Top Three Things I Learned This Week
- More Plating– I’m at my midway point of my externship (!), and am pretty comfortable plating all of the cold appetizers at lunch, which I’m very proud of. Of course there is room for improvement, but it’s great not to feel so deer-in-the-headlights anymore. The photo above shows one of the newest platings I’ve learned, for the lamb tartare. I continue to make some errors, especially at dinner service, which I only do once a week and which is also more complex and extensive, but I am getting better day by day, which is the point, really. I was surprised with a midterm evaluation, which was quite positive, thankfully (phew!) Three more weeks to go!
2. It’s a Delicate Procedure– One of the dinner prep tasks I did this week was to carefully slice blanched sugar snap peas exactly in half, peas still attached. This is as delicate as it appears. As I sliced my way through several quarts of these peas, I kept thinking my head that I was performing a delicate procedure, and perhaps a scapula was needed. I wonder if anyone else in the kitchen has these thoughts?
3. Flavor Obsession: Vadouvan– This ground up brown spice doesn’t look like much, but it’s pretty much all I want right now. This is vadouvan, made fresh in-house. What’s vadouvan? Think of Indian food married with French fine dining, and this is what you get. Apparently it originated in the French colony of Pondicherry (now Puducherry), and it’s a French spice blend which is basically a dried and ground form of curry spices with aromatics like shallot, onion, ginger and garlic. The key difference between this blend and that curry powder you probably have sitting in your pantry right now, besides the very French addition of aromatics, is that it is already pre-cooked, so you can use it like other ground spices and just sprinkle it on your food, which makes it more versatile. (When you make a curry using curry powder, you need to cook it or else it tastes raw.) At the restaurant, at my station, we use it to season our lovely chilled golden beet soup (one of the cold appetizers I highly recommend at lunch). I suggested to one of the pastry chefs that she should make a shortbread with it– or maybe I should. I am planning to make my own vadouvan one of these days, but if you are not as spice-crazed as I am, you should be able to purchase it from a spice shop, or online.
Thanks for coming along on this journey through culinary school! If you’re curious to see what I learned in school, please scroll back to see my weekly posts over the last four months. And come back for more highlights from my externship!