This Week in Culinary School: Week 12

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I can’t quite believe it, but we have just one month left of formal classroom instruction before we begin our restaurant externships.  Suddenly, I realized that we have covered all the main topics in our culinary syllabus, and as a result these past few weeks have been a bit of a hodgepodge of topics. While I can’t believe how soon I’ll be finding myself in an actual restaurant kitchen, I am loving the variety and the special guests we’ve welcomed.

Top Three Things I Learned This Week

1. Cooking with Chef Stuart Brioza from State Bird Provisions

The photo above shows some of the dishes we made under the patient and exacting guidance of Chef Stuart Brioza of hotspot San Francisco restaurants State Bird Provisions and The Progress.  These are very difficult to score reservations (I’ve only been to State Bird once and still have yet to make it to The Progress), so we were all pretty giddy to have the chance not only to have Chef Stuart as a teacher for an afternoon, but to eat his food! We made several dishes using local produce and sea vegetables, with some Japanese flavors as the theme.  And yes, we did cook (and debone those tiny little bones from) the eponymous state bird, quail.  This topped a salad made of some gorgeous vegetables, including watermelon radish and a green-hued Korean daikon I’ve never seen before.

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Beside some delicious and eye-catching dishes, Chef Stuart shared his philosophy of cooking.  Some of the pearls:

-cooking is not just about food, but about community.

-cooking is a craft that he still practices every day, even after more than 2 decades as a cook

-presentation doesn’t just belong on the plate; presention is every step of the way.  (Yes, you could apply this to pretty much everything in life.)

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2. Japanese Cooking- 

The day after our workshop with Chef Stuart, we continued on the theme of Japanese cooking with a really exciting Japanese menu, which included my favorite, comforting dish, chawanmushi (savory custard), burdock root, rice balls with pickled cherry blossoms (gorgeous!) and more.

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Chef Catherine introduced us not only to Japanese culinary vocabulary, ingredients and techniques, but also to the art of presentation, Japanese style, as well as chopstick etiquette.  We finished with a light dessert of kanten, Japanese gelatin made with agar-agar, served with sweet adzuki beans, fresh strawberries and Japanese black sugar simple syrup. This type of dessert is usually served in a bowl, but instead we plated it in a clear glass jar, which made for a modern and very beautiful presentation.

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3.  Burger Day!

Okay, this may seem pedestrian after the less familiar and more intricate delicacies above, but I think the favorite day of this week for the vast majority of my classmates (and cooking school staff) was Burger Day.  We ground our own meat (from the beef we had butchered a few weeks back, made our own buns, bread and butter pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise based dressings, and of course onion rings and fries.  I don’t think anyone in my class has a main objective of working in a fast food joint after graduation, but I’d have to agree that there is an art to crafting the perfect burger.

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Thanks for coming by! If you’re curious what it’s like to be in culinary school, check out my previous posts and also come back weekly for my latest updates. I’ll be sharing tips, ingredients, and recipe ideas straight from the classroom. And for healthy cooking and eating tips (no burgers and fries, sorry!), join my community on Facebook at The Doctor’s Spicebox.

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