Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another post...finally!

I know, it's been forever! Between working full time and school I haven't had much free time, and the wear and tear on my mental state has certainly been noticeable!

But enough whining - there are enough people in this country alone who could never hope to have the amazing opportunity I've been given, so we carry on:

It's December already! And the middle of December at that! I know I'm not the only one who looked up and is surprised to notice this. Since I last posted I have completed another module and am halfway through the current one.

I'll start with the completion of PBK 121 - petit fours, cakes, etc. The continuation of our basics. Here are some pictures from my final:

If you want to see larger photos (or just more) I have them posted on my Facebook page. This was one of my favorite classes - I loved all the details and work involved to create these little dainty items. I didn't really LIKE many of them myself, but they sure were fun to make!

Now that I'm officially on Christmas Break from school for two weeks (ah, I forgot what that was like!) I'll be updating on what's been happening. Next up: the beginning of hell...I mean 131...and working with a new chef.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Update - my injury

My hands have healed very nicely; thanks for everyone who was asking about it! It took about three weeks, but the large burn on my left hand finally healed over into a shiny new scar. Proof that I worked hard in culinary school, I guess! No infections, no tetnus. So we're ready to go!

Panic Sets In

We have finally finished breads, and have moved back to pastries. I have learned a few things already:

1. Europeans like almonds. Almond macaroons, almond Florintines, almond baton Marceaux, almonds, almonds, almonds! They're in everything; even the lemon Madelines have almond meal.
2. My class is wont to bouts of panic. I haven't figured out if it's organizational issues or if that's just the way they handle the stress of multi-tasking, but there have been a lot of deer caught in the headlights of a large moving van lately.

Luckily my recent jobs have required me to work on may different projects at the same time, due to the "brilliant" structure of giving me multiple bosses/managers (who, nine times out of ten, are out to get each other). Class has been pretty straight-forward for me lately, simply because I'm used to multi-tasking. Where I get frustrated is having to wait on others to catch up. Whether this involves them working more slowly and putting everyone behind, or if they're in my way and I can't get my own stuff done. I finally snapped at a girl today who, while washing her dishes in the ONLY SINK, stopped to tell me something about a bowl she washed earlier that needed to have the sink water dumped out because it made a mess, blah blah blah. I'm sorry? Do I care? Not really, just shut up and wash your damn dishes so I can get to mine!

All in all this class is much more fun than the last. I will have pictures at the end - our final is to present a buffet of pastries we have created, so I will be sure to capture that and post.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Always waiting...stupid bread

So this is the first post in a long time, just because there hasn't been much of interest going on. Well, I find it interesting, but you probably wouldn't, simply because it's the same thing, over and over and over and over. To be honest, even I'm a little bored, so I'm glad we're in the final now. I'm actually blogging from school, since I'm waiting for my bread to proof. That's what we're still working on: bread. And since there is essentially only one way to make bread, we've been doing that. Over and over and over and over. Aside from braiding or rolling or the general look of the bread, the procedure is the same.

Glad to be moving onto the next class on Wednesday. Off to check my bread and make sure it's still doing what it's supposed to. Hopefully I'll have a more interesting post soon!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Only a Flesh Wound

In a desperate attempt to save my falling bread, I seared both of my hands, only to have the entire sheet tray go crashing to the floor. Luckily it's a pretty sturdy bread, so no harm, no foul. And dammit if I wasn't going to have PERFECTLY baked bread after baking my hands, because I was going to make it WORTH the pain.

So if you're a little squemish, I apologize for the following picture. Here's the damage:

This doesn't show the blisters on the fingertips of my pinky, ring, and middle fingers on my right hand, which is making it a little difficult to type. But if you're going to do something, do it right, right?

Blisters and gaping wounds aside, it has been a successful class so far. 97% on my recent test, only because a couple of my pan au lait rolls came a bit unbraided during the proofing process.

Well, shorter blog today, simply because my hands are screaming in protest of this much movement and contact. I'll blog again once all my skin has reattached itself to the appropriate parts of my body.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Going to the grocery store

A quick post tonight, because pizza is on its way and I'm very hungry!

