Monday, December 20, 2010

Keep on, keepin on

Exams are finally over, so I can breathe easy now. It's been a tough couple of weeks trying to keep up with all the studying, the pressures of the practical exams and the butchering practical. I have to be honest, I didn't score where I wanted to be for some of the exams and I am somewhat disappointed. I made some mistakes in my cooking practical which cost me some points and an A. No, I am not fine with a B -- but I know where the mistakes were made and I have to be sure not make them again.

Our butchering practical was quick and easy -- so I thought! We had to draw out of a "hat" the protein we would fabricate. Our options were: round fish, flat fish, chicken or rabbit. Fortunately, the rabbit did not come in and that was taken out of the mix. I have only fabricated one rabbit, so I did not feel as confident as I do with the fish and chicken. So, of course, I drew chicken. I felt really good about it -- my boneless skinless breasts looked fantastic and I even deboned the thigh quite well. But I ran over on time -- by one measly minute!! Another "B" it is -- ah, bugger!! Chef also said I had a lot of meat on the top cuts of the wings -- I didn't think too much yield was a bad thing, but whatever. I thought it was perfect.

I did MUCH better on my baking practical with a 93!! I did slightly overcook my pumpkin muffins, and my danish dough was slightly dense, but my French apple tart and scones were perfect!! YAY!! Considering that was the first time I have made scones, that was fabulous! We work in groups at school, so I somehow managed to not be a part of the scone making. Not on purpose, of course, but I at least watched them be made and they are actually really easy. I made chocolate chip orange scones. They looked and tasted fabulous!

As for the written exams, my baking exam was super short -- only 25 questions! That was a nice surprise, but I am glad I still studied as much as I did. Next semester is going to be more advanced and we need to understand the science of baking on a different level. I am extremely excited to take this class -- and I hear the instructor is tough, but a great pastry chef.

My cooking exam was longer, but again, I studied enough and think I will get an A. Unfortunately, I need at 94 on the exam to get an A in the class and I am guessing I probably scored more along the lines of a 90. I am tempted to email Chef to find out, but then again, what can I do about it now? I know what I can do next semester -- and that is push myself to the next level. I know I am capable of it -- I just have to execute!

During break, which is about 4 weeks, I am going to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Chef says people aren't just born with the talent -- it takes practice. If you find that you are not good at something, keep doing it until you are good at it. So that is what I will do!

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Whew!!!

I just got home from my black box practical exam and I am ready for a nap! Before I soak up some zzzzz's I have to tell you all about it -- yes, I know you've been anticipating this, right?

What is a black box you ask? Have you ever seen the show Chopped? It's very similar -- except there is no competition but yourself.

4 mystery ingredients
3 hours
2 bowls of soup
2 entree plates - protein with gravy, vegetable, and a starch

You MUST plate on time - no earlier, no later - you have a 60 second leeway either way.

We have 30 minutes to come up with a menu, on the 2nd hour we must have the soup plated, and the 3rd hour we plate the entree.

At 8:50 I started prepping my station: cutting board, sharpening knives, and cookbooks ready to go. At promptly 9:00 am, Chef comes to my station and pulls out my "black box"....

pork
leeks
zuccini
sweet potatos

Ok, I can do this. I started looking around in the reach-in and YES! there are apples! I decide to make the curried carrot apple soup we made for our buffet dinner. I've made it 3 times, so I should be great with this.

Now, for the rest. I decide to cut the pork into boneless chops and saute them. I will then make a pan gravy for my sauce out of the fond and incorporate the leeks. For the vegetable, I think sauteed zuccini and summer squash with some fresh herbs would be great. Starch -- well, yes I am a little crazy.........I decided to make sweet potato pierogi!

I started by getting the veggies cut up for the soup and then the sweet potatoes. I put some vegetable oil in a pan and sauteed the curry for a few minutes and added the carrots, apples, and onions with a little chicken stock. Then I boiled the sweet potatos and put them on an ice bath to cool. I gathered some basil and put it in vegetable oil for the pork to marinade in.

After the carrots and apples were cooked, I pureed them using an emursion blender. I then added the remaining chicken stock and moved it back to the stove. Once that was heated back up, I added some salt and pepper to taste.

I didn't want to start anything because I was about to plate the soup. I opted to get a few things ready to go, so that when I returned to my station I could quickly start working on the pierogi.

Soup bowls out of the oven, ladle the soup -- and I notice it has thickened up! UGH! Too late to do anything about that, so I proceeded to add the creme fraise for my garnish. Yea, well that melted right into the soup! Backup plan on hand -- I added some fresh chopped parsley.

