aisle down the middle is about 5 feet wide. The walk-in is at the end of the 15-20 feet and there is a smaller area for 2 dishwashers and equipment storage around the corner, that's it. The reason I was called in to C was because the Chef was out and the Sous had been running the place with two people, three is comfortable. I showed up and introduced myself and quickly found myself on the line as we waited for the third "substitute cook" to show up. The third cook eventually made it, about 45 minutes late. I ran the pantry station with minimal questions and we went on to have a decent night and they asked me to come back. As far as school goes, not much to report. Pretty much the same thing as yesterday. Can't wait to get out of Dining Room so I have something interesting to write about.
10/27/01- No school today, went back to C to work. Again, it was the Sous and myself waiting for the third cook to show up. While we were running the place with 2 people, the power and gas went out. The Sous was able to get almost everything up and running except the lights over the stove, grill and my pantry station. So we worked a bit in the dark. The other cook showed up 1.5 hours late and again we went on to have a decent night. I did well enough that they want me to stay on with them, either as an "on-call" cook or regularly scheduled. We'll work out the details later. Since I have some pastry experience they are going to let me try some desserts because they don't have time to dedicate to them. So on short notice I replaced their berries and cream dessert with a berries and cold sabayon. I thought that was a step up from whipped cream, and the dessert sold well. -Logan
10/29/01- Started my morning with the assignment of "busser." That meant I was neither a waiter taking orders or a runner delivering food, which was fine with me. All I was responsible for was the butter, bread, water and clearing tables. My team of three worked our way through the three tables we were assigned and called it a day. Only three more days of Dining Room until Baking.
10/30/01- Same deal as yesterday. Somehow I ended up being a busser two days in a row. Works for me.
10/31/01- Today I had my practical, and man did I blow it. Two of the plates ended up in front of the wrong seat because I aligned them in my arm in the wrong order. Then I forgot to clear the bread plate when I was clearing. The instructor just laid into me for my performance. I just kinda took it in stride and thought "Oh well, my career in the front of the house is toast." Today my assignment was Maiter d. It turned out to be a role I wasn't too thrilled with. A lot of watching and covering tables when waiters, runners and bussers are running behind. It wasn't like waiting on a specific table where you could breath while they ate, I was always watching tables making sure all were being attended to.
11/1/01- Welcome to the Jungle, part II. Worked at Restaurant C tonight and met the Chef. I wasn't sure if I was going to be needed tonight but the Sous gave the Chef about 15 minutes notice and quit. They called me in to cover for the Sous and it worked out fine. We had our Dining Room final today and I got a 96. Points needed VERY badly due to my blown practical. Hopefully that will pull my grade up a bit. Today I was lucky enough to draw the role of dishwasher. I was pretty happy to get that because I was kinda tired of the front of the house. This way I could be in the back, scream and holler, spray dishes, etc. It was a good way to end Dining Room. During our 15 minute break I had an interesting talk with the instructor. Throughout the nine days I grew to like this instructor. He started as a screaming, no feeling kind of instructor. But the more the class got to know him, and vice versa, the more we liked each other. I approached him at the break and asked what my assignment was for the day. He showed me "dishwasher" on his sheet, and then made a point to tell me I really screwed up on my practical. I knew I did, so this wasn't news to me. He asked me if I wanted another shot. At first it I was all for it, but as we talked I decided against it because there were others in the class that made mistakes, granted not as many as I did, but they made errors. I chose not to stick out from the class and took my low practical grade. What really hit me during this talk was when the instructor asked me if I had a learning disability. My answer was not that I know of. I was struck with a weird feeling when he asked me but he explained that all my work in the class is great, but on the practical I did just about everything backwards. As an instructor he felt he would not be doing his job if he didn't ask. I just blamed it on nerves and not thinking while I was working. He has seen me wait tables during lunch and my service is fine, but the one-on-one practical just threw me. I was thankful that he offered me the second chance, and that he asked about a possible learning disability. My reason for screwing up was simple, some days you show up, some days you don't. I picked the wrong day not to show up. I ended up with a "B" in the class. I'm looking forward to Advanced Dining Room in my final term.
11/2/01- The life of a substitute cook. I showed up at Restaurant T as I do every Wednesday and Friday and about 45 minutes into working, Restaurant C called over looking for me (the Chef at C used to be the Sous for the Chef at T). Chef C was hurting for workers, he had no one to work and it was a Friday night. I put in 2.5 hours at T and headed over to C for the rest of the night. As usual they underpaid me, but the experience is what I'm really after. -Logan
11/5/01- Never really thought I would say, "I wish I were back in Dining Room class." It was our first day of Introduction to Baking and Pastry and this chef is going to be hard to work with. Our only assignment for the day was to gather our mise en place for the baguettes we would produce the next day. I covered another shift at restaurant C and boy was it one exciting night. This was the first Monday they had been open, and they chose to open on a night when the Bronco's were on Monday Night Football. Needless to say, we were not busy. We had one table all night and they only ate entrees, no salad, soup or dessert. That was a long night.
11/6/01- My predictions on the chef being tough to work proved to be accurate. Today my frustrations came to a head. Myself, as well as most of the class, were already tired of the negative vibe our class feels and I finally mentioned it to the chef. About half way through class the chef and I talked about my comments and surprisingly, she understood. I guess it's something she has been told before. There were no hard feelings and hopefully the classroom attitude picks up. Our assignment for the day was banana nut bread and buttermilk biscuits. Chef liked our banana nut bread but the biscuits were a little tough. I mixed them in the mixer instead of doing them by hand so they were a little resistant to fluffing up in the oven. We also made cookies and ours may have come out a little better except there was an error (chef's error) in the recipe. Turns out we made a sesame sheet cake instead of sesame cookies. The oatmeal cookies turned out like, well, oatmeal. Nothing horribly exciting about them.
11/7/01- Today was a good baking day. Made croissant dough and did a total of four turns. The plan was to use it the following day and we would use another group's puff pastry to make our Danishes. We did well on our croissants and Danishes but we did not realize we were supposed to get "European dark" on the coloring so ours were a little underdone as far as color goes.
11/9/01- Took my first curtain call today. Myself and one other cook (and extern from another culinary school) were in charge of a wine tasting party at restaurant T. We had four courses with 28 people in each to blast through one after another. The two of us plated everything and finished cooking some of the items. The plates turned out great looking and everyone was impressed with our work. At the end they called the chef, myself, the other extern and the pastry chef in to take a bow. That was cool.
11/12/01- The assignments of the day were blueberry pie and soft rolls. I think our group is getting better with forming dough. Our rolls looked (and tasted) very good. We had to tie double and single knots. Our pies were not exactly picture perfect, as you can see, but they were the first pies we had ever made. So, given that mastering a lattice top pie requires more than watching a 3-minute demo, I feel my group did fine. I am sure the next pie we bake will come out looking a lot better than today's.
11/13/01- Took the day off from school to catch up on homework. I have a big paper due in Baking due on Thursday, as well as an oral presentation in Sanitation. I work Wednesday night right after school so I won't have any time tomorrow night.
11/14/01- Today we made baguettes, angel food cake and a fruit tart with pastry cream. We pulled "A's" on the angel food and tart, but dropped down to a "B-" on the baguettes. As a class I think we see the light at the end of the tunnel (Thanksgiving vacation) and we are anxious to take a break. If nothing else has improved, my confidence in baking has. I know that I have learned more than my last few quizzes have shown. Speaking of quizzes, I'm not doing to good on them lately. After averaging a 90 on my first three quizzes, I've managed to average a 30 on my last three. Just haven't gotten around to studying and I'm paying the price. I really need Thanksgiving vacation to hurry up.
11/15/01- Today was our practical day. The assignment for my four-person team was banana nut bread and soft rolls. Myself and another guy took the soft rolls and the other two took the bread. We had a slight problem with our scaling, although we were never able to find it, and our dough was a little too soft. We added a little flour and it eventually came to the clean-up stage. We proofed, rolled, tied, egg washed, baked and finally presented our product. It was good enough for an A. The banana nut bread from the other half of the group received an A as well.
11/16/01- Took my Baking final today. Didn't ace it, but did B work. Very relaxed day today being that it's the last day of the term before vacation. We took our final, did an equipment inventory, sanitized and went to lunch. After lunch we grouped for a few minutes and it was over. Class resumes 11/27 with Skills of Meatcutting. -Logan
11/27/01 -If animals were not meant to be eaten, they wouldn’t be divided into primal parts. First day of Skills of Meatcutting and man is it cold. I think its 9 degrees outside today. According to my thermometer it’s 53 in the classroom. I wore a long john top under my usual t-shirt but my teeth still want to chatter. At least I can’t see my breath. The first day was mostly lecture on poultry and we started breaking down chickens. Sticking cold hands into nearly frozen birds sure does make the fingers turn blue. We also had our first major cut (mine on the first day would be classified as “minor”, thank you). While breaking down the birds a classmate caught her finger for a total of four stitches. She’s a tough one though, she’ll be back tomorrow.