If you ever need an ego boost, go to the grocery store wearing chef's whites. Preferably a specialty store like Sprouts, World Market, or Fresh & Easy. Everyone you see wants to know "oh wow, what is she buying?" You get great questions like "wow, are you a chef?" and "what are you planning on making?" You are automatically the expert in the room, even if you say you're just in school.

It certainly feels good, and I've decided, after encountering this twice, that the perfect time to go shopping is after I get off of school on Saturday afternoons.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Short blog tonight, but I wanted to thank my husband for being there for me. It's so strange to think that I came to the realization that I could be a chef so late in the game. I've always cooked, so it never seemed like anything different, or like it could be more than just for fun, or something you have to do to, well, not die. But before I even considered school Dave kept saying to me I could do these shows like Hell's Kitchen and Chopped and The Next Food Network Star. And when I finally saw that this is where my life was headed, he was, and still is, my biggest fan. He has fewer doubts than I do! It's reassuring that, no matter what, the person who is most important in my life thinks I can do this more than anyone. He's never had a single doubt. How many people can say that?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This is finally getting hard

And not for the reasons you may think. Mostly because I miss my husband. He just left to go study, as a good boy should, for his nursing test on Thursday. He was also lucky enough to win a trip to San Francisco, travel and hotel paid, to see the Seahawks/49ers game. He's been a die-hard Seahawks fan all his life, and has never had the chance to see a game before. But between his work and school schedule, and my work and school schedule, and then the trip, I won't really be able to see him until Monday evening. How can I be expected to study yeast and flour right now? And I feel bad, because I don't want to discourage him from studying, because really, nursing is hard enough as it is.

I've always been an independent person so this is a little weird for me to be so reliant on someone else, but I think it's also the fact that he's the only person I talk to on a regular basis that knows I'm in culinary school. I can't talk about it at work, and I don't have as much time to spend with friends that I used to. So I'm excited about everything that's going on, but I can't tell anyone about it. Sure, I have the blog, and I assume people are reading, but how can I know? I hope there are people out there...

So this isn't as exciting of a post as usual, but it's all part of the process. There are eight steps in the baking process - I guess this is one of the steps in my own developmental process. In order to become a successful chef, you have to go through the fire.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

PBK 101 done - on to 111 and bread!

Well, it was a successful first class and perfect final. On to PBK 111, where we learn to work with yeast breads. I'm so excited about this class, but I'm concerned for those people who had difficulty in 101. Surprisingly everyone passed; not sure how that happened. But how are they going to do working with yeast? As Chef put it, it's like having a pet. It's not hard, but it's definitely not easy, and if you kill the yeast it just won't work. There's no middle ground.

All in all I'm very happy with the program. I couldn't have asked for anything more. Also, I'm glad we have the same chef for this second course, because he had already expressed to us more than once how much he loves this module.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Week Three: Pound Cake, Devil's Food Cupcakes, Ganache, Swiss Roll and Genoise

Translation: dry cakes with lemon curd. Gross. Well, not gross, exactly, but I'm not a huge fan of lemon. The cupcakes were awesome though. You can see the pics in my previous post.

These recipes were all pretty neat though, since many of them involved equal parts. For instance, pound cake is equal parts flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. Ganache is equal parts chocolate and cream. Genoise is equal parts flour, sugar, and eggs. Chef is fond of saying that if we are ever stuck in the Amazon jungle and have a craving for genoise, we don't even need a recipe! It's that easy! We just need access to a stove. And a mixer. And an oven. And hopefully some icing, cause this stuff is dry as hell.

Final week of class is up next, and we're re-creating some items we've done before as part of our practical final, and then taking a few tests. Should be pretty easy. And the next class we start working with yeast doughs! I've lost a bit of weight from the stress, exercise, and dinners-on-the-go this first month, but I don't know anymore. I can very easily hand off a plate of cupcakes to my husband and say "here, take these to work." But a loaf of bread? Forget about it. I can eat that single-handedly while watching So You Think You Can Dance, reminiscing about when I used to dance and weighed 120 pounds.

Ah me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Blogs to make you hungry: Photos From PBK101 - Introduction to Patisserie and Baking

**Side note before blog actually begins: when I was typing the title my finger got away from me and I originally typed "Introduction to Patisserie and Banking." That's a whole other class!**

All right, official beginning of blog starts now.