I brought the soups over to the grading station, where Chef was waiting. Yes, he noticed that the soup was a bit thick, and also said my parsley was just under uniformly cut. I thought to myself -- "oh boy, he's going to be grading us pretty hard!"

Back to my station I proceed to get my mise en place in order for the pierogi. The dough doesn't take very long, but it is supposed to rest for 10 minutes. I don't think I let it go the whole time, my dough was slightly thick and I had a hard time rolling it with the wooden rolling pin. (I normally use a heavy marble one and I forgot to bring it with me!) I made smaller pierogi than normal because it was a starch -- not an entree portion.

Onto the pork chops. I grate the lemon peel and add it to the bread crumbs along with some parsley. I bread the chops and put them in the pan -- which was too hot -- and they browned too fast. UGH! Good thing I had 7 more chops cut from the pork! Now I am behind and I know it. I freaking out at this point, but I get the pierogi boiled and soaking in butter. I have the zuccini and squash chopped and ready to go. I decide I have to do everything at once or I won't make it to plate. So, I have the second set of chops, the veggies and the pierogi all going at the same time. I start plating the pierogi and the veggies. I set the pork on another plate and get moving on the pan gravy -- look at the clock and I have 5 minutes!! Oh no!! I grab some flower and make a roux with some of the clarified butter I have from the pierogi. I drained the oil from the pan, threw in some leeks, poured in some chicken stock, and last -- but not least the roux. I turned up the heat to reduce the sauce and it quickly thickened up. (THANK GOODNESS!!)

I honestly don't know if I was on time or not -- at that point I knew I only had about 1 minute. I put some gravy on the plates and placed the chops in the center and thought (screw the garnish-who has time?). It was so intense, but a big rush!!

It's time for Chef to critique: his piece of pork was a little tough (should have given him my piece!!) but he said the flavors of lemon and basil come through nicely. He thought the gravy was "ok" but I didn't blame him -- it was not what I intended to do. My zuccini were slightly over peppered, but uniformly cut, and my pierogi -- a little too doughy. (I thought they were FANTASTIC!!)

All my classmates were so impressed that I had made the pierogi and they all wanted to try them! Too bad our peers don't grade us, because they all liked them! They also liked my pork chops and gravy too! :) YAY! So happy!

Now it's time for a nap and then a glass of wine. I have earned it today......

Cheers!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eclair-ity

Today I am working on my final practical exam packet for my baking class. I am looking back on all the things I have learned this semester and thinking that I have really not posted enough to let everyone in on what I am doing. I haven't taken enough photos, told enough stories, or shared enough thoughts.

I have to say that with 22 hours of school plus another 10 or so of homework -- not to mention the countless hours of cooking and baking at home -- gives me little time to share the excitement.

Now that things are winding down a bit -- we have no more reading assignments, yay! -- I can spend a few minutes sharing my thoughts. I will start with baking, since it's fresh on my mind.

A small list of what I learned about baking that I didn't know or thought I knew:

  • Baking is a science -- measurements should be exact, substitutions should be made carefully
  • Baking takes practice -- sometimes you don't get it right the first time and that's ok because that is how you learn
  • Using a mixer - the whip attachment should mainly be used for whipping egg whites or whipping cream - it's used to incorporate air. Use the paddle attachment when making cookies, brownies, or cakes.
  • Bake until done does not always mean the amount of time on the recipe you are using.
  • All flour is not created equal: the amount of protein in flour can have a great impact on the product you are baking. Cake flour has a low protein percentage, where all-purpose has a high protein percentage.
  • Regarding biscuits: don't twist the cutters, it inhibits rise; place close together on pan to have taller biscuits.
  • Yeast breads are a lot of work, totally fun, and I wish I had my own proof box at home -- although I can always use my laundry room.
  • The temperature of the water you use with yeast is more important than I thought; salt kills yeast
  • I love puff pastry
  • There is a reason you refrigerate cookie dough, so if the recipe calls for it - you probably should do it
  • Apricot glaze is what makes a lot of pastries and tarts really shiny
  • Eclairs are not donuts; eclairs are yummy; churros are deep fried eclair paste
  • Baklava will always be my favorite application of phyllo dough
  • Croissants can take several days to make because of the large content of butter that is rolled in; you literally have to refrigerate up to an hour between rolling to keep the butter the same temp as the dough.
  • Heat your pans before putting the popover batter into them -- this will help them rise almost 2x the size without heating pans.
  • Mise en place is essential -- measure out your ingredients first, be sure you have all the equipment you need handy, preheat your oven, have your fillings prepared beforehand.

And this is only a small part of my experience in baking! When I first started culinary school, I had a small vision of what I wanted to do with my career. Now that I have made it through my first semester, my vision starts to become clearer. I didn't realize how much I would enjoy baking! I must somehow incorporate this into my business plan.....

