Chef School Post #7 – Assessment time
Wow. We’re halfway through the course already. I can’t say that it’s gone surprisingly quickly, because I always knew it would fly by. So it’s not a surprise. But 3 months has gone fast.
The fact we’ve done so much already is a good sign – because I know that in the second half we’re going to be cramming even more in. So that’s great. But it’s also a bit of a shame because I know the next three months will go quickly too. Sadly, this means that from now on it’s count down time till the end of the course and the reality of having to work for a living again!
The first few weeks were largely skills and techniques based, with each couple of days focused on different basics of cooking: learning a few new techniques, ironing out some bad habits and perfecting new ones. Then we moved on to ingredients led days and weeks: you may have read the posts that mentioned the three weeks spent gutting, filleting and preparing tens of different kinds of fish. And I’ve mentioned that since then there have been about four weeks learning to break down, prepare and cook meat (poultry, game, a week on lamb, beef and that gruesome/beautiful picture of a pig’s head in the last post).
We get feedback continually as we work and also as we present the 3-6 dishes we cook everyday. This is always the best way to learn, I think. But we’ve also had a couple of formal assessment days. The first was at the six week mark and we have just had the second assessment.
Whilst the first assessment was theoretically easy (it was mostly covering the basic skills we had done over those early weeks with relatively simple things like omelettes, duchesse and croquette potatoes, various vegetable cuts, some soups with particular garnishes etc) it was actually a little hectic trying to make sure everything was done perfectly and to the right timings. A *perfect* classical French omelette is quite different to your average brunch version …
I much preferred the second assessment. This covered off some of the fish and meat preparation that we have been doing over the past few weeks (filleting and skinning Dover sole; cutting up a chicken for sauté; French trimming a rack of lamb) and required us to then use what we had prepared in three relatively classical dishes. The enjoyable bit, though, was that as well as cooking those dishes correctly, we’re also encouraged to present our food with a bit of flair. So, for example, I tried to make the sole paupiettes (sole fillets stuffed with salmon mousse) look as modern as possible, which is quite difficult with stuffed fish (see first picture). Similarly, the French trimmed lamb cutlets were to be used in a mixed grill dish along with some bacon, liver and sausage. That could be quite a boring dish, so I tried to jazz it up with some straw chips, onion 'petals', a salsa verde and some pumpkin and candied beetroot crisps (see second picture).
Happily I got a distinction in both of the assessments Which makes me confident for the second half of the course, however short it will feel.
Happy Easter everyone.
Till next time
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Are they hop shoots in pic 1 ?
I have never tried them, I must keep an eye out for them. I Picked Seabeet yesterday. Ido like Seabeet. We also have a bunch of wild watercress, thanks mum.
I tried Alexadra stems not to long ago, they are awfull !
Keep em coming, love your site.
Happy Easter! The dishes look wonderful.