Wednesday, November 11, 2009


blog - take two.

it's november eleventh. i last blogged september fifteenth. i've been in culinary school for nine and a half weeks now and, amazingly enough, i'm not that bad.

my grades in Culinary Skills thus far:

Vegetable preparation:60.00 (out of 100.00)
Thickening Agent:60.00 (out of 100.00)
Salads Pantry:80.00 (out of 100.00)
Potato Cookery:78.00 (out of 100.00)
Egg Cookery:88.00 (out of 100.00)
Sandwiches:83.00 (out of 100.00)

funny that this is what i do all day. pretty obvious improvement since i first battled vegetables... i forgot to season my duchesse potatoes and i can remember that lab being especially frantic, but man i really nailed them eggs. want me to make you a sandwich? i got an 83 per cent in sandwiches at one of the best cooking schools in north america. i should make a t-shirt that says that.

i've gotten used to wearing the chef uniform, i seem to be able to wake up at an "a.m." hour fairly consistently and i'm slightly less antisocially hostile to my classmates. caleb's my partner in the culinary skills class and probably my only true "friend" in the school. at lunch we'll sit next to each other on a bench in the hallway, him on his computer, me reading a book. he's pretty young, plays drums in a hardcore band, has lots of tattoos and is even more scornful of the people around us than i am. we're a good team; sharing duties, helping each other out. we present our final plating to chef z at the same time and in turn he basically evaluates us as a single chef. caleb's the only one who gets to hear all of my muttered exclamations and inane observations and i'm glad i no longer have to just write them all down in a notebook.

today we did poultry, y'know-- deboning, stuffing breasts, frenching bones, stuffing cavities, tenderizing meat, etc.

(cooking is hilariously vulgar, there're almost too many jokes to make.)

i'm currently sick (H1N1!) and had an especially trying time in what proved to be a confusing and thoroughly frustrating lab. my demi glace was facing difficulties from the start due to a faulty oven and deboning the chicken took much longer than anticipated. i cut myself at one point but cauterized it through sheer will power. somehow, chef z ended up praising our plating so i'm slightly hopeful i'll break the "ninety" mark (especially since i told him how sick i was and he nodded so understandingly).

tomorrow is banquet/large scale cooking -- if my body hasn't fallen apart by then.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Heat in the Kitchen

I arrive to class just in time. For someone that’s been unemployed since January, an eight a.m. class is no small feat.

Class (Culinary Skills -- Theory):

Chef Zambotti, a somewhat stocky Italian man, is our instructor. I have no doubt he is excellent at his craft. He trained in Switzerland, apprenticed in Italy, worked in France, came to Canada, went back Europe, et cetera and so on. Unfortunately, being a teacher doesn’t quite seem to be his forte. He appears constantly comically annoyed and is a champ at undercutting students, but you can still tell that he’s trying. I am curious about the indentation in the side of his head, which looks like it was caused by his eyeglasses. I hope to get a picture of this curious mark at some point.

This is Zambotti:

Loud Mouth #2 has a problem with his schedule which leaves Zambotti flustered. Z exits, LM's schedule flapping over his head and the class begins to murmur amongst themselves; the pitch escalating to a dull roar. I note that more people are wearing uniforms. When Z returns, Loud Mouth #1 starts us off with an intellectual culinary discussion by raising his hand and saying, "Sir, what's a paring knife for?"

I ride my bike home for the two hour break between theory and lab. I'm starting to really enjoy zipping along Adelaide and Richmond on my jaunt to and from school.

Class (Culinary Skills -- Lab)

I arrive five minutes late to class for which Zambotti gives me a public dressing down. I am amused when I notice myself referring to him as "Chef". "Yes Chef," I say when he tells me that next week, being late is not an option. "No Chef," I say when he asks me if I want to try and give him an excuse he hasn't heard a million times before. I like Zambotti's accent. I like the way he eyes everyone accusingly after he's made a point, as though to say "None of you are even listening". The bike ride has left me sweaty and I'm confused as to why I'm still dripping when I realise I'm standing directly above a hot fryer. Thankfully, we are assigned work stations in the kitchen (I'll try to get pictures soon) and I escape the cruel heat of the moment. I am the only one in the class to not have a partner at my work station. I am amused and disheartened. Zambotti continues to explain things, but it's impossible to see from my station. Luckily, there are television screens set up, so it's just like I'm watching a cooking show.

Even more people are wearing their uniforms for the lab. Truth be told, I have mine in my bag, but I'm still pretty sure I'd look very silly in it. I also rented a locker, but am unable to put my uniform in there because I have yet to purchase a lock. The lab ends early as we're not actually preparing anything today but are told to read our books for a chicken and vegetable stock next week. I will purchase these "books" soon.

The ride home is like flying.

My First Day of School.

Luckily, my first day of class happened to be the one day I don’t have to get up at six thirty in the morning. I rode my bike and arrived much earlier than anticipated. Entering GB’s main building, I proceeded to get lost while trying to find the Tim Horton’s. Checking the time, I thought it better to have a pre-class cigarette than to keep looking, so I stood outside sizing up the other culinary students loitering on the sidewalk. With about ten minutes to spare, I walked into the culinary school, officially a student. A chef in training. My journey begins.

I get lost again on the way to class. Finding the room, I notice other students sitting inside and walk right by. I make a lap of the floor, trying to look like I know what I’m doing. Finally returning, I enter, make eye contact with no one and slink into a seat mid-way through the room next to a guy I never look at. A few people are already decked out in the Chef Uniforms. I check to see if the hole in the crotch of my jeans has increased in size. Two students, fresh out of high school by the looks of things, engage each other in loud, stupid banter, trying to show off for a class that doesn’t care. (Loud Mouth #1 is congenial; annoyingly self-promoting but likable -- Loud Mouth #2 is just plain dumb). Our instructor is a man I instantly adore and am disgruntled upon hearing that he is just filling in for our normal teacher.

Class (Food Theory):

Upon taking Roll Call, we are immediately ordered to stand and evacuate the building. Apparently it’s not enough to explain that in case of a fire, leave; we actually have to shuffle down three flights of stairs and flood the sidewalk in order for the demonstration to be complete. The Temp Chef then tries (and fails) to unleash a power point presentation, finally settling on showing us the YouTube sensation Matt Harding and his funny dancing in different locations around the world. The point of this entertaining aside is lost on me. We are assigned homework from a book I have yet to purchase and are released. My first lunch as a Chef In Training is a veggie sub from Subway.

Class (Diet and Nutrition):

I arrive back to the building early, so I smoke while watching the door to see if I recognize anyone. I see both Loud Mouths. I get lost on the way to class, but manage to arrive early. I pick a chair with a two-seat buffer between me and the next person so am annoyed when someone opts to sit right next to me. The instructor for the class is an extremely likable woman by the name of Billie Jane. She claims that her favourite food right now is pizza with spelt dough. Both Loud Mouth #1 and #2 are in the class and are continuing with their idiotic self indulgence.

Class ends early and I leave, happy to hop on my bike and head home.

I can only assume that eventually this blog will have to do with cooking.