Tonight we will be taste testing the baklava I made on Monday, making chocolate mousse and chocolate pot de creme! Monday we start our individual practical exams where I will be making the following: French apple tart, danishes (probably apple), pumpkin muffins, and cream scones. It will take us 2 class sessions to complete our recipes and we are going to be graded on quality, presentation, and of course: taste. I can't wait!








Thursday, November 18, 2010

Black Box

I can't believe Thanksgiving is here already! We only have about 4 weeks left in the semester, and our finals start the week after Thanksgiving break! I hardly have had time to blog about all the food we make - cooking and baking, let alone take any photos!

I do however, keep track of all the dishes we make for class -- I have logbooks for each lab class where we keep track of all the recipes, production sheets, class handouts, notes, etc. The purpose of these are so we have a collection of base recipes and a book organized enough that we can reference throughout our careers.

Today we wrapped up the beef chapter and healthy cooking chapter. I find that pretty hilarious we covered these in the same week. Today in class we finished up the short ribs (OMG - they are delish!) and I made saffron vegetable risotto. I was really thrilled that my risotto came out well -- many students have attempted risotto, but only a few have had success! I didn't think it was that hard, but I've had some really chewy risotto in the past few weeks!

One of my classmates (he's a total showoff and I can't stand him) caught the grill on fire today. Chef had to put it out with baking soda so the hood system wouldn't go off. I guess it was something in the marinade -- who knows -- but thank goodness I stopped wearing hairspray, I'd have been a mess! To top it off, his steak did not have that much flavor.

The cool thing about getting to taste everyones cooking (and my own) is that you get to know what is missing in a dish or also what is overpowering it. Chef encourages us to learn the technique -- and a few of us, he tells not to focus so much on the recipe -- but know the technique and the ingredients will come. One of the benefits of my experimental nature is that our practical exam is basically going to have to be dishes on the fly. They are called "black box" for a reason. We get a "box" of ingredients and have 3 hours to come up with a menu of a soup and an entree including: a protein with a sauce, a vegetable, and a starch. We have no idea what the ingredients are ahead of time, and we have a half hour to produce a menu, the 2nd hour we have to turn in the soup, and by hour 3 we have to turn in the entree. Chef will try the dish and grade us accordingly. I am a little nervous, but very excited!!

Just to be cute, I should make pierogi with my ingredients! :)

Ciao!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's This?!

Inspired by Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, we created a scene from Christmas Town with Jack Skellington for our entry into the gingerbread competition!


We ended up taking 2nd place in the college category!!! I am so thrilled that we placed! I was just happy to be a part of the competition! The houses are going to be auctioned off for charity this weekend -- I hope it makes a great contribution!

The house itself is made of gingerbread, as is the sign and Jack's body. We had some challenges with the house mainly because using store bought candy would mark us down. My classmate that I entered the contest with made a ton of rock candy that we didn't end up using a whole lot of. We used it for the windows only. He also made some seafom, which is what we used under the piles of snow. I did the design, scaling and baking of the main house. I also did the decorating and assembly of the house, roof, Jack, sign, and the trees.

I learned a lot of lessons in the short time we had for assembly. I couldn't start assembly without the windows, and my partner didn't come over to my house until Friday at 9pm! We worked through the night until 5am. I got up at 8 am and finished the assembly, and had to redo Jack. The gumpaste Jack my partner made the night before was all dried out and crumbled. I didn't think we were going to make the 3pm deadline -- but we did and had only 5 minutes to spare!

The funny thing is that I have never made a gingerbread house before. I didn't even know what gum paste was. I am so excited from all the knowledge I have gained in the few weeks I worked on the house. It was thrilling to win an award -- and even more satisfying was when the head of our culinary program came up to us and complimented the roof, piping, and lettering. That totally made my day.

I have decided I can handle this myself next year, and already have a list of potential themes. The best part is there is an adult category, so once I finish school, I can still participate! I am very thrilled to have my very own annual holiday tradition!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

While visions of sugar plums dance in my head....

I've been smelling gingerbread for days here in my kitchen, aka Gingerbread Central. I entered a gingerbread house contest at school with a class mate of mine -- our house will be turned in 3pm on Saturday for judging, and 5pm is the announcement of the winners.

I have to admit it was totally on a whim -- I have never made a gingerbread house before in my life! Good thing I picked someone who knows a bit about candy making, because the judges will mark you down for using store bought candy. So much for gumdrops and candy canes!

I will post pictures when we are finished, but I don't want to spoil the surprise -- or get you thinking we are some kind of ginger-sperts. Let's just say we consider ourselves novice.

