August 2012 -

Just a place for my old thoughts

That was brutal
Tuesday, 21 August 2012 10:47 pm

Ok, so yesterday was a full day of assessment at college for the 1st year apprenticeship. We had three written exams in the morning and then had to prepare 8 dishes that afternoon.

We had a new chef/teacher who was WAY HARD! He has only been at the college for a few weeks and he makes Chef Rene (who is a hard arse) seem like a pussycat.

Out of a class of 16 only me and one other guy, Michael, actually managed to pass the practical exam. And Michael had one of his dishes rejected and had to represent. Holy Cow!

To say it was fast, hot, sweaty and stressful would be an understatement. Top that with the head cold that I am in the middle of and it was one brutal afternoon of cooking.

We had to prepare a Waldorf Salad with fresh mayonnaise, 3 Mini Spring Rolls with dipping sauce and garnish, a Tomato Salad with vinaigrette, 100g of Pilaf rice, an Egg sandwich, a Vanilla Souffle, a Club Sandwich, Eggs Benedict, a Filled Turkish Sandwich and a portion of Fettuccini with pesto sauce.

And in the middle of the session the chef tells everyone to stop, that the kitchen is a pigsty and that we now have to stop all cooking and clean up for 15 minutes. HOLY COW! Then at the end I still had one dish to present (the same one that Michael was representing) and the Chef said "Stop, that's it!". Like bloody hell that's it!!!! I ran up to him and said 5 minutes, just 5 minutes more! And was able to get my last dish up for presentation.

By the end I was shattered. We went to the pub for a beer afterwards and all I could saw was "FARK, farky, farky, fark fark."

At least I now have two days off to try and shift this cold, to get my final college papers in order and ready to be signed off next week. Then the theory behind my first year is officially over and I can technically call myself a second year.


Practice makes perfect
Thursday, 9 August 2012 12:51 am

One of the cool things about TAFE is that they introduce you to cooking techniques and ideas in 'chunks'. What I mean by that is that we just did 'Methods of Cookery'. And you talk about all 10 methods (Boiling, poaching, shallow fry, deep fry, bake, roast, steam, grill, braise and stew).

So during this they talk about 'pot roasting' which I have heard of but never tried. Right'ho!, says I. I'm gonna give that pot roasting thing a go.

So with a little research I grabbed a shoulder of lamb, added a few flavours, sealed it in a pot and baked it at 150c for about 7 hours. The results were pretty impressive. When I served it up Deb asked if I was going to carve it. NOPE! We tear it to bits with tongs. The meat just falls away from the bone. It was pretty good.

And that is an example of how I am loving taking a cooking technique that I am not sure about and applying it. I feel like my culinary knowledge is just going in leaps and bounds a the moment.

Loving college
Wednesday, 8 August 2012 6:34 am

Ok, so being at college is pretty awesome. Besides the bit of having to be at TAFE by 8:00am on Monday after finishing at 11:00pm the night before. Besides that.

You see my life, career, whatever, has put me in a very good place for formal education. Lock that with my training so far as a chef in which you keep one ear open for the chef and try to anticipate what they might need and things work really well.

At TAFE the chef might be cooking something and you will think, he's gonna need paper towels to dry that. It takes a second to grab them and at the right moment put them inside his reach. Easy stuff but what separates an apprentice from someone with their head up their bum.

The other part is that I have met a crew of other apprentices who know how to hold a knife up the right way so it is is great to be paired with them knowing that your food will turn out the right way.

We have also been going out for drinks after TAFE on a Tuesday which is great fun. We sit around drinking jugs of beer and trying to scheme how to buy the next one. A great night and a huge amount of fun.

So at the moment, although I am not earning much money, and work is really tough and life is somewhat difficult, it is great to have this temporary distraction. Oh, besides that I am actually doing pretty well at TAFE and getting good scores which is always satisfying.

And frankly, in comparison, I am one of the best apprentices going through at the moment. And that is a pretty good feeling. I think someone even tried to poach me during drinks last night which is always nice.

The calm
Monday, 6 August 2012 11:51 am

Today was a a practical assessment on cooking to college. We had to prepare jus lie, pumpkin soup, poached fish and tourne potatoes, tempura veg and a sri lankan curry.

As each dish is made you can just bring it up for assessment which makes things a bit easier, they don't have to hang around. The instructor actually kept my curry and as other students came up he would say 'taste this', and then say something about cream, or salt or spice balance. I felt very proud of what I had produced.

By the end of the day I had produced all the dishes with about an hour to spare and had been signed off. Next was into the sink to attack the huge pile of dishes that had built up. At the end of the day we were called up to sign off our reports and mine had 'very tasty', 'good consistency' etc written in the comments. A pretty proud moment really. I know that I'm only a first year apprentice and all but it made me extremely proud to be producing product as good as I could in the time allowed.

Work has actually been pretty cool for the last couple of weeks. I had a talk with Tom about how I was being treated and this has resulted in a) a real change in how he treats me & b) an increase in my hours. This means I can actually get my prep done in my section and have time to prepare, both mentally and physically, for service. A huge change from before when you are just pumping right up to service just to be ready. It makes such a difference. We had a good Saturday night service in which we got swamped for about 40 minutes and we just hammered as a team, pushing out dishes as quickly as possible and frankly doing a great job. Tom even praised my performance which hasn't happened for a very long time.

So at the moment I am doing two days at TAFE, two days RDO and then three days in the restaurant. It is actually very cruisey and something that I am going to find extremely hard to pass up when college finishes in a few weeks time.

The hassle I have at the moment is that Tom wants me to work next Monday which is a college day, if I don't attend then there is a very complex series of steps that have to happen in the restaurant to fill the required steps. I just wish I could not have to work and just get my college work done. Technically if I miss a day then I have to repeat that day next year which would SUCK! So I am hoping that I can talk my boss out of it.

Here's hoping.