Culinary School Denouement: What I have (and have not) learned

I suppose I will soon be changing the title of this blog to Dispatches Post-Culinary School. Pictures of my graduation buffet forthcoming…

Meanwhile, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some of the things I’ve really absorbed during the past 6 months…

1. Good kitchen habits like washing every dish when you’re done using it and keeping your work space clean.
2. Efficiency in executing a recipe to use as few dishes as is practical, and making as few trips to the fridge/dish sink as possible by multi-tasking and staying grounded in the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish.
3. I can guesstimate a measurement by weight within 10% most of the time.
4. Generally I can fix something that has gone wrong – with the notable exception of over-cooking, for which science has not yet determined a solution.
5. I can fillet the heck out of a whole fish. Sorry, Nemo.
6. Things that end with the sound “ay” – saute, flambe, make a cornet, cut a carrot in tournee, etc.
7. Salt. Use it. Love it. Salt the thing that you’re cooking and sometimes even the thing that you’re cooking it in. (If you’re nervous about blood pressure go get checked to see if you are in the 10 measly percent of the population whose blood pressure is affected by salt. If not – season it up!)
8. Puff Pastry – from scratch! (I long ago promised an (ex) co-worker of mine that I would figure out how to make vegan croissants and these are not far behind.)
9. Plating and garnish – these to me are honestly what separates really good home cooking from restaurant quality.
10. Sauce. It’s what makes stuff awesome.

And a few things that still haven’t quite sunk in:

1. 9 times out of 10 I will turn on the wrong burner on the first try.
2. Pepper. 5 different instructors had 5 different opinions about pepper, so white versus black pepper, when and how much of each to use remains a mystery. For now I’m kind of avoiding it altogether.
3. Somehow I got more squeamish with lobsters the more we used them. Maybe the first batch that I was so intent upon killing were lame, and every lobster since has seemed pretty lively just before execution.
4. I’m still OCD enough that I don’t like having my hands dirty. Fortunately, nobody faults you in a restaurant kitchen for wearing gloves.
5. How to get all my hair up in the stupid little hat.

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1 Response to Culinary School Denouement: What I have (and have not) learned

  1. Patsy says:

    Miss your frequent updates!! Hope all is going well at Gramercy Tavern! Loved meeting you at Tre Colori and being a part of your graduation buffet. Another chapter in life for all of us! Take care and hope to see you in New York on our next visit….whenever that is! Love, Patsy

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