In the past week I've made pounds of fondant, gum paste and royal frosting. I think I've used about 10 lbs of powdered sugar, no exaggeration what-so-ever! I can't wait to start the decorating!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two Months In

I can hardly believe October is almost over -- which means I have 2 months of culinary school under my belt. It feels good to be deep into it. I am enjoying all of it. And I want more.

Next weekend is our class dinner and we've been busy preparing, testing, and more preparing. The buffet dinner is a showcase to what we have learned so far in our classes, and also is an assignment of organization. It's not all about cooking. Anyone can be a "good cook", but when it comes down to it, a chef must endear many more qualities than just talent in the kitchen.


I love it. The challenge. One of the things I have learned is that many of my classmates do not have the attention to detail that I do. It is frustrating, but at the same time -- it will be what puts me in the next level of my career. I have found that we all have different levels of passion, dedication, and skill. And of course, there is the biggest differences: age and maturity.


Tonight, I am working the front of the house for another class dinner. A first for this girl -- I have never waited tables before. I am excited, slightly nervous, but mostly excited. The patrons who come to our restaurant are there because they know we are learning and love to hear about us, talk to us, and of course -- enjoy the food!


More updates to come -- I will have to tell you of all the fantastic things I am learning!


Ciao!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Orange

It's been way too long, my friends, way too long. I haven't posted, I haven't seen you, and I just plain miss you all.

Many of you already know that my Grammie Coral passed away on Sunday October 3rd after a tough battle with breast cancer. She was one tough cookie, make no mistake, but God decided it was her time to let go of all the pain. At 3:15 pm she was gone.

I can't help but tell you that October 3rd was my birthday, and I suppose it still is. Many people have said they are sorry, or feel bad that it was my birthday. But the way I look at it is that God answers prayers when you least expect it -- and God knew we all wanted her to be pain free. I am grateful I will always remember this day, it was a blessing for her more than anything. She waited until J and I arrived with Milton and passed away quietly as she slept.

It was a surreal week as I spent most of it with my family, reminiscing about the good ole days and all the values Grammie had taught us. Grammie Coral was a beautiful woman who was married to a debonaire Gino once upon a time. After Gmpa Gino passed away in 1979, she started spending much more time at her cottage. It was there in the 1980s that she was courted by Milton, who came to be my 2nd Grandpa. What a blessing to have 2 loves in her life!!

My memories of Grammie include spending time in her house in Detroit, imagining I was a movie star sitting at her vanity. I loved how big her bathroom was -- it just made me feel like a princess. When we would get there, my first mission would to be to find out what kind of candy she had in her glass jars in the kitchen. Sometimes butterscotch discs, sometimes peppermint candies, and even circus peanuts!

Grammie always let me play dress up with her clothes, one item I remember in particular was a pink frilly short robe that had velure swirls all over it. Years later, my cousin also played dress up with the same robe. I remember all the brightly colored robes, clothes and muu muus she had in her closet at the cottage. I loved how she used to like all the bright colors.

Memories of Grammie and those bright colors is what makes my favorite color orange. She is what inspired my 1970s colored decor at my old place. She is what is inspires me to keep living in color. She may be gone, but memories of her and her influence will last forever.

Every year on my birthday I will now light those candles on my cake (or pumpkin pie, actually) and think of Grammie. I love you, I miss you, I am glad you are whole once again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Whirlwind

Whirlwind is the perfect word to describe the past few weeks. School started, my job ended, and I had family in town. A wonderful whirlwind it's been!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE going to culinary school!! I am having a ball in the kitchen and learning new techniques, history, and the science of cooking. Each chapter I read (it's about 4 so far in each book - so about 8) I find something fascinating or find myself saying, "Oh, that's why!"

Last week was our first week cooking -- besides the play dough we made the first week of school. Yes, I made mine orange and it was to practice our knife cuts. I am a little ahead of the game since I learned some knife skills at the restaurant, but I tell you the larger the dice the harder it is for me. I guess I am into the small detailed work. We also practice on potatoes and carrots. Carrots are difficult to cut (people cut themselves on carrots quite a bit), but since I cut about 4 lbs of carrots into brunoise over the summer -- I am pretty much used to it.

Sandwiches are the first project we worked on because they may use many pieces of kitchen equipment such as the grill, stovetop, oven, mandoline, deepfryer, etc. My team made a Pan Bagnet sandwich that contained tunafish with capers and green onions -- topped with thinly sliced tomatoes, red onions, and roasted red and green pepper. It turned out really good -- which surprised me since I am not really a tuna fan right now. The next day my team made french fries -- they were super yummy!! Nothing like fresh french fries in fresh oil! Mmmmm...