11/28/01 - Today I have my long john shirt on, as well as long biking tights and gloves. It's still a little chilly. After lecture we jumped into a huge leg of beef. Chef sawed off what I referred to as “Brontosaurus Steaks”. I clean up the top round, eye, knuckle and the beginning of the bottom round. My aprons are starting to look like a Jackson Pollack painting. While we cleaned up the leg, Chef made steak tartar. For those not familiar with steak tartar, this version was minced raw beef with Dijon mustard topped with a raw egg yolk, salt and pepper. It was the first time I had eaten steak tartar, and to my surprise, it was pretty tasty. I went back for a few more bites. So, you would think raw meat would be enough of an adventure for one day, but no, there was more to come. That night at restaurant T one of the cooks stopped by a local Asian market and delivered these 3 inch monsters known as water beetles. When the Chef opened the baggy they had a very strong apple smell. So strong that others could smell them from five feet away. I was reminded of Apple Jolly Rancher candies. We simmered them and when they were soft, we squeezed the “essence” out of the rear of the beetle. I know this sounds pretty gnarly, but into the chicken stir fry employee meal it went. The final product was a great tasting stir fry with a hint of apple, not beetle.
11/29/01 - Today we received an entire lamb carcass and my eating new foods continues. Chef sawed open a bone, and for the first time, I ate bone marrow. I had such a small amount I really can’t say it tasted like much, but it did have the consistency of butter. After our lecture and our second quiz (which I think I’m doing fine on) I got the opportunity to french my first lamb rack. “Frenching” is when you expose the bone so it looks like a lollipop, kinda. If you have ever seen a crown rack of lamb, that is a “frenched” rack. Except for cutting a little low towards the meat, the rack turned out nice. I was able to get pretty clean bone to show so my scraping meat attached to the bone was minimal. My time at restaurant C has come to end. I was temporary help and they were able to find permanent help. I would have liked to stay there but the job required me to be there when I was in class. Instead I managed to land some holiday work at a retail kitchen supply store in the mall. I’ll be spending a good portion of my week (and my paycheck) there until Christmas. -Logan
12/19/01- Killed my first lobster today. Our lecture today was on receiving crustaceans and mollusks and we had two lobsters that we had just received that morning. Chef demonstrated how to cut a live lobster down the middle and he asked for volunteers for the second one. One guy volunteered and when he got to the front and was handed the knife, he looked at me and said "You do it". So I took the knife and did it. I have to admit, I felt a little weird after doing it, but its part of the job. We took the tomalley, mixed it with bread crumbs and stuffed it into the halved body. Threw it into the oven and a few minutes later we ate lobster. Other than the lobster execution, I shucked a few oysters and clams. I had done quite a bit of shucking in previous jobs so I was pretty comfortable with it. Quizzes are going well so far. On the first quiz I scored an eight and on the product identification yesterday I scored a nine. I was able to identify 27 of the 30 products the chef placed on the table.
12/20/01- Last day of class before vacation, so you know what that means deep cleaning!!! Vacation time! Kristy and I are packing up the car and driving to California to see her parents. Hope everyone has a great holiday season and I'll be back in class January 7th. -Logan
12/3/01- This meatcutting lab has turned out to be quite enjoyable because our class has finally gelled and the Chef is easy to learn from. The class is beyond the point of being a little hesitant around each other and lately we have been hanging out on the weekends. Broke down my first fish today. We all got a shot at a couple of Tilapia and the class as a whole did a decent job.
12/4/01- Now, I know I said yesterday that the Chef is easy to learn from. I just got my first three quizzes back and I received a 6, 8.5, and 7.5 out of 10. Fortunately, we get to drop one quiz, say adios to the 6. I have at least three more quizzes so there is still time to bring the average up. Cleaned and cut veal into portions and I was pretty accurate on my cuts. We had to cut the veal into 2.5 or 3oz portions, can't remember which. Anyway, most of my cuts were right there, but I did say that piece doesnt look that heavy a few times.
12/6/01- Today we began producing my father-in-laws second favorite food, a very close runner-up to bacon, the almighty sausage. My group was assigned chorizo and we started by weighing out 16lbs of pork and beef. We weighed out 5.6lbs of fat to add so we could get 35% fat in the sausage. After weighing, we cut up and seasoned the meat, cleaned the intestine (the sausagecasing) and grinded the meat twice. Everything went into the walk-in for Monday, another week at Johnson and Wales has come to an end. At the end of class I received the scores from my Tuesday-Thursday quizzes and I got a 9, 9 and 8. Drop the 6 and I raised my quiz average to 83%. Monday is the practical, final exam and, mmmmm, sausage. -Logan
12/10/01- My grades appear to be back to normal after the C+ I earned in Pastry. Can you really earn a C+? Doesn't matter. I zipped through my written Meatcutting final with a final score of 90%. My practical was deboning a chicken and stayed as clean on the cuts as I could, earning a 97%. After our testing we moved on to finishing the chorizo. Everything was ready for us to stuff it into the casings. It takes a few tries to get the hang of the stuffing machine, but eventually what we were producing resembled sausage links. I'll admit, some of them did look like lop-sided footballs, fortunately they tasted a lot better than they looked. After our last sanitizing of the meat lab, Chef brought us together for a few final thoughts. This is the second time in the last three classes (Dining Room being the other) that the Chef said our class was the best class he had ever taught. I can't speak for the class as a whole, but comments like that mean a lot to me. Our class has a very light, could even be called a slightly immature attitude, but we do take our work seriously. I appreciate the Chef's who do not mistake our sense of humor for a lack of seriousness. When we screw up, we joke about it. When we do great work,we joke about it. That's who we are. (Stepping of the soap box)
12/11/01- First day of Storeroom Operations. It feels like I'm on one of those shopping game shows. I grab a cart and..go! I have until 10:45am to fill requisitions for the production classes, and if I don't I get a wonderful parting gift. There is one thing I know about the next nine days, I will be exposed to items I have never worked with. My product identification will improve quite a bit before the end of the year.
12/13/01- Took my first quiz in Storeroom, made through with only slight bruises. After our quiz we spent some time in the computer lab working with the Sysco ordering system. We have a project where we need to develop a small menu and create a grocery list for it. Then we have to place the order through our Sysco software. We also have to compare the prices of Sysco to other vendors, i.e., a grocery store. Since I'm in storeroom, I'm not going to have any final products to take pictures of so instead I'm sending you pictures of what I'll be doing on a daily basis. In my first storeroom action photo, I'm grabbing a can of sliced peaches. Notice the one-hand technique.
In the next photo, I'm checking a potato to fill a requisition, looks good.
In the last I have to grab ginger for International Cuisine, but there is an abandoned dessert next to the ginger. Fill the requisition or hide in a walk-in with a freshly made dessert?
A decision too huge for many. -Logan
1/7/02- First day back from vacation and I can't wait for spring break. Today wasn't a very exciting day in the storeroom, but that is not to mislead you into thinking most days in the storeroom are exciting. Took an open note quiz, listened to a presentation on butter, and we participated in a "Jeopardy style" review for our final. From the looks of the review I don't imagine the written final will be too tough.
1/8/02- A true Day in the Life of an American Culinary Student…
5:45am- Wake-up. Stumble to the bathroom and put my new electric razor (the one with the "goo") to work. Grabbed a quick bowl of cereal and headed into the Denver winter. Although, it has been very mild the past few days, with the mercury hovering somewhere around 60 degrees.
6:30am-Arrived and school and started reviewing for my final and practical. I was able to get in a solid 20 minutes of reviewing and headed into the dining room. Grabbed a seat at a table with a Dining Room student and tried not to disrupt her concentration. The final took about 15 minutes and next I was onto the product identification practical.
