Day Two of Phase II started bright and early (as you can tell by my face below).  I ended up getting to school at 6:15 am, when all the kitchens were empty and dark.  You would think that we would run out of things to do with more than an hour and half left before lecture started, but once I arrived, it was clear that there will always be more you can do to get ready…

A Beautiful Plate Culinary School

We have to set up chef’s demo station, prep ingredients and scale certain dishes, set up the classroom with all chef’s equipment, get all the daily mise en place (ingredients for the day) from the commissary, fill out refrigerator logs, and only after that, can we start to pull together our own items.

My first task when I got into the kitchen was to start peeling the daily head of garlic, as well as peeling shallots.  My hands will smell like garlic forever by the end of these three months, I swear.

Soon after I arrived, Allyson, our teaching assistant, arrived as well and had me scale out the ingredients for the dessert of the day—Berry Citrus Cake(yesterday, we did not serve dessert, which is will no longer be the case).  Luckily, this also gave me the chance to scale out my table’s as well—which saved us a surprisingly big chunk of time once production started, especially when the scaling station can get crowded with everyone in class.  I really do love this aspect of Phase II and that we are now allowed to do this.

Culinary School Mise En Place

At 8:00 am, we all headed into the classroom for chef’s demo, which went until about 10:30 today (we serve at 12:30—so we had to hustle!).  A lot of the techniques we’re using in Phase II are things we’ve already learned, but there is a so much more attention to detail which requires a lot more time and precision. 

Chef Patrice really stresses every day that our sole purpose is to serve (and please) the customer and produce the best dish possible—and is really preparing us to work in a four-star restaurant.  Which means there are absolutely no shortcuts ever!  During lecture, he really tries to emphasize the steps he takes from producing a dish to finishing a dish. 

Therefore, during lecture, he’ll put together multiple deli cups of a sauce/soup, etc.  as he goes about making it (and seasoning) to show us what a difference it can make and how he goes about deciding what to do next with a dish (such as reduce, add liquid, season, strain, etc.).  I’ve found this really useful, because its hard learning that type of stuff from them just talking about it. 

Butternut Squash Soup

For today’s meal, we served a butternut squash soup to start.  It also had celery, carrot, and a small amount of granny smith apple in it for tartness/sweetness.  Unlike Phase I, where we rarely used many spices (because they wanted us to focus on basics and not distract us), this soup was seasoned with nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger.  The tricky part is knowing how to add all those components without overdoing one or the other, which is easy if you aren’t careful.  We passed the processed soup through a chinois (twice!) and finished it with cream. 

Our garnish was sour cream–which unfortunately wasn’t coming out of the squeeze bottle very well—as evident above. 

Our main course were paupiettes (rolls) of trout, stuffed and piped with scallop mousse, and cooked in a poaching liquid, which contained shallots, mushroom stems, fennel scraps, thyme, bay leaf, and equal parts fish fumet (stock) and white wine.  You then allow the liquid to come to a simmer over the stove and then place it in the oven—uncovered—until the trout is cooked.


At this point, we removed the trout and reduced the liquid over the stove (until almost dry), strained it through a chinois and finished it with cream, a small amount of madeira, and a little bit of butter.

We served the trout on a bed of sautéed (very thinly sliced) fennel, alongside simple boiled, tourneed potatoes.  While Jim took care of making the scallop mousse, I ended up tourneeing all the potatoes.  Fun!  But seriously, I really don’t mind doing them anymore.

We ended up serving our dishes to the front of the house today, and my partner, Jim, and I ended up getting assigned to bring our trout dish to Chef Francois—the director of the culinary program.  About 10 minutes later, he came into the kitchen, walked up to our table and asked “Who made this?”.  I’m pretty sure Jim and I were both a bit freaked out (since he is known for being difficult to impress) and quietly said “We did”.  He then explained that it was delicious and really well-cooked and showed us his completely clean plate!  I think we were both a bit shocked and flabbergasted, but it was a really nice way to finish service and gave me a much-needed confidence boost. 

Berry Citrus Cake

Our meal ended with a  simple dessert of berry & citrus cake (similar to a pound cake) made with strawberries and raspberries and topped with a lemon glaze.  We served it with a quenelle of whipped cream and some extra fruit on the side.  Pretty delicious!  For some reason or other, ours was very difficult to slice without it wanting to fall apart though. 

The trickiest part about the new service component of Phase II is plating and having to run off to deliver it to the intended recipient, while getting back in time to pay attention to your next dish that you have to plate soon after.  Since our main priority is our “service” plates (4 of everything)–not our own lunches obviously–we end up eating leftover scraps of this and that as our main meal.  This is both good and bad—I’m not eating as much heavy, calorific meals, but I’m also pretty starving by the time I leave school.  You win some, you lose some, I guess.

Since this post has suddenly turned into a short novel, I’m off to finish typing up my recipes for the day and eat some leftovers for dinner!