In my Pro Cook class we have to have our meal prepped and ready to go for "family meal". Yes, we get to eat our classwork. :) Our teams talk about what we made and then enjoy! Cleanup time is next -- we all participate in this and my class is really good about keeping up with the work.

Baking is similar style -- we have to have our items baked off and ready to go for roundtable. Then we get a bag we can fill with baked goods to take home. Yes, BF is very excited about this part! Last week my teammate and I made Spicy Banana Bread, Morning Glory Muffins (with carrots, apples, raisins, pecans), and southwest Corn Muffins (with cheddar cheese and red peppers). Other groups made gingerbread, poppy seed bread, sour cream muffins, blueberry muffins, cheddar bacon muffins, and streusel topped muffins. All this in about 2 hours!!

I have 3 tests this week already and I am nervous! I know I will do ok, but I am not sure how the test styles are going to be. Once I get through the first one I should be good to go.

I will fill you in on more adventures later, but until then -- bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our first wine dinner...

Last Friday we hosted our first wine dinner at the restaurant with a special guest speaker, a wine maker from France. It was a fantastic evening to say the least!

Team effort was the theme in the kitchen. We had 52 guests that needed to be fed and everything needed to go smoothly. We rearranged the kitchen so we could have an assembly line for plating. We sent out dishes in groups by table: two 10s, one 8 and two 12s.

The amuse-bouche was a deep fried won ton wrapper in the shape of a cone and filled with lavender delice and topped with fresh lavender.

We also made hors d'oeuvres for the event. We had mini wild rice pancakes topped with a small slice of lavender roasted duck breast, a dot of lavender jelly, and garnished with fresh parsley. Also available were poached shrimp with louie sauce in a mini phyllo cup and egg salad with truffle oil atop a crostini and garnished with a fresh truffle slice.

We started out the first course with a sea scallop on a bed of sauteed local veggies topped with ginger wasabi dressing in a scallop shell. The shell rested on a bed of kale and we placed 3 dots of roux on the plate. The second course was roasted quail with couscous salad along with a pheasant sausage, sauteed veggies, and lobster mushrooms.

Third course was mixed greens tossed in our house fig vinaigrette with 2 wedges of fresh figs, a slice of bermuda triangle and a slice of manchego. Last, but certainly not least was the dessert course: a mini blueberry cobbler with house made vanilla bean ice cream, a mini quatro de leche cake with caramel, whipped cream and a raspberry, and a mini chocolate cup with a dot of de leche caramel underneath the chocolate mousse, and topped with sea salt, whipped cream and a marcona almond.

YUM.

Yes, this all sounds delish -- and it was! Let's see....4 courses, 52 guests -- we put out over 200 plates of food that night! WOW!! When we were done plating, Lady Chef and all the kitchen staff were invited out to the restaurant to be introduced. The applause was overwhelming and I thought I was going to cry! It was an amazing and proud moment that I will remember for a lifetime. Lady Chef introduced everyone -- I was first and so nervous, but so proud! This was such a team effort for all of us -- we all made it happen and put on our best.

These kind of nights are the ones that will make me miss the crew. Only 2 more weeks.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mise en Place

Books -- check. Chef coats, pants, aprons and hats -- check. Knife and baking kit -- check. Excitement for my first lab classes that start on Monday -- CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!! WAHOO!!

Even though I officially started culinary school in January, it truly isn't real until you get your whites. I am excited, nervous, open-minded and thrilled to be starting my lab classes. This is where the fun begins!

Monday and Wednesday from 4:30 to 8:30 will be my Intro to Baking class. Chef Lucy is my instructor that I had last semester for Menu Planning. I didn't want to take night classes, but I wanted to take Chef Lucy's class. Sometimes you just have to sacrifice a little to get what you want. Just flipping through the text book gets me excited, and somewhat hungry, of course. Looks like there are a lot of breads, danishes, muffins, cookies, cakes, icings, (must I go on? ...ok I will), ganache, tarts, brownies, pies, ice cream, mousse, and petits fours I will need to make. Oh darn. Hee hee.

Professional Cookery is going to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 am to 2pm - I am so happy to have this as a day class! Pro Cook, as it is called on campus, will teach the basics of working in a professional kitchen from equipment to recipe writing to proper technique to plate presentation. I could go on for hours about what is in our text for this class, but I will tell you I am mostly excited about learning how to properly prep and cook meat, poultry and fish. This is one thing I wish I would have learned at the restaurant this summer -- things just got too busy for us for Lady Chef to teach me. But hey, that's what I am going to culinary school for!