7:45am-The practical was a little tougher than the written test. We had 15 minutes to identify 92 fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. In many cases it was required that we be specific, i.e., "pear" was not the correct answer, "bosc pear" was the correct answer. Upon turning in our practical we had the option of earning four extra credit points by tasting or identifying something the Chef had selected. Our first option was identify a beige, stringing looking something in a bag covered in Japanese writing. None of the students had enough confidence to select the identification option, which turned out to be shark fin. Who would have guessed? That left two tasting options, Dave's Insanity Sauce or these little pickled fish that "Taste like salt, but the fins and scales get caught in your throat." I opted for the Dave's Insanity Sauce. Chef ran the toothpick in the hot sauce, making sure to get a few little chunks on it, and with a smile handed me the hot sauce. I coughed a few times, think I said a few unmentionable words (#%@* and &%#%@!) and found bread and milk to soothe the heat. It was worth the extra points.
8:15am-Let's go shopping, again. Fortunately, the requisitions we are filling today are for day 1 of the next class. Usually day 1 reqs are smaller because of limited production.
9:00am-Being the last day of Storeroom Operations, we began our deep cleaning, once again. Seems like every 9 days we end up deep cleaning.
11:15am-Sat through the worst lunch I have been served, or actually, not served since my first day of school. Lunch runs from 11:15am to 12:15pm and at 12:05pm we were still waiting for our salads, the second course. The student waiter brought us meat knives and then realized he had never served us salads after the soup. He decided to go ahead and skip the salad and on to the entrée we went. I received my lamb rack and it looked as if it were accidentally dropped on the grill. I do like my meat a little undercooked, but this made a "baaaaahh" sound when I cut into it.
1:00pm-I had the opportunity to join a Chef as he prepared for a photo shoot with the Rocky Mountain News. The Chef was going to be making Braciola and meatballs. While we were prepping, another culinary student brought in a business student who wanted to "one-up" his buddy who took a ½ tablespoon shot of Dave's Insanity sauce. And "one-up'd" him he did. He shot somewhere around ¾ a tablespoon and cried, and cried, and gagged, cried, spit, gagged, did I mention cried? It took him roughly 20 minutes to fully recover and in his words "It was worth it." After we were done with the prep and mise en place for the shoot, I had to take off to my afternoon class. The Rocky Mountain News didn't arrive until after I left so I didn't get a chance to see any of the cooking, photography or writing….bummer. On my way out the Chef showed me the results of my written final, 94%, which included the 4% Dave's extra credit, which was worth it.
2:00pm-Took off for my Menu Planning and Cost Control class with a bit of an attitude. I would much rather be hanging out at a photo shoot than sitting through more basic math. I wish there were a way that those who have a degree already could avoid sitting through lectures that included explaining how to convert a percentage to a decimal.
4:00pm-Left class in a rush to get to a job interview. I decided it was time for me to stop staging and find a paying gig. Went to a restaurant downtown that is opening in the next few weeks and interviewed for a line cook spot. The interview went well enough that I was asked to come back in for a 2nd interview Wednesday.
6:00pm-Started my storeroom paper on something. I know I worked on a paper, but for the life of me cannot remember what it was on. I even went back through my Word doc files and I can't find it, hmmmm. Guess it wasn't some of my finest writing. 7
:30pm-Went and played a little basketball to break up my storeroom paper.
9:00pm-Recovered from playing basketball and got back on my paper.
10:30pm-Ironed my uniform and organized my stuff together for the next morning.
1/9/02-Today was the first day of Food Service Production. I really wasn't too sure on what to expect other than omelets. As far as I knew, we would be focusing the next nine days on making breakfast foods. What I had heard wasn't too far from the truth. The first four days would consist of breakfast items, lunch would be day 5-8 and dinner day 9. Our Chef walked in drinking a diet Coke and explaining his theory on teaching the culinary arts. He clarified the truth about the real masters of food, which are the Greeks, not the French. He also went into detail about many other topics of the culinary arts but I can only take up so much space on cheftalk.com. He is very articulate and has a strong opinion about everything. For example, "There are three ways to do everything. The right way, the wrong way, and the Chef's way." That pretty much sums it up. This is class number eight and I have had eight completely different personalities. The first day my group was assigned the cheese omelet and we chuckled a bit. Not because an omelet is an easy thing, but because there are six of us in the group and we had to knock out about 15 omelets, and we had around two hours to do it. As you can tell, we had a little free time the first day to help other groups that received more time consuming recipes. I went to my second interview and met with one of the two managing partners. The interview went ok, but not great. Not that it was bad in any way, I just didn't get the connection feeling I've had in past interviews. If I don't hear anything from the Chef by Tuesday or Wednesday I'll continue my job search. -Logan
1/14/02- Not a whole lot of excitement on the home front today. My group was assigned sausage patties and homefries. The 6 of us knocked em out in no time and worked on our deep fry, shallow fry and potato lecture we would be presenting on Wednesday.
1/15/02- Things seemed to be going as smooth as usual today. My group was assigned the pancakes with warm fruit compote and sausage links. Same as the day before, we finished our assignment well before service and waited around for lunch. When the class came together at the end of the day, things suddenly weren't going as smoothly. Chef gave us a lecture on the arrogance of our class. Talk about catching me off-guard. I would never in a thousand years consider our class as a whole to be arrogant. I would agree there is at least one person who carries that reputation, but 22 of us, no. As far as the class was aware, we had not been referred to as arrogant at all this year. In fact, two of our last chefs called our class the best they had ever taught. Being the person I am, I responded with my thoughts. I know my classmates and I talk quite a bit about the curriculum so I voiced what I thought may be the problem. What we felt was the real issue was the lack of challenge that is built into this particular class. We have 22 people, broken into 4 groups (two with 6, two with 5). We are lectured to for the first hour of class (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter), which leaves around three hours to prepare enough for food to feed 40 people. For example, the first day of this class, we had six people to make 20 or so cheese omelets and a sheet of bacon (which was thrown into the oven 15 minutes before service) in 2-3 hours. And like I mentioned above, today we were assigned pancakes with warm fruit compote and sausage links. Again, we had 2-3 hours for 6 people to make a pancake batter, boil and simmer fruit and throw sausage links into the oven. This is work that half the students can finish in half the time, which leads to excessive talking, complaining, etc. This to me is boredom and frustration, not arrogance. The chef responded to me with his thoughts and basically, I had identified a problem but I offered no solution. Another student spoke up, and between our ideas, we came up with something that had the potential to fill our daily schedule. In developing a solution we had some unchangeable parameters to work with. We knew the amount of people we could feed (40) would not change. We also knew we were limited by the ingredients provided each day and what was already in the walk-in. We decided to break the menu assignments up between groups. So, instead of one group working on lasagna and one working on marinated mushrooms, we broke it so groups would produce ½ of the recipe. This gave each group more exposure to the menu items and at the same time, spread more work to each group allowing all 5 or 6 students to work on something. I met with the chef after class to make sure he understood my intentions. I was not trying to show him or Johnson and Wales up, but address what the class felt was a problem. He appreciated my speaking out.
1/16/02- Today is my day. After my speaking out yesterday, which was pretty much on my own, I took the attitude that today was my day and the new way of running this class was going to be smoother and produce better food than previous days. And as Murphy's Law goes, our lecture on frying and potatoes lasted about an hour and the chef had an hour of lecture as well, leaving us two hours to make the new class format work. Usually, the student group does their presentation and then we begin cooking. We split some of the menu items among groups, which went smoothly for the most part. Two people had a little problem sharing, but they got passed it. My group had the French Onion Soup and Asparagus Soup. The group as a whole prepped the veggies for the soups and I took the reigns on the asparagus soup. As the day went on I made sure the other groups were running smoothly and aware of time deadlines. Because our group was the "Lead Group" of the day we helped out others when needed. We actually lost one guy because another group was missing 3 people so he worked with them for the day. At the end of the two hours, the banquet was set and the great tasting food was in place. Our new plan went off without a hitch and I felt like I had accomplished something (the handshakes and high fives from other students confirmed that). While we were cleaning up, Chef mentioned to me that we had done a good job and he was surprised at the positive attitude the class arrived with. "We are a great class", I responded, as I continued to sweep.
