Large dice (3/4-in square) for knife skills proficiency:
(It took me two whole large Russet potatoes and a whole lot of agony to get eight perfectly square large dice pieces. The larger ones are always harder than you think.)
So Friday was the fourth to last day of my first term of school. It's a vitally important four days, as it's definitely the most daunting of the projects to date: Four days of a restaurant-ready presentation of both pork and chicken with different starch and two to three vegetables for each. That's less than two hours for two full plates *per student*. Up to this point we've only been responsible for one plated meat-starch-veg presentation per day, so essentially the workload doubled on Friday. Friday, Monday and Tuesday are essentially practice for our graded kitchen practical on Wednesday. Plus, every day is peppered with a variety of tests, from knife skills to kitchen proficiency to written exams covering eight intense weeks of material.
Before Friday, we were squeaking by for time as it was, so I couldn't help but be a tad concerned about doubling the workload. It got to the point where I had a mini anxiety attack in the middle of a friend's birthday party Thursday evening, and had to gulp down a glass of the worst wine I've ever had in a restaurant (thanks, Old Town Pizza!) to calm the nerves. It's slightly hilarious now that I'm recalling the situation, but a little scary while it was happening. Thanks to some good company with friends, I managed to not go over the edge.
Friday morning rolled around, and I was up with a start half an hour before my 6:30AM alarm. I slept fitfully, but after a good shower, I buttoned up the chef's whites, remembering to tuck a t-shirt into my bag for the 90°F+ temps later in the day, and got to school at 7:30 to gather the mise en place for our menu.
And boy am I ever glad I did. Things went so smoothly that I surprised even myself, and I attribute that extra half hour to our sense of readiness. We were the only team to come in on time that day, but more importantly, everything was well-seasoned and well-finished. None of the meat or veg were overdone, and our plates looked clean and presentable, for the most part. I was really proud of our team for getting the job done well, and I'm crossing my fingers that the next three days will be just as efficient. Cross your fingers for me, people!
We had our knife skills test on Friday as well, and though I didn't do as well as I hoped, I didn't do badly either. On the positive side, though I had twinges of regret over the course of this term for missing certain shows or parties because I needed to do homework, in retrospect I'm extremely happy that I've kept up with the homework schedule up to this point. I've managed to have a relaxing weekend instead of toiling away at work I put off to the last minute. Last minute work and overdue papers were a far-too-common occurrence while I was getting my B.A., and I'm determined this time not to let it happen again.
In fact, the difference between the process of getting my B.A. and culinary school is so striking, I really feel like I'm an entirely different person this time around. It certainly helps that I have a passion for my school studies, and I feel like I'm really, truly ready this time.
It's a good feeling.