This is a short one, with just some pics of my work so far.

Devil's food cupcakes with chocolate ganache. Sprinkles, eat your heart out!

Cream puffs with chantilly cream, and eclairs with vanilla cream

Apple pie

Mixed fruit pie

I hope you're all hungry now!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ganache and Papparazzi

If you read my previous post, you are well aware the Jackson family chose to have their post-interment dinner at the restaurant next door to Le Cordon Bleu's West Campus location. As such, the entrance to school was blocked off with 10 foot high black sheets to provide the family a mediocre bit of privacy as they entered through the back of the restaurant. Didn't really bother us much; their staff and security couldn't have been more polite.

However, after four hours of cupcakes, ganache, and creme brulee we staggered out under the weight of our equipment, books, and diabetes-inducing concoctions, only to have to face the paparazzi trying to sneak through the back way. While we all muttered under our breath words like "vulture," "fucking hell," and "idiots," one was heading straight my way, not even looking where he was going. I therefore took it upon myself to continue on my straight-and-narrow path, with the full knowledge that my bag full of knives, spoons, a rolling pin, and various other accessories would far outmatch his delicate camera bag. I was celebrated by the rest of my class after shouldering him out of the way, and figured I had done my good deed for the evening. My only regret is the camera was around his neck, and he didn't drop it during the collision. I'm sure he picked that tip up during douchebag training.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

We interrupt this blog to bring you...Michael Jackson?

Or his family at least. Apparently the Jackson family decided tomorrow night they must dine at the restaurant on the corner of Colorado Blvd and Green St in Pasadena. The problem is, Le Cordon Bleu's West Campus (where I have class) is also on the corner of Colorado and Green. Well, in order for the Jackson family to dine in peace, they have to shut down Colorado Blvd. And for anyone who is not familiar with Pasadena, Colorado Blvd is the largest street in town, and one of the few that is two-way. You know the Rose Parade? It goes down Colorado.

Now the question is; how do I get to the corner of Colorado and Green without either driving on or crossing Colorado?

At least we got out early tonight, so I can google a new route for tomorrow. Ah, no rest for the wicked, I guess.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Week Two: biscuits, scones, pies, flan, creme brulee, eclairs, and cream puffs

Week two stepped the program up a bit, and had us multi-tasking. Remember your pie in the oven at 375 degrees, your creme brulee at 325 degrees, then make your pate a choux while planning enough time to make the creams for the different fillings. Fun, but busy.

This was my first real pie crust, since the only other time I have ever made one turned out less than expected. Since then I have purchased frozen crusts, but most people never know the difference anyway.

All in all, chef was pleased with my products. I had a bit of difficulty with the caramel, simply because that stuff is hard, and there's a reason I typically don't make candy. But now I know how to make a killer creme brulee, and I want a blowtorch for Christmas.

As always, Dave's co-workers were thrilled to have goodies to chow on, and I even got him to admit that he likes more sweets than he originally thought. His defense? "I guess I've never had good eclairs before." Why thank you, dear hubby! ;-)

Next week we move on to cakes. I think I'm most excited for cakes and yeast doughs. I'm just a sucker for bread; what can I say?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

You can't be quiet wearing steel-toed shoes

I pride myself on being a good upstairs neighbor. I don't have loud footsteps. I listen to the TV at a reasonable level. And I always go to sleep at a responsible hour, or at least I'm reading a book and quiet. But when I stumbled down the stairs at 6:30 this morning (a Saturday) carrying about 30 pounds worth of cooking equipment and wearing clunky steel-toed shoes, I couldn't help but think, well, there goes my good neighbor reputation.

Because good chefs are loud. Maybe not at home. But in the kitchen you have to yell. Communicate. Talk over each other. And every so often the word "fuck!" screamed at the top of your lungs is an appropriate response to searing your palm on the handle of a pot over open flame, or gluing your finger with spun sugar to the ramekin of caramel you're attempting to turn into flan.

I love it.

Two weeks down, only 40 to go. I've already burned my wrist and grated my arm. Another girl has perfect parallel lines down her forearms from where she accidentally wrapped her arms around a hot sheet tray.

Who needs tattoos to commemorate graduation from culinary school? We're already accruing battle wounds.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Week One - Cookies and a Fruit Tart

A little of a belated post, since I'm already halfway through my second week, but oh well.

