Friday, May 09, 2008

My lucky day

It's Friday! Bread pudding for everyone!

Bread pudding at Wildwood
Sinful and disgustingly delectable bread pudding at Wildwood

How is it Friday already? Seriously, kids. This week has flown by the fastest of any week at school so far, and one of the most productive and efficient yet. If someone told me on the first day of school that we'd be doing fully plated, sellable meat-veg-starch plates in six weeks time, I'd have said "You're nuts." We've evolved from mashed potatoes and French fries to Duxelle-stuffed chicken with Gnocchi Piedmontese and Ratatouille, using the same amount of kitchen time, but incorporating all the skills we've learned up to this point. I'm simply amazed, and I'll remember to get a camera in the kitchen during school soon, I promise.

Speaking of Duxelle-stuffed chicken and the rest, my class partner had to tend to an emergency and was thus out of school for a couple of days. This meant it was up to little me, myself and I to complete the full menu by myself. I admit to being slightly freaked out, but with a little guidance from my fabulous (and fabulously patient) chef instructors and a few deep yoga breaths, on Wednesday (the first day of my partner's absence) I turned out a nice plate of stuffed chicken leg (that I deboned myself), handmade gnocchi and stewed vegetables that surprised even myself. One of the best complements came from one of my chef instructors, who declared that though he's rarely hungry that early in the morning, my plate whetted his appetite for lunch.

Halfway through production on Wednesday, Chef Wilke came into the kitchen as he often does to check in, and saw that my shallots for the duxelle stuffing were just starting to brown to the point of near-burn. I was running about elsewhere, trying not to freak out, and he stopped me for a minute and said to me, "This is something you'll learn in time, but when you're multi-tasking, eventually you'll have a little voice or a feeling that just comes to you like 'Oh yeah!' to remind you of all the things you have going on." I explained to him, slightly embarrassed, but mostly grateful that he'd caught the shallots from burning, that I was by myself in the kitchen because my partner wasn't there.

He smiled and said, "Well then, today's your lucky day!"

At first I didn't get it. Well, it's more like I was thinking, 'Are you joking? How is it "lucky" that I got left to do all this by myself?' But as I got into the groove of the day, things began to come together, and when time was up, I found myself standing at my work table with a well-flavored, presentable plate in front of me. Exhausted but elated, I realized suddenly that I was happy to be challenged to complete this task, and really proud of myself for doing a good job.

Something else to think about: This kind of stuff happens all the time in the real world. People call in sick or have emergencies at the last minute, and it's not the first time I've been left with double the workload. It's a part of the industry, and I didn't break any barriers by doing this by myself (one of my classmates did the same menu by himself earlier this week).

Nonetheless, I'm learning to take pride in the small steps and accomplishments. It was my lucky day, as I know now that I can do a good job on my own if need be.


mel! said...

nice! it's always a good feeling to rise to the challenge!

so what are your post-culinary school plans? are you going to open your own restaurant someday??? i will join you and be your brewmeister if you want!

Tonya said...

Ok that bread pudding is positively pornographic. *drool*

Stephanie Crocker said...

Hi, I'm Josh's friend Steph in Seattle and he and your sis were over on friday nite at our house for dinner and she mentioned your blog. so happy i remembered the URL because I've really enjoyed reading your story.

It is so fantastic that you are marking your wonderful journey through cooking school in writing. It's also great that you're immersing yourself in the be here now, because who knows what the future would bring. But it is great that you are not only armed with just culinary skills, but also more important philosophical tidbits that will help you find your path through the world of food.

Looking forward to reading more about your journey.

Ingrid said...

Mel: We have yet to see where school will take me, but I'm thinking about catering, or maybe food writing... but I'll take beer anytime!

Tonya: That was some damn good bread pudding, eh? :)

Stephanie: Thanks for the kind words! Sylvia and Josh mentioned your bake shop to me a little while ago and I hope I get to stop by soon. Culinary school is a challenge for sure, but nothing like a good challenge to make you step it up.