Friday is my "boring but important" class - Safety and Sanitation. I took a mini test at work, so I am pretty familiar with it -- the class will just be more of the same. Since I am a clean freak, I think I will not have a problem with this class!

Can't wait!!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I love parties!


I love to plan parties, host parties, and cook for parties. Getting together for the simple reason of celebrating life is enough for me to start planning. So when Lady Chef asked me if I wanted to help her cater an event -- without hesitation, I said, "YES!".

Last night I participated in my first catering event and I loved it! Sometimes I can't believe I get paid to do what I do. Really. Truly. The event was a two hour fundraiser in a private home on Lake Michigan for about 40 people.

I arrived at the restaurant about 11:30 am to discover the store was really busy. I was afraid Lady Chef wasn't going to make our deadline it was so busy. I started by making cookie dough, (which we both knew should have been made ahead, but so be it) then onto making crostini, and even made mini twice baked new potatoes. YUM. Lady Chef worked on lamb chops, roasted duck and passionfruit mango slaw. Our newest cook (lets call her Protege') helped out with grating vegetables, baking brownies, and making phyllo cups.

We prepped all we could then, with the help of a few of the servers and dishwashers, we packed up the van and off we went! It was not a far drive, thank goodness, and I also found out we would be working in the basement - score! It was extremely hot and humid last night, I swear we would have melted on the main floor! Anyway, we had plenty of room to work with -- it was a full kitchen in the basement that was larger than our entire house! Lady Chef's husband (Winespert), our bartender, and one of our servers worked the party upstairs. They said it was really hot and they were wiped out by the end of the night! I suppose it was our little treat for the summer since we are used to working in a hot kitchen and they get the cool dining room. :)

Crunch time arrives! I started by working on assembling mini BLT's (YUM!), then cucumber and radish mini sandwiches (YUM!) then baked chocolate espresso cookies (YUM, YUM!). Lady Chef worked on the lamb, twice baked potatoes, shrimp, hummus and cheese plates. Protege' garnished the cheese filled phyllo cups, helped me with assembly of sandwiches and put all the brownies in cups. After each assembly we would arrange on trays and place a garnish in the center. Plating is one of my favorite things to do, so I was really enjoying myself. Protege' also did a great job and I am really grateful Lady Chef picked her to work with us. She kept telling us we had "attention to detail" and I joked and said, "you make it sound like a condition". Haha. She said "Well, it really is and a good one to have!"

As quickly as we started, we packed up, cleaned up and were out the door! We made sure to thank the hosts and headed back to the restaurant. After just a few minutes of unpacking we headed home.

Shower, feet up, glass of chilled wine. Ahhhhh.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I don't want to rush it, but.....

Summer. It flees by so quickly, doesn't it? I can't believe I only have 5 more weekends of work at the restaurant. I have mixed feelings about it, but I know it's what I need to do - more importantly - WANT to do. I love working there, but the 40 minute drive in the winter is really, really tough. Not to mention, BF and I haven't had any chances to have a full weekend to ourselves in almost a year. We've been fortunate to have the days we've had and it's been wonderful.

Starting the last weekend in August, I will officially be a full time student. I haven't been there for YEARS, in fact, the only time I didn't work while going to school was my first year in college at the age of 17!! Because I like to do things different, the last time I went to school full time I was also working full time - NO social life, just work and school. But I loved it! (Yes, that's the nerd in me alright!)


Of course I need to shake it up a bit and be different again. Full time school and the only "job" I will have is my home based business, which I truly don't consider work. The only thing that I am not so thrilled with is that I have 1 class that is twice a week at night. The upside is (because that's the way I roll) -- I took it because I wanted to have Chef Lucy as an instructor. I really liked her class last semester and I am really hoping to learn more from her. She is so enthusiastic about teaching and it really makes it fun to come to class. Well, I suppose my enthusiasm for learning helps too.


I went up to school yesterday and tried on the chef's jacket and pants to pick out my sizes. Putting on that jacket really made me feel awesome and VERY excited to begin my classes!! I also have to buy a knife and baking kit which has basically every tool I will need for the 2 years of training. It's pretty pricey, but not really when you consider everything that is in it. I might swap out some of the items with my personal stash - but then again, I don't want anything to get "lifted" if you know what I mean.


Lady Chef was joking around the other day about wanting to see report cards too -- she really has taught me some valuable lessons about working in a kitchen. My confidence level in the kitchen has really gone up too, and especially since she started giving me more responsibilities. I basically work as a sous chef during my shift and also as a fill in where ever I am needed. I make lists for everyone before they come into work so they know exactly what they need to do when they get there. You would be surprised how much direction some people need, although maybe you wouldn't. I keep everyone on task (Lady Chef says I am really good at this) and make sure we are all ready to go and all the staff has eaten by 6pm when the first reservation arrives. It's a logistical challenge, but such a rush!