Week One, Day Two: After the first day of introduction to the kitchen (which is exactly how it sounds - "this is a spatula," "it's not safe to leave a stove on," "don't cut yourself") we had four hours to make Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies. And you're now all thinking, "what? What kind of half-assed program is this?" I can make cookies in 20 mins!" Not like this you can't. These were by far the most stressful cookies I have ever made, and I guarantee you it's a test - they want to see who can function in a kitchen devoid of timers, clocks, measuring cups (scales only, people - everything is weighed), and your standard equipment. Banks of hot ovens heat the room; twenty people scrambling all over each other for materials and supplies, and that one aimless person wanders around behind you with a bowl full of flour in one hand and a knife - held blade outward, of course - in the other.

Sadly, there are people who are probably not going to make it through the program. There is a 30% drop out rate for this program; people who start but never finish, either by their own choice or their product's. People who, even with four hours worth of time, were only able to make the dough for their cookies - no time to bake. Crying in the parking lot, and very scared faces thinking "dear God, if I can't even make a chocolate chip cookie, how the hell am I going to figure out sugar sculpting?"

Day Three: Strassburger Cookies and Fruit Tarts consisting of pate sucree (sugar paste), creme patisserie (pastry cream), fruit (fruit), and nappage (that sticky sweet glaze that makes it look pretty, but isn't very tasty). Now we have eight hours to create five pieces and assemble a fruit tart and present. As you can imagine, the people who had difficulty with two items in four hours are not going to do much better today. I, on the other hand, started to get the feel and rythym of a kitchen. And it is very much a rythym; the key is to never stop moving, and never move without purpose. You have to be one step ahead of yourself, or you'll be run over by either the clock or your classmates. Luckily my products turned out well; my small experience as a cake decorator has come in more handy than I ever realized. And I would have had pictures except that, well, we ate the tart before I could snap any. I'm guessing that's a good sign.

Creaming method of mixing - got it. Key is not to overcream your butter and sugar, or else you'll incorporate too much air and the cookie will become crumbly and spread too much during baking. Also, the fridge and freezer are your friends - chill everything before sending to the oven, and it will keep it's shape better.

Next week: Wed/Thurs: scones, apple pie, frozen fruit pie. Saturday: creme brulee, creme caramel, eclairs, and cream puffs. Basic methods - cut-in doughs and baked custards.

Should we keep a tally of the pounds I gain while in this program?


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


After week one of culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu I've found myself dreaming about the industrial sized kitchen, and more excited than I have ever been to get back into the classroom. Mostly because this is unlike any classroom I've ever seen. There's nothing like actually working with your hands to create something magical from a bit of flour, water, sugar, salt, and, of course, butter.

I've always cooked, and I mean that almost literally. I don't remember a time when I learned, and I can't remember a time when I wasn't in a kitchen. I remember kneading bread dough when I was about seven or eight years old, and at age 11 I was making dinner for my family. I don't remember having the "don't turn the stove on when no one is home" rule, though I'm sure it existed. Hearing all of this makes you think we grew up in a rural location, but no, it was just important to my southern born-and-raised mother to make sure both her children could cook, since "one day mom won't be there to cook for you, and you'll have to eat!"

Because of this, I've always been considered by friends to be "a good cook." But it took one particular meal on my honeymoon to realize that food was much more than sustenance. Escargot wrapped in puff pastry, lightly grilled veal, and a chocolate dessert to make you want to die right there on the spot; along with a bottle of wine and three hours of laughing with my new husband and the staff of the Supper Club aboard the Carnival Glory - that's where my journey in food started.

Fast forward two years later, and I'm at the same job, living and breathing in a cubical, and I realize I just can't stand the person I have become at a job I now hate. I'm drowning in a sea of paper and inadequacy. But as I start to prepare my resume I can't face doing the same thing somewhere else. I go home and throw something together for dinner and realize that THIS is what I love. If I could figure out a way to do THIS, I'm happy.

So I have taken out student loans again, and, tying on an apron three days a week, am learning a trade (and feeling a bit guilty that my parents paid for me to go to four years at an expensive private university six years ago). It's certainly going to be a trip.