1/17/02- Today's assignment was whatever pasta dish we felt like putting together and a ¼ of the steamed clams. Unfortunately, the lead group of the day decided to steam all the clams right away, and then passed them around to the different groups. That left my group unable to prepare the clams the way we had planned. It also meant steamed clams would be sitting around for 2 hours. Needless to say, they chewed like a deflated balloon when it was time for service. And the fun didn't end there. We finished our pasta sauce and grabbed the pot that contained our cooked pasta, or at least thought contained our cooked pasta. Another group decided to grab it and use it in their dish. If you didn't put the pasta in the pot, it isn't yours! We had to get another pot of water boiling right away, but there was no chance we would have it ready for service. About 10 minutes after service we had it on the line. I had my second test in Menu Planning and Cost Control. This test focused on the income sheet, costing recipes and food percentages. It went ok, I'd guess I did "B" work. After two interviews with the restaurant opening in late January, I never received a call back. I made a follow-up call and they said they were checking into a couple things and would get back to me. Again, I never heard back. I'll consider this a dead end and continue my job search this weekend. -Logan
1/22/02- Went to town on the meatball subs. Heck, I might even consider myself a "Sandwich Artist" after today. The breakfast buffet has finally ended. With omelets in our rearview mirror it's time to start working on lunch buffet food. My group was handed a few items to prepare and I volunteered for the meatball subs. I grabbed my mise en place for the meatballs, including gloves, and started mixing. Into the bowl went beef, eggs, bread, sautéed onions and mushrooms, cheese, Italian blend spice and the kitchen sink. The classmate I was working with had an idea to hollow out the bread and stuff the meatballs in, instead of the traditional sliced sandwich. After we shallow-fried and baked the meatballs, we stuffed them, along with a little tomato sauce and mozzarella, into the slightly toasted bread. We stood the sandwiches up and topped them with the herbed breadcrumbs we made from the hollowed-out bread. We threw the subs back into the oven and baked them until the topped browned. Oh man, were they tasty.
1/23/02- Today I did a whole lot of nothing. Half of the class was designated to prepare food and set up a banquet at an "offsite" location, which was down the hall and around the corner. Since my group wasn't in the half preparing the food, we sat around the banquet room discussing different careers in the culinary field. Chef gave us a lot of feedback on different jobs he has held, ranging from hotel kitchens to personal chef. Since tomorrow would be our practical, we were given a list of what food we would have to work with. Along with the list, we knew we would have a "mystery basket" of ingredients to play with. My group, along with the other remaining group, looked over the food and worked on a rough menu. Other than the mystery basket, we had an idea of where our menu was going tomorrow.
1/24/02- The last day of Food Service Production has arrived. Today I had my written final exam and my practical exam. Same practical routine as yesterday, except my group and one other group were responsible for setting up the "banquet". When we reviewed the ingredients list yesterday, I requested the soup. I made a Carrot Soup with Curry and Ginger that almost came out the way I wanted. We only had a stick blender and a food processor to work with and neither were pureeing the soup to the consistency I had hoped for. The stick blender worked better than the processor, but I really needed a regular blender. We were not allowed to borrow equipment from other classrooms, or I would have been running down the hall yelling "BLENDER ANYONE?!?!". Other than the consistency, the soup turned out nicely. I even received a compliment from the chef. In fact, I think all of our food turned out really well. I can't remember everything, but some of the items on our menu were green chili soup, seafood risotto, a cous cous salad, a Philippine noodle salad, buttermilk-fried chicken, a rolled apple-stuffed pork roast, a rosemary-rubbed beef roast, twice-baked potatoes, seafood linguine with a cream sauce, stuffed mushrooms, beef stroganoff, cookies, brownies, my soup and I'm sure I'm forgetting an item or two. We even went as far as to set up carving stations for the roasts at the end of the table. We produced a ton of food and we received 100% on the practical grade.
1/25/02- Let the drinking begin!! Stepped into our "bar" today for my first day of Beverage Lab. For the most part our classroom looks like a bar, but smells a lot nicer than most, scratch that, all the bars I've ever been to. In the middle of the room sits six tables, a bar wraps around the outside. There are ten bar "stations" with shelves of bottles, actually filled with colored water. On this first day there would be no spinning of the bottles or shaking of the drinks; we spent the all morning discussing coffee and tea. After lecture we moved on to sampling many different coffees and teas. I think I doubled my life's intake of coffee in one day. Using a French press, we sampled coffee with double the recommended amount of ground coffee (the suggested amount is 1 tablespoon of grinds to 6oz water), coffee made with not enough coffee grinds and coffee not brewed with the correct water temperature. I preference was toward the stronger coffee brew, maybe 1.5 tablespoons of grinds per ounce of water. Unless I have a message waiting for me at home, I'm still unemployed. Although, I did manage to land an interview next Friday for a line cook position. I also put a resume in with a Chef I had helped out for a night a few months back. He's opening a new place and we talked briefly about the opportunity. He remembered me from the night I helped him and said he would pass on my resume to the Sous and he would get back to me. That was a week ago and I haven't heard back. I'll make a follow-up call over the weekend if I still don't hear from him. I'm getting to the point where I'm figuring out that "I'll give you a call" actually means "I might call you, but don't bet on it." Coming from the corporate world, this is something I am not used to. If I interviewed for a position and did not get the job or submitted a resume and the company was not interested in interviewing me, it was almost always a guaranteed I would get either a phone call or a thank you/rejection letter in the mail. My last semester at Chico State a rejection letter was much preferred because a local bar would give you a discounted drink with every rejection letter you brought in. It helps to ease the pain of not being wanted, or something like that. -Logan
1/28/02- The second exciting day in the Beverage lab is upon us. We started the morning by taking a seat in the dining room for our first quiz. Flew through the coffee and tea quiz without having to guess on too many questions. There were a couple questions I was unsure about, and luckily guessed right on one. Ended up scoring a 9 out of 10. After the quiz we started our lecture on beer and beer making. This lecture brought back a bunch of great memories for me. A friend and I brewed our first couple batches when we were still at Chico State and later I made beer for my wedding. The "Had to Court Her Porter" and "Consummation Ale" we brewed for the wedding were supposed to be the wedding gifts for the guests. However, the bar ran out of beer and well, most of the wedding gifts became the house beer. That was a fun night. Enough of talking about the nectar we call beer, it's time to taste. We laid out six one-ounce cups in front of each of us and we began tasting. In my humble and (greatly) biased opinion, the beers ranged from light and flavorless, to mass produced and unpalatable, to dark, creamy and full of flavor. After finishing the beers that sat helpless in front of me, I stumbled intoxicated (just kidding Dean Griffin)…. I went to lunch. As we finished our sanitation for the day, our instructor passed out the grade sheets from our previous class, Food Service Production. I managed to squeak by with an "A" and at the bottom of the page in the comments area was "Excellent work and dedication to the craft", a nice way to end my Monday.
1/29/02- 7am, and as expected, another quiz. I felt a lot more comfortable about a quiz on beer instead of coffee and tea. Shot through the quiz in record time and after the post-quiz review I know I at least scored a 9 out of 10. I might get partial credit for the one I missed. My unrefined palate screams for a beer. After twenty-three note-taking slides about wine, winemaking, types of grapes, etc I'm ready to pull up to the bar and order a tall cold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I guess I have a long way to go on recognizing aromas present in different wines. We tasted approximately six wines and most of the time I sat there thinking, "Yep, I definitely smell wine." Every once in a while I could pull a scent out, but it was a half guess. If someone mentioned an aroma, then I could often smell it. Other times I still couldn't smell it and wrote it off to a wild guess on their part or an attempt to impress the instructor. Finally got a call back from the restaurant I helped out a few months ago. We set up an interview for Thursday afternoon. I also have an interview scheduled for Friday morning.
1/30/02- Took a day off from class today, but it was for a good reason. I scored a high enough score on my ServeSafe Sanitation test that I was eligible to become a ServeSafe trainer. I went to the Westex restaurant show and sat through an eight hour "Train-the-Trainer" seminar. Once I receive my seminar certificate in the mail and I complete the Restaurant Association's trainer application, I will be eligible to teach sanitation classes. My thinking on this was that it wouldn't hurt to have on my resume. If a company I worked for needed someone to teach the other employees about sanitation to have them certified, I could do it. I also went through the seminar hoping to make money on the side teaching sanitation to whomever felt unsanitary. Hmmm, a few friends come to mind.
1/31/02- I was feeling a little stressed this morning because my absence yesterday resulted in a zero on yesterday's quiz. We are allowed to drop one quiz score out of seven, and that zero was the one. But now I'm walking into a quiz without having the notes from yesterday, which we will be quizzed on right now. Somehow, and I am baffled as to how I did this, but I managed to score a 97%. And this quiz wasn't a multiple guess or true or false quiz. Don't ask, I have no idea how I pulled that one off. Now the real Beverage lab fun begins, mixology. We started mixing vermouth-based drinks and cordials. We were given a list to mix and we had a certain amount of time to get them up on the bar. Our instructor started a song on the cd player and we had until it was over to have the drinks ready. I guess you could call it alcohol musical chairs. I managed to get mine finished and the instructor came over and started sticking his fingers in my drinks. I looked at him like he was nuts, wondering what he was doing. He looked at me and said, "Well, I guess I can stir them with my fingers." I forgot the straw stirrer. My interview with the restaurant I helped out a few months back went well, but strange. It looks like my school schedule is a tough fit for a line cook position, but they have an expediter position open that my schedule is compatible with. We toured the new facility and the Sous interviewing me ended the interview with "February 7th at 6pm is orientation. Can you make it?" I looked at him and asked in a slightly confused tone, "Does that mean I have a job?" He said if I made it to the orientation and the schedule works out, then yes. I forgot to ask about pay, guess I'll cover that at orientation.
