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Pans and Perspective

You provide the food and I will provide the perspective." – Anton Ego, 2007

Category

Character

My drive and passion.

I have enjoyed cooking for as long as I can remember.  I know that sounds cliche but it really is true.  One of my first experiences in the kitchen was helping my father make scrambled eggs.  It was a simple task, crack the eggs in a bowl, add a splash of milk and then whisk them.  Nothing fancy, no white table cloths and no waiters in tuxedos.  It was just classic home cooking.  And for some reason I always reveled in the fact that I could take an ingredient, something as simple as an egg, and then change it into something completely different.

My ideal career path would be to end up working as a food critic.  Someone in a paid position who gets to visit restaurants and test recipes while giving insightful criticism, not to belittle chefs, but rather enhance both their palette and my own.  I feel that the precursor to this is going to be working in the industry for 20+ years, maybe longer.  I really want to get a good understanding of different cuisines and how different dishes are properly prepared.  I would be just as enthusiastic to work as a line look in French Laundry as I would be to become an executive chef on a cruise ship and I feel that my dedication and pride towards the work that I create has the potential to be on par with those chefs.  Working with food has always been something I enjoy.

Now that I have passed through nearly 2 terms at the CIA I have begun to refine and hone the styles I like to cook with.  I personally enjoy creating classical french dishes, using both the techniques and flavors.  I really would like to make Classical French Cooking my specialty or area of focus.  From that I want to begin to develop an even more in depth approach.  As much as I enjoy the classics, reworking them so that they have my own personal twang is quite interesting.  Keeping the subtle undertones of smooth fish volute and then crafting it into an elegant clam chowder is something that I feel can be challenging and rewarding.

Why?  The question that I always ask about everything.  My style, my career path and the choices I make each day.  I think what It all boils down to, no pun intended, is being able to work with my hands and make people happy.  It is difficult to take a bite of a rich slice of chocolate cake and not shudder in delight.  Teaching and working with others to improve, enhance and change the way that things are done is also something I take great joy in.

Pride

Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.
-Margaret Thatcher

I have been learning so much here at the CIA.  As I have said before, I do not go a day without learning something new and intriguing.  Each day we are reminded of our expectations and I strive to produce the best product I can each day.

That being said, I was alarmed in Meat ID class when Chef called me on something I didn’t even think about.  We had just frenched our Lamb Racks, which can be seen here, and after making my own personal inspection, I brought it up to chef’s table to be graded.  He took one look at it, flipped it over and said, excellent job.  I could tell he wanted to add something else though.  He then said something that I haven’t forgotten yet: next time you do something make sure to clean it up a little bit.  I had frenched my rack of lamb on the butchers block.  This was the same block where I had fabricated some other lamb products.  As a result small bits of fat and skin were left on the table and they ended up depositing themselves on my lamb rack.

I was really upset with myself that I had let something like that slide.  Especially after what I learned when I was at the Perfect Caper.  Somewhere around my 3rd or 4th week, I was assigned to make Chicken Flautas.  These are tightly rolled chicken burritos that are deep fried so that they have a crispy shell.  Liz, the Sous Chef and my teacher at the time, told me how to do it.  She then asked me to repeat what she had done and finish using up all of the Flauta mix.  Judging by the amount of chicken she used in one and the amount remaining I knew I had a big task ahead of me.  I rolled three flautas and she came by to check on me.  I will always remember what she said.  Those aren’t that good, I’m going to need you to roll them again.  Liz wanted me to unroll the flautas I had rolled which would mean, throwing away the shell, wasting egg wash and time and having to start over.  When she first said this I thought nothing of it.  I just tried to make more of an effort to get my flautas to look more like what she had shown me.  After rolling about 2 more she came by again.  She said, this one is good but this one needs to be done over.  This second time it really clicked, one, I wasn’t going to be allowed to move onto my next task until I completed this one and two if the flautas weren’t nearly perfect I would have to start over.  I tell this story a lot but it really helped me learn how to take pride in what I do.  The first batch took me somewhere around 2 hours.  If I had to go back and do it today it would only take me 25-30 minutes.  The fact that I had to perfect these flautas, which at the time I thought was the most tedious and stupid thing in the world, forced me to care about what I did.  To this day I still roll the best Flautas at the Caper!

Taking pride in what I do is something that I learned as a kid.  I feel like it really didn’t start to become applicable until I began to work on things I enjoyed myself.  I know that I frequently didn’t care about how my school work turned out during high school.  Now, I refuse to hand in work that isn’t my absolute best.  I make sure that this includes my dishes or papers.

What fish ID is really teaching me.

We are halfway through our Fish Identification and fabrication.  Unfortunately we have missed two days of class due to the ridiculous weather up here in New York.  For those of you who don’t know we have had about 32 inches of snow over the course of the past 2 days.  Another interesting fact is that the school has only closed 7 times in the past 10 years and 4 of those closures have been this year.

Fish fabrication is actually quite interesting.  The fabrication part is quite simple.  We have learned three methods of filleting a fish.  They are all simple methods and really don’t take that much skill.  You have to  be careful and focused by as long as you are paying attention it is quite easy.  Up and over, flat cut and straight cut are the three methods we have learned and are used depending on what the anatomy of the fish is.  Fish with hard bones are fabricated with the up and over technique whereas fish that have softer bones get cut with the straight cut method.

We have also been learning how to identify different fish and the families that they belong to.  For example salmon and rainbow trout are both in the same family but they taste and look entirely different.

While the fish facts make up the core of the class I have been pleasantly surprised at the additional material we cover each day.  Our class has always had somewhat of a volatile chemistry.  Many small things get blown out of proportion and there is an excessive amount of drama.  Jen, the MIT or teachers aide has really been helping our class become more of a team and work together better.  We had a day recently where the leader was telling us one instruction and someone interrupted to disagree.  Jen silenced the person who was interrupting and gave us a small talk on why we need to listen to our leader.  Our class has grown stronger as a whole.  We also have started to reduce the drama and talking that really beleaguered our class.

We still have the lecture portion of class remaining and while I’m certain we will learn a lot more, I feel like the leadership portion won’t be focused on as much.  Fish has been interesting and quite informative and I have enjoyed each and every second of it.

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