Speaking of rush, I had better get moving! I have a few errands to run on my way to work and I want to be sure to arrive in a timely manner - who knows what adventures are in store for me tonight!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A winner by default

What ever happened to good sportsmanship? Or should I say sportsladyship? This morning I played 9 holes (thankfully NOT a full 18) for the "second chance" round of a matchplay. (Yes -- this means I lost my first match). Anyhow, I openly and willingly admit I am not that great of a golfer -- but I don't take myself very seriously and try to have a good time. Most of us on the league are like this. Then there are "those ladies" that you want to avoid like the plague. I just happened to golf with one of them this morningu -- ugh.

My first clue should have been her attitude at the pro shop register -- she was short and rude to Larry and it rubbed me the wrong way. Just as some side info, my bf is the lawyer for the golf course -- loves the guys that run it and so I take it as a personal insult. Don't mess with my boys! I ask her if she wants to drive the cart (just to be courteous, mind you) and that was a mistake too. Her driving was so jerky, I thought I would get whiplash before we found hole #1.

I have the highest average on the league (NOT a good thing, but I just started so I am totally ok with this), and miss spoil sport is the second highest. You would think she'd just relax since she's basically going to win the game -- but she acted like a complete idiot the entire time. I really tried hard to make her laugh, but it just wasn't working. By hole #4, she had thrown her club on the ground after teeing off, griped about every ball she hit (or failed to hit), and jerked me around in that cart for the last time. She was moaning about her 11, and I pointed out that I had 4 of them (told you I wasn't good) and tried making a joke out of it. She didn't think it was funny and just fumed about it. That and EVERY HOLE THEREAFTER. She kept saying, "this is why they put us together" as if saying, "you are a crappy player too, and I'm bringing you down with me".

I finally took over the driving because I couldn't stand it anymore. I wasn't sorry when I accidently jerked the cart either. She lost so many balls or had them in the woods under trees, that a few times I just told her to throw one on so we could get on with the game. I seriously gave her 2 holes because I just wanted the game to be over and get the H out of there.

Finally, it was over and I couldn't get out of that cart fast enough. I told her I'd drop off the score card and see her tomorrow (our regular league play). Then she says, "That was fun. No lunch?" Fun??!! You call that fun, lady??!! No, I'm not going to eat lunch with you, you whackjob! I wonder if she saw the shock on my face? I responded with, "No, I've got an appointment with a photographer, family photos." She then says, "Real family or business?" I am not sure what she means by this, so I reply, "My boyfriend and his kids. I'll drop the card off and see you tomorrow."

Please, oh please, I hope I don't have to golf with her tomorrow. I ended up winning 2 holes and tieing 2. Honestly, I could have taken 4 -- but I couldn't take her attitude. Which reminds me I forgot to include the bit where she tells me about these lessons she's taking on Mondays that I should go to. Thanks, but no thanks. But thanks for telling me where NOT to be on Mondays.

In my mind, I won the round by default. Someone who acts like such an ass should not be the winner of anything. Life is too short to be a jerk playing golf. It's just a game.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Not a thing to wear!!

I just finished trying on my dress collection (the LARGE collection of 5) and I am really not happy with any one of them right now. Too much cleave, too much black, too much shoulder. Oy vey!

I am trying to find something to wear for my dinner date on Saturday. My BF and I are taking a short road trip to Chicago for the night and we made a reservation at Spiaggia, Chicago's only four star Italian restaurant. I can't tell you how excited I am!!! 2 days after we made our reservation, Chef Tony Mantuano makes a reservation at the restaurant where I work! NOT KIDDING, folks!! It was so exciting that night -- I had the pleasure of plating his dessert -- and he had some great things to say about our place!

As I am typing, BF walks in and I tell him my dress dilemna and he admits that he's not real enthusiastic about what he has either! So, we are going to bring what we have -- but maybe do some shopping on the way down and see if we can "get lucky". I love the way he thinks!

Ok, back to Spaggia for a minute -- get this -- they have a cheese cave! Yes, you heard me correctly -- a cheese cave! They have a temperature controlled cheese cave filled with pounds of Italian cheeses!! Oh, I just can't wait!! Formaggio heaven!

I will fill you in on all the details when we get back...

Ciao!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

I can't believe how fast this summer is moving by! The Fourth of July is come and gone -- now for the fun and busy remaining 2 months of summer!