2/1/02- Met with a person opening a restaurant in the next few weeks and the interview went well. I was interviewing for a line cook position with a soon-to-be-open Louisiana style restaurant. The restaurant is located at one of our public golf courses. She told me to expect a call from the Chef this week to set up a second interview. Received some great news back on my hunt for an externship. I already have one set up, but I have the opportunity to do an externship that allows me to do both cooking and writing, which is exactly what I am looking for. I have a phone interview with the Chef on Monday morning to look at my extern possibilities. -Logan
2/5/02- I'm officially certified to kick an intoxicated person out of my establishment. Well, I will be if I pass the Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) test, and ever have an establishment. After a brief review on the do's-and-don'ts of alcohol service, responsibility and liability we engaged in the 40-question test. We'll get the results in a few weeks.
2/6/02- The sky is falling, in the shape of a martini glass. I was cleaning the top of the rack that the glasses hang from and I knocked one off the rack. Down it came and shattered right in front of me. Luckily the glass only scratched me in a few places. That's what I get for cleaning thoroughly. We spent just about the entire day mixing drinks as a review for our practical.
2/7/02- I've been looking forward to this day for the past nine days. Today is my final Beverage class, and it is a busy one. We started the morning with our written final exam. After averaging a 96% on the six quizzes I felt pretty comfortable going into the final. As it turned out, I was a little too relaxed about the test and ended up scoring a 73%. From the scores of my classmates, I wasn't the only one who underestimated the test. Most of the scores were in the 70-80% range. After the written final we started our practical. There was to be two parts to the practical. First was the mixology test, then the wine and hot beverage service. For the mixology test we were given a list of 20 drinks to memorize, 12 of which would be randomly chosen for our practical. Memorization of the recipes included the ingredients, how it was served and in what glass. Getting the ingredients right wasn't the problem I faced, it was the glass that the drinks went into. I knew we had to serve the vermouth-based drinks "up", which meant mixed with ice and then strained into a glass, usually a martini glass. But for the other drinks I had problems remembering whether it went into a collins glass, a highball glass or a rocks glass. I attribute my failure to remember everything accurately to the time constraint and pressure to get these done in 10 minutes. It was simply a lot to remember for a person who has never mixed drinks and hasn't done a ton of drinking, outside of beer. From our original list of 40 drinks, I had only tried 7, and only knew all of the ingredients for 2 of them. Regardless, I managed to finish all 12 in 10 minutes, only one sticking out as using a wrong ingredient. I incorrectly added a grenadine float to the Kamikaze. The other 11 drinks on my practical list were the Perfect Manhattan, Rob Roy, Bloddy Mary, High Ball, Martini, Tequila Sunrise, Margarita, Girl Scout Cookie, Ward 8, Woo Hoo, and a Sea Breeze. My glass selections weren't totally accurate, but that wasn't a surprise. The last part of this test was the accuracy of our pouring. We had three empty glasses to free pour 1.5oz, .75oz and 1.5oz using the jigger and finishing with a quick free-pour at the end. My 1.5oz and 1.5oz with the jigger/free-pour hit perfect. My .75oz pour was a little heavy. My jigger runneth over. Onto the coffee and wine service part of the practical. Other than putting the coffee spoons on the outside of the cups, I did ok. Not sure how many points come off for that, but everything else seemed to be in order. After coffee I drew an "R" out of the hat so I was going to be serving the red wine. I set the glasses, showed the bottle and cork to the host, opened it like a champ and poured without spilling. The only error I made was not refilling the host glass after I circled the table. Because the "wine" we are serving is actually colored water, the host doesn't actually taste the initial pouring. So when I got around to the host again I failed to remember that his glass would normally be empty, cueing me to refill it.
2/11/02- The rumor that we'd be taking hours of notes on nutrition never actualized. We did take about 30 minutes of notes, but that isn't unusual. The main topic of our lecture was taste and where different tastes are located on the tongue. We tried 6 or 7 cups of various sense heightening flavors and talked about whether we thought they were bitter, sour, sweet, etc. Went to work from 4-7 p.m. Work is yet to really get rolling because we don't officially open for another week. I did get the exciting and wonderful opportunity to unwrap 700 rented dinner plates that were shrink-wrapped in stacks of five. Pure, uncut, 100% excitement.
2/12/02- Vegetables I can handle. Ordering healthier, say a lean turkey burger instead of a double cheeseburger with bacon, sure, not a problem. But combine "healthier cooking" with strictly vegetables and you get a student running to the cafeteria for a slice of pizza as soon as the class is over. Don't we have any bacon grease we can sauté that spinach in??? I probably shouldn't forget to mention the "notes forever" day reared its ugly head. I'm not sure how long I took notes today, but I would have given my left arm for a secretary. Received our grades back from Beverage Lab and I managed to pull a "B+". Had the "A", but the 73% on the written final and an 83% on the practical pulled me down. I did manage to get a 100% on my paper. I feel like my writing has improved greatly in the last nine months or so, I wonder why……
2/13/02- Looking back at this day I haven't a clue as to what went on at school. Other parts of my day seem to be occupying my thoughts. For example, say…today I asked Anthony Bourdain if he was a "Celebrity Chef". He was doing a signing in town for his "Cook's Tour" book and I was curious as to how he would answer. He has been outspoken about his status as the anti-celebrity chef and I believe he wrote about his thoughts on celebrity chefs in "Kitchen Confidential". I read it so long ago I can't remember the exact words. But anyway, he dodged around the question and lumped himself together with the other celebrity chefs saying "Nobody expected this to happen (the label of celebrity chef)", followed by he was "riding the wave where it took him" and his "15 minutes (of fame) may be up any minute." The answer I pulled from him was that he did consider himself a celebrity chef, which I thought was an honest answer. Just when I thought his answer was complete, he spoke up again. Turning and looking at me with a smile, saying "And thanks for bringing that up." When I finally made it to the signing table he recognized me with a smirk and I said "Sorry about the ‘celebrity chef' question." He smiled back and said, "I deserved it." To me, Anthony Bourdain came across as just a "regular guy" who found a market niche for his in-your-face style of writing. He deserves an extension on his 15 minutes.
2/14/02- I know that I am just a culinary student with a life-long journey of learning ahead of me. There are hundreds of thousands of topics in the culinary world that I know zero about. However, there is one thing I do know...YOU CANNOT MAKE PASTA WITH CORNMEAL. The bag labeled semolina flour we received from the storeroom was actually cornmeal. One of my classmates (in my group of 3) made the pasta and she knew semolina was coarser flour than AP flour, but she didn't catch it. We felt like something was wrong when we rolled it out and it wasn't sticking together. Ahhhhh, the power of gluten. We had just enough AP flour and spinach puree mixed in to hold it together but when we ran it through the angel hair cutter it was toast. We boiled it and it looked like green ground beef more commonly found in college towns on St. Patrick's Day. We'll redo the pasta tomorrow. On a side note, this Cheftalk column has brought another writing opportunity. I recently started writing restaurant reviews from a "student's perspective". The reviews are geared towards nicer Denver restaurants that students can dine at for a reasonable price. The column is called "Intern's Corner" and it is located at www.gabbygourmet.com.
2/15/02- I finally talked to the chef in Louisiana about the possibility of doing my externship with him. It sounds like I am going to get the opportunity and he has developed an extern to fit the fact that I have some line, pastry, business and writing experience. He wants me to spend a few weeks in the different parts of his company starting with working the line. I'll then move onto to catering, sales, pastry and manufactured foods. He wants me to spend most of my time at headquarters because that is where the radio and TV show are developed, as well as all the writing for his books. I am currently waiting to talk to one of his Executive Chefs, and if that talk goes well, they will send me the paperwork to get this set up. This is an ideal externship. A week ago, as you may recall, I had the dilemma of landing two jobs and having to choose one. Well, the chef at the French-Creole restaurant has made my choice much easier. I called him twice yesterday, as directed, to set up a meeting for this morning. He never returned my calls. It looks like I will be staying put as an expediter, which is actually turning out to be great. The money is good, the hours long, the crew is cool and the job is exciting. Expediting for a 400-seat restaurant makes the time fly. And while I'm on the expediting topic, we did our first "wet mock" tonight. We had 180 invited guests dine from a pre-selected menu. Our goal was to get 180 out in 45 minutes or so. We didn't make the 45 minutes, but we did well for a first live test.
2/16/02- Tonight was our second "wet mock". Same deal as last night, invited guests, pre-selected menu, but we had 300 people. Our hope was to get it out in an hour. A couple hours later we were done. The Executive Chef/VP of the company was out from Chicago and he made some changes to the menu and expediting process. His changes will make the process run a lot smoother. -Logan
In the literary world, it is probably bad form to start any writing with an apology. Seems to be admitting defeat before the readers have a chance to judge the writing for themselves, but this journal is a wreck. Recalling anything that has happened this past week, even with my scatter-brained blotted “reminder” notes, is turning out to be impossible. I’m going to blame my sudden inability to remember anything prior to waking up this morning on the fact that school has me locked up for 28 hours a week and work has figured out a way to fit in another 40 hours a week. I’m not sure where they crammed those hours in, but I’ve got this uncomfortable pain right back…nevermind.
2/18/02- With the above said, school is a blur. I went, I learned about something nutritious or having to do with nutrition. I probably didn’t like what I ate, unless this was the pork tenderloin with peach and zinfandel sauce day; that was pretty good. What I do remember from today was the VIP party at work. There is no way to forget plating, or should I say “logging” hors d’oeuvres after hors d’oeuvres for what felt like 16.5 hours. Our restaurant has a “lodge” theme which means our hors d’oeuvres platters are actually slices of tree stump, hence the term “logging”. A tree “vichy”, if you will. If three hours of hors d’oeuvres after hors d’oeuvres for this VIP group of 200 or so wasn’t enough, we were asked to cook for a group of 12, off the menu. Talk about pulling the emergency brake and spinning a 180. We had no intention of cooking from the menu tonight so we had to start prepping for the 12-top at 10 p.m. I don’t remember what time I got home, but I do remember what time I woke up for school the next morning, 5:45 a.m.
2/19/02- Our assignment of the day was scallops with a yellow-pepper coulis and a tomato coulis. This class is turning out to be a writing nightmare. Most of these nine nutrition classes have lasted only 3-4 hours, so unless something exciting like a semolina-corn meal mix-up occurs, writing about this subject matter feels as bland as Broccoli and Crumbs (Day 2 menu). Tonight was the official opening at work. We chose to open during an event that we felt would not overwhelm us. Aaron Carter was the chosen event. I know, who? Aaron Carpenter? I guess he’s a little brother of one of the N*Sync or Backstreet Boys. If I had bumped into him backstage I would have had no idea who he was. What I do know is that opening night was pretty slow. My guess is the semi-rush we got about 20 minutes into the concert were all the Dads (upon quickly realizing the musical generation gap) telling their 13-year old daughters “Ok, we found your seats, you and your friends are not to leave them. I’m going to get some food, I’ll be back soon.”
2/20/02- Took the day off from school to sleep.
2/22/02- Chef has no chance to keep my attention this morning. In three hours I will have received parole and will be on spring break (at the end of February, gotta love the quarter system). No school for a week, I hope I function ok in the outside world. Before the class was released on our own recognizance, we made a table full of salads that looked like the health bar at Whole Foods Market. Some were good, some were pretty and some were, well, healthy. The salad my group was assigned didn’t seem like a light/healthier salad, just a salad you would find everyday on an everyday menu. Its official name was “Winter Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Port Wine Dressing and Toasted Walnuts”. Definitely a salad I will make again. I guess at this point I shouldn’t be surprised that I haven’t received a call back from the French-Creole chef. Although I am a little bummed, the job I have is working out great and now I don’t have to make a difficult decision between restaurants, works for me. My second extern call is set up for Monday. If this call goes well, I’m going to get the opportunity to do an extern that involves cooking, writing, research and development, radio and television. Sounds like an ideal extern to me. -Logan
It has finally happened. I was sure this day would come. I dealt with this at the end of my Bachelors degree, so I should have a little bit of experience. I’ve officially reached the school burnout point. I have 63 days left until graduation, and I am counting them. This journal entry is going to reflect the amount of free time I’ve had the past two weeks. I couldn’t even manage to scribble down a few highlights. I hope you enjoy what I was able to remember…. …Started Sophomore labs with International cuisine….put on a new colored (light blue, Sophomore) neckerchief….stuffed, rolled and tied three ducks, took me a couple tries to get the tie down…worked 70 hours…our class covered all school lunch service because the other kitchen was closed….forgot to take a single picture…made a few Asian hors d’oeuvres…got a verbal beating, along with the rest of the class, by the Chef for poor communication…was sous chef for day…made spinach soup…made chicken and coconut milk soup…made Polynesian chicken and vegetable soup…spent one full day on dish duty…did I mention I made soup…dropped my apron in the mud…dipped my apron string in a toilet (I’ll spare the details)…watched my NCAA tournament pool go down the drain on day 1…class came up with name for my future cooking show, “Barding and Larding with Logan Virley” (said with a German accent)….got hit with a double-header at work, hockey game at 1 p.m., basketball game at 8 p.m….worked my first 12 hour shift (see previous enter as to why)…got the externship I was working for, start June 3…got measured for my tuxedo, I’m in a wedding in August…skipped a day of school, the same day I was off of work…got lectured by a chef who saw me eating while I was breaking down pork ribs…for the record, I was fed the food and was not leaning over the pork during the chew period…listened to a chef say good-bye to the class and really mean it… watched my NCAA pool continue to spiral downward…wrote a paper on my goals three to five years out…finally got a call back from the French-Creole chef, three weeks after I accepted his job offer, confirming my acceptance of his job. Seems a main water line broke and filled the restaurant basement with 10 million gallons of water…decided I was keeping my current job… -Logan
So two weeks ago when I wrote that I was burnt out, I had no idea my subconscious (or is it unconscious) would take that literally. For the past nine days I have been unwillingly enjoying the challenges of Advanced Dining Room. Along with the funny outfit I have to wear, part of this class includes tableside cooking. Now, “tableside cooking” is another term that my subconscious may have taken too literally. Without filibustering any further, the linen on my gueridon (tableside cooking cart) caught on fire. Turns out, my rechard (tableside grill) was overfilled with alcohol. There was a small, quick flash and I knew exactly what happened (only because it also happened to the chef when he was demonstrating how to cook tableside). Because the fuel source was clear alcohol it was tough to see the flame, but I managed to grab some water from the table I was cooking for and extinguished it. Unfortunately (but it made me feel better), 30 seconds later another student’s gueridon caught fire. From there, the show went on. We relit the rechard, finished cooking the entrée and then I did a tableside flambé of crepes suzette (managing to keep the flame in the pan). The nicknames I was given that week include: Sparky, Flambe and Smokey. To add to the humor of the situation, I took this picture during a televised Cincinnati and Memphis basketball game (the power of Tivo and digital cameras) just before my dabbling in pyrotechnics.
Just like my journal entry two weeks ago, this is a summary of what I can remember from notes and flashbacks. I can honestly say Advanced Dining Room hasn't been my favorite class of the 12 I’ve taken. Basically, in Beginning Dining Room you put the food down from the left (American service) and in Advanced it is from the right (French Service). Other than that, tableside cooking and wine discussion are the only significant differences in the classes. There is, however, one fact that saved me during this class; I really enjoy the chef/sommelier that teaches it. He knows his material and always keeps us thinking. I will admit though, I was counting down the nine-day class by the hour, beginning at 7 a.m., day one. During the nine-day period I would be a food runner twice, captain twice, dishdog once, busser once and Maitre D once. Ah, Maitre D, that reminds me of a funny story. As Maitre D we have the option to wear our dining room uniform or dress “Business Dress”. I chose to dress business, and well, I’m from Silicon Valley where “Business Dress” means you are not wearing shorts. I showed up to school in khaki pants and a collared shirt that is not to be tucked in. Not exactly what chef had in mind when he said “business dress”. After my tongue lashing, he had a laugh about my interpretation of “business dress”. He made sure I heard it throughout the day by poking me with a “By the way, nice outfit” whenever he had the opportunity. I decided to change the name of dining room from Alumni Hall to “Casual Café, where the dress is down and the drinks are up.” I don’t think the name change was openly accepted. My two stints at running food were a challenge. We have a new food ordering computer system and getting a grasp on it took a few minutes. If something went slightly wrong with the system, or I didn’t understand the order I was firing, I would get delayed a few minutes. A short delay can cause a problem when trying to catch up and also serve the 2 or 3 other tables I had. We encountered a few glitches but managed to push through. My day as a busser was pretty simple. Clear tables when the guests are done eating, easy enough. My favorite day was the “Dishdog” day. Cranked up the radio and washed dishes all day. If you read back a few months ago, you can see the result of my first Dining Room adventure. My practical test was the worst showing I have ever had on an exam (other than the 28% I got on a finance exam during my bachelors degree). I felt like I had something to prove coming into this class. Considering how my first day went, trying to set Johnson and Wales ablaze, my need to redeem myself grew even more urgent. On the last day of class, I felt like I had done just that. I cooked Steak Diane tableside and the food was great. My second try at crepes suzette was even better than the first. The table said it was the first crepes suzette they had during this nine-day period where all the alcohol burned off. I love it when people eating your food close their eyes and shake their heads up and down, letting you know how good the food tastes without saying a word. After I had plated the crepes suzette the chef came over and said to keep moving, get dessert set up for the two other tables. I said, “I’m getting there, but I’m not finished listening to this table say ‘mmmmmmm’.” -Logan
At this point in the school year it should not be a surprise to see my journals posting in two-week intervals, or even longer. My Far-Side calendar hasn’t been flipped since March 17, and I don’t really feel the urge to get out of my chair to find out what the date is today. As long as I get the journal posted before the third week starts I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
For the past two weeks I’ve been in Advanced Pastries making pastry cream, crème anglaise, lemon tarts, chocolate and caramel sauces, strudels, etc. etc. I find myself reminiscing over a few of the dessert items I prepared when I was working in the Bay Area (see Journal entries 1/1/01 through 5/28/01). This class has definitely renewed my interest in pastries and I am going to ask my extern chef to include a stint in the pastry part of the company. I am extremely lucky in that I am getting to pick-and-choose what I want to do with my externship. The chef/company I am going to work for is big enough to allow me to write, work the line, research, cater, work pastries, etc. The only thing I am not looking forward to is 100-degree humidity in the south, but I’ll survive.
Last week Johnson and Wales hosted a VIP lunch and the class was responsible for making the desserts. We produced chocolate-raspberry mousse cups that turned out to both look and taste good. Work hasn’t been completely overwhelming but it is picking up again. Since we are “event-driven” (Avalanche, Nuggets, concerts, etc.) it is not uncommon to have a few days off in a row. I’ve probably mentioned that in every other previous journal entry so please forgive me if I’m repetitively rambling. I’m attaching as many pictures as the web application will allow, all from the past couple weeks. The pictures include apple strudel, chocolate tart, chocolate-raspberry mousse and Sabayon. My next class is Garde Manger, which is my second to last class. After nine days of garde manger ice carving and aspic I am onto French Classical for one last class. We are moving to New Orleans the last week of May and I start my externship June 5. The weekend of April 19-21 my wife and I will be in Chicago for our 5th anniversary and we are meeting Nicko and his wife for dinner. Can’t wait to meet Nicko, see the Windy City and try the great food. I know we have Frontera on the schedule and we are going to try to make Trotter’s To Go. Charlie Trotter’s was booked and I am not too sure about spending $300-500 on dinner anyway. We’ll go back when I make my millions… - Logan
"Keeper of cold foods, to be eaten" is the definition of Garde Manger. I think a better definition is "Keeper of aspic, which I prefer not to eat." The Food Lover's Companion defines aspic as "A savory jelly, usually clear, made of clarified meat, fish or vegetable stock and gelatin." Garde Manger is a station of a kitchen where pates, sausages, etc. are made. In most restaurants today, GM is known as the Pantry, where foods such as salads and desserts are made. Classically speaking, only cold foods would be prepared and served from GM. My attitude going into this class was a bit lackadaisical. I am pretty sure it stems from the "short-timer's syndrome" I was self-diagnosed with a week before this class started. I went into this class not excited about making all cold foods, and all covered in aspic. But I eventually got past it and my group put out some pretty good work. Our first platter consisted of a seafood mousse and smoked trout terrine, sea bass rolls, veggie roles, shrimp and mussel, ginger and pasta salad. We received compliments from a couple chefs on the terrine, and the highest compliment was the students ate all of it. That is something not easy to accomplish in our dining hall, especially when covered in aspic.
For our second platter we chose beef tenderloin as our main ingredient. The group decided on a pepper-crusted tenderloin, en croute. "En croute" means wrapped in pastry. After we seared our meat and cooled it, we wrapped it in puff pastry and cooked it until browned. Unfortunately, we rolled our puff pastry too thick so when our meat was perfect, the puff pastry was still raw. We tried a few things to get the puff to cook faster, but all we were doing was overcooking our meat. We got to point where the meat was over cooked and the puff was still not done so we said, "en croute is now sans croute." Off came the puff pastry and the tenderloin went out as naked slices. The other main item we added to the platter was a wild mushroom and foie gras terrine. The only issue we had with this was I did not braise the leeks before wrapping them around the terrine. I blanched them, but that did not make them soft enough to hold their shape when I tried to slice the terrine. I patched up a few areas with mushroom aspic and kept chill blasting the terrine between slicing a few pieces at a time.
Eventually we had a decent looking terrine (except the mushroom aspic should have been strained before we brushed the terrine with it). Our base aspic was a dark red, made from roasted beets, which my group thought would look nice with the tenderloin and earthy colors of the mushrooms. We thought it turned out pretty cool looking but the chef thought it was too dark. My group was also responsible for an ice carving that did not really turn out. It started as a profile of a fisherman holding a rod with a fish on the end and ended up looking like a closed tulip near death due to lack of water.
Since I did not want the ice sculpture to be used as a running joke in the future, I decided to post a picture of unidentified classmates carving an unidentified totem pole instead. My next class is Classical French, my final class. Nine more school days and then I am off to Louisiana. -Logan
The Last Class If you would have asked me six years ago what I thought I would be doing with my Business degree I probably would not have replied, “Cooking.” My final class at Johnson and Wales has come to an end. The nine days of French Classical cooking came and went quickly with our class producing some pretty good food throughout. I went out with a bang, earning my first A+ and eating foie gras with truffles for our last class breakfast.
Graduation was May 19th and for the first time in my life, I graduated with honors. I guess I did receive a “Clifford the Big Red Dog Book Reading Award” in second grade, but that doesn’t quite measure up to walking the line with a gold cord draped over your neck. Now we are off to the Big Easy. I am just about sick of moving, but we’ll do it one more time. You would think I was in the military with the amount of moving we do. The first project I will be working on is John Folse’s new PBS television series. I will be working on the set for the first four weeks, shooting two shows a day with a live audience. I am not exactly sure what I will be doing, but it will have something to do with the show. After that project I want to get on the line in his fine dining restaurant. Well, that’s it for the school portion of my journal. I finally made it through. The upcoming journal entries will be posted live directly from New Orleans, Louisiana (or something like that) starting in early June. - Logan
My first week in the Big Easy has come to an end and boy is it different from what I was expecting. Our trip from Denver took about 23 hours, 3 of those hours over swamps and gators (not kidding). It's warm and muggy here, but not hot. Lately, the afternoon rain has been cooling things down a little. Kristy and I are one block from the trolley that drops off just outside the French Quarter so we have spent a few evenings in the tourist mode. We have been making the rounds to the local recommended eateries, including Mother's for Po Boy's, Café Du Monde for beignets, Pat O'Brien's for Hurricanes and some candy store for pralines. (Light bulb just went on) Maybe that is why the chef pants are fitting just a little bit snugger. My externship started last Wednesday and so far has not turned out to be what I was expecting. I knew I would be working on Chef Folse's new PBS show, but I guess I was expecting a little more than what I am doing. I spent the first two show days mincing onions, bell pepper, celery, herbs, boiling pasta, sautéing 36 crab cakes, feeding the audience and TV crew. That has been it for the cooking part of the job. I have done all the other expected things that come along with the job title "Intern", such as taking out the garbage, washing dishes, carrying coolers full of food, etc. The benefit to working this show is my schedule. I am working 7-5ish Monday through Thursday and a few hours on Sunday prepping for the Monday show. Fridays and Saturdays off in New Orleans can make for an enjoyable summer. Kristy will be heading to California later this month to spend the rest of the summer with her family so if anyone wants to come to New Orleans for a weekend….kidding, the landlord downstairs would kill me. After the show finishes filming in two weeks I will be moving into the R&D manufacturing plant where we produce heat-and-serve food for other restaurants. So that is where I stand after my first week in the South. It is like nothing I have ever experienced before, but I am glad I am here, for now. -Logan
I'm back with a better attitude and an optimistic outlook on what I will be learning here in the South. Mid last week I decided I was not getting anything valuable out of what I was doing so I discussed it with the Chef. He agreed and took me off food prep and brought me inside to work on the television set for the week. Although I am still not doing much in the way of cooking, I am learning about set design, food layouts for television, etc. At the end of our discussion, Chef asked me to write up a list of exactly what I wanted to do for the remainder of my internship. The more time I spend in restaurants the more I want to eventually open one. Now, this may change when I've actually had to work 60+ hours a week for a few years, but that is my current goal. Starting this career as late as I have (32 years old), I feel like I need to spend many hours on the line learning how to produce the best food as quick as possible. That is the area I feel I am the weakest so I need to get to it. With that said, my list for the Chef said "Week of 6/24/02 until the end—Work in the restaurant." The following day he told me that is where I will be until I am finished with my program. This is a great opportunity to gain tremendous experience in the next six weeks. I also added that I wanted to work with the people who do the accounting so I can get an overview of how restaurant books are kept. Any experience crunching the numbers will be beneficial. I am also discovering that along with the tangible experience, which is obvious to recognize, I am getting an education on how to get the most out of the people that work for you. This is something I am catching onto more and more as I work with Chef. Before arriving in Louisiana, the image I had of John Folse and Co. was that of a physically huge and elaborate company, which it is not. It is truly amazing what he has and does accomplish with the size of his staff. And I should add, I am blown away by the amount of work his staff is able to do. They are the hardest working bunch I have ever been around. So for the moment things have turned around for me here in the South. And although I am starting to get used to the heat, the bad roads, and no left turns at intersections, I think at the end of my six weeks this California kid needs to get back to the West Coast. Anyone in Seattle looking for a cook? - Logan
I've been in the restaurant for a couple weeks now and things are going well (other than running over the tail of a 4ft crocodile on I-10 the other night). My first night was odd because the chef of the restaurant didn't know I was showing up and then asked if I was just there for the night. When I answered, "No, until August 8th", he was a little surprised. My first task was to make these shrimp wrapped scallops skewered with a piece of sugar cane. It wasn't the most exciting thing I have ever assembled in a kitchen, but it had to get done. I only made 90 of them but the shrimp were completely whole, which meant peeling leaving only the tail, deheading, cleaning and butterflying. Then I had to cut the scallops down so they would fit inside the butterflied area of the shrimp. Then I cut the sugar can into thin strips to skewer it all together. It took me a while and I've never had back pain like that before. Right after starting at the restaurant I got an unexpected vacation. We were scheduled to be closed the week of July 4 because it is traditionally very slow. Had I known, I would have made arrangements to work elsewhere in the company for a week, oh well. Since that first night in the kitchen, I've gotten to know the kitchen and cooks so I am a lot more comfortable. Although, this is by far the youngest kitchen I have ever worked in. I think there are 10 people in the back of the house and the average age is 24. And that includes me at 32, a 32-year-old dishwasher and a 30-year-old cook. That gives you an idea of the age of the Chef, Sous and everyone else. I currently spend most of my time in the pantry working the salads and appetizers. Sounds like I'll be on the line during slow nights learning the hot foods. Being slow to get me behind the line is ok, but we have been so slow lately that we are now closed on Tuesdays, as well as Mondays. So now I have Sunday-Tuesday off, which cuts into the paycheck. With all this great food around me (except the Mexican food) I need a paycheck to eat!! Looks like everything is falling into place with our relocation to Seattle. My wife was offered, and accepted, a teaching position. As I write this she is in Seattle signing lease papers for our new apartment. I haven't found a job yet, but I haven't put a ton of effort into my search. I'll start hitting the pavement when we get settled in. Got to run, I hear an oyster po boy calling my name… -Logan
The biggest news for me this week is that I received a response from one of the letters I sent to six Seattle restaurants. Of the six letters, this was probably the first choice on my list because of the seasonal menu, location and how long they have been in business. It's in the Pike's Market area and is just over a mile from our new apartment. We'll be setting up an interview when I get into town. Not much has changed at my internship restaurant. Weekdays have been really slow, but Fridays and Saturdays have been decent. I'm still spending most of my time in the pantry. I only have eight more workdays left so I assume I won't be straying too far from the salads and cold appetizers. Since I have Sunday through Wednesday evenings off, I am going to take a little road trip to North Palm Beach, Florida. My wife's uncle owns a restaurant there so I am going to go kill some time hanging out with him and his kitchen staff. It's about a 10-11 hour drive, but I've never driven through the South, nor have I seen Florida, so it'll be an adventure. Once I get my PC set up in Seattle I will post all the pictures from my internship and those from in and around New Orleans. -Logan
Almost The End After sweating through a Louisiana summer, Kristy and I made it to the cool Pacific Northwest. We settled in the Lower Queen Ann area, about a mile north of downtown Seattle. The summers here are perfect, but the dreaded winter gray ceiling is just a few calendar turns away. I started my job hunt a week after getting my life out of storage boxes and into our apartment. The hunt started slow but picked in the last few days. I have received one offer from a seafood house to start in the pantry and move to the line in 1-2 months. It is a decent offer and the Chef was one of the chefs I made contact with a few years back. Last I heard he was at the Space Needle and I had no idea I would run into him again at another restaurant. He remembered my survey and the letter he wrote back to me. My other option is at a neighborhood restaurant with a reputation as being one of the city’s hot spots. They made this months Bon Appetite as a place to eat when in Seattle’s Belltown district. I will be trailing the Chef today and hopefully it works out because I am leaning towards this restaurant. That is where my life pauses today. By this time tomorrow I will know where my true culinary career will begin. It has been a long road for me and I’m excited to see where I will settle. I can’t wait to read next week’s posting to find out. (My first attempt at a cliffhanger) -Logan
My Final Entry When I started this journal almost two years ago, I was a frustrated cubical worker wondering where my life was going. Well, now I have an idea. I ended up taking the line cook position with the corporate fine-dining seafood house. After trailing at the Belltown district restaurant, the Chef said he would like to have me join the crew but it would take him a week or so to figure out how many hours he could offer. He was pretty sure it would be 30 a week tops in the beginning. My response to the seafood house offer was expected the following morning, and since I needed a paycheck, I accepted with them. That decision turned out to be the better decision because I felt my fit with this chef was better. Another reason I felt this was a better fit was something that I turned my nose up to in the beginning. I wasn’t too hip on working in a corporate restaurant, but because it is a corporate restaurant, the recipes and line are very structured. This has made learning a little easier and a good place for me to start building up knowledge. It is kind of a “minor league” until I build up confidence. And there is that little thing called a one-week paid vacation every year. If I didn’t conclude my final entry with some personal reflection on my experience in the restaurant world to date, I wouldn’t end this run in full. In the first journal I posted, the “Intro” journal, I wrote that anyone considering culinary school should get a cook job first. I want to refine that statement just a little. Anyone considering culinary school should get a real, fulltime cook job first. And I REALLY stress this to anyone changing careers, especially if their desired career path is on the restaurant route. Before I went to school, I had a few part time jobs, but part time jobs show you a tiny fraction of what to expect as a full time employee. As a part time employee I was putting in 28 hours a week, usually over 4 days. As a full time employee I am working 42 hours a week over 4 days. Which in total isn’t too bad at all, except two of my days are back-to-back 13-hour shifts. Those 26 hours (with about a 1 hour total break) are really hard on one’s feet and back and now I understand why other people ask me “You chose to move into this business?!?!” Of course this isn’t anything new. You can scan the ChefTalk boards and see the topics on coping with long hours, feet pain, etc., but it is different when it is your feet that hurt. If you work for someone else in a restaurant, be prepared to work 5-7 years minimum of hard labor (sounds like a prison sentence) until you see decent money. For a 22 year old out of culinary school, that isn’t an issue. For a 32-year old, it is. I know that I cannot physically do this work night after night until I’m 40ish to finally make decent money. I am in the process of developing my own career so that I can live more comfortable, sooner. How long will I be in the restaurant business? Probably not long, a year or two. How long will I be in the food business? For a long time. I want to thank Nicko for allowing me to post for the past couple years and the readers who kept checking in on my progress. I had a blast writing it and hopefully Nicko and I can work out a quarterly update on how things are turning out. The food business is a business of connections so I hope to keep in touch through the ChefTalk boards. If anyone has any school questions please don’t hesitate to drop me a ChefTalk IM. Thanks for reading and good luck!! -Logan