I have been trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can these days -- school starts in less than 2 months!! I am proud to say that my knife skills are improving tremendously -- sure helps that I learned how to properly hold it! I suppose the 2 lbs of carrots I had to dice (into insanely small cubes) also had something to do with it. I feel like my carrots are like Julia Child's onions!! But, I did "such a great job" on them, I've promoted to the "official carrot dicer" or OCD as we like to call it. So fitting, so fitting. I have to admit, Lady Chef is right --I've seen the dice job from "the others" and mine are much more uniform. I am sure you are not surprised.

Last week we made a new dessert: chocolate bread pudding. 3 words: YUM, YUM, and YUM!! Even though we did hire a new girl that just "graduated" from a pastry program, Lady Chef and I are still baking the desserts. She's pretty young and has a lot to learn. Not to mention, we don't really have the time to mess around like we did in the winter. We are just too busy! I am of course excited because I love to try new things and I have become really fast at making our house dessert -- makes me feel efficient.

Today is a cook and bake day, so it will be exciting to see what adventure Lady Chef has come up with for us! I think we are due for a new fruit dessert.....mmmmmm!!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I survived!

The holiday weekend, that is! Everything went without a hitch for my first holiday weekend in the restaurant. We ended up with 38 reservations on Friday and 51 on Saturday! It was a just about a full house!

51 may not seem like many to you, but we only seat 60 and do not typically turn tables. What this means is -- you have the table for the night, there is no rush for our customers. I think this is wonderful and wished there were more restaurants were like this. If I am going out for a special meal, I like to be pampered and take my time. Ok, maybe I am a little spoiled....

Our specialty dessert now is our rhubarb & strawberry cobbler. It is made to order and takes about 10 minutes to serve from time prepped to bake time. It is worth every minute. The best part about it is I am learning how to cook fruits for desserts and learning all kinds of tricks and tips. I hope that all this baking will give me a little edge when it comes to my baking class this fall. I never knew that I would like it so much since I was not a real big dessert person. My how things have changed!!

We also are serving sides of sauteed morels, which smell divine. They are too expensive for me to be tasting, but I am ok with this. We've been cleaning and cutting morels for days now -- my fingers were starting to smell like mushrooms. Thankfully, the last box was finished on Tuesday and I won't have to touch another morel for another year. If you ever complain about your job, just remember you are not scrubbing sinkfulls of mushrooms with a toothbrush and move on. Thankfully, I am doing this work on purpose and kind of enjoy it. Spoiled, yet sadistic -- what a combo.

Tonight I have to make our "house" dessert, called Quatro de Leche, which I love making. They are made in special antique pans that lady chef inherited from a relatives bakery. I can't tell you what is in them exactly, but if you know enough about Spanish you can figure part of it out. If you ever come to visit, make sure you order one of these -- you won't regret it.

Well, it's about that time. Time to play with food, time for fun. Have a wonderful day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Here come the fudgies!!

The season officially begins this weekend. The season that some locals hate, but others love. I live in a tourist/seasonal living area. Memorial Weekend brings them in and Labor Day takes them home. We all have our fun nick names for them, but "fudgies" is by far the oldest term I know. Did you know that in the Upper Penninsula they call us "trolls"? Trolls: People under the bridge. I thought that was aweseme.

Anyhow, I have been busy at the restaurant preparing for this very weekend. I've made hummus, tuscan bean dip, quatro de leche cake, chocolate capri cakes, strawberry rhubarb cobbler, brandy truffles, house dressing, and of course chopping and prepping whatever else comes my way. Yesterday I had to prep and clean 2 pounds of kale -- not the most fun job in the world, but at least I am not sorting peas!

It's going to be a zoo this weekend, but I am really excited for the rush of it all! In exchange for the 2 busiest nights I will have so far in my short career as a cook -- I am getting 2 days off!! Sunday and Monday I am going to hang out with friends, family, and my BF. I am really looking forward to the next several days. It's going to be great!

Welcome to summer in northern Michigan -- enjoy your stay!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's just a virus

But it's so disabling! My laptop has 5 to 6 viruses on it and has been at the "doctor" for a few days now. I really hope it's ok, I miss it so!

In the mean time, I've been reading my email and such on my phone -- but not replying. It's so cumbersome to pull out the mini keyboard and type a long sentance. Nothing like hen pecking an entire paragraph.

I've finally resolved to use the pc we have hooked to our TV. I honestly don't like working on this darn thing since I have to sit one foot from the screen. The "wireless" keyboard and mouse are so sensitive they don't work right more than a foot from the computer. It's completely annoying. BUT, if I didn't start replying to emails -- my friends would start to wonder what happened to me!

Yes, I am here -- just a little slow to respond these days. I hope to have her back by Friday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A little rusty

I am so grateful to be back to work for the season! The past few weeks have flown by, the first week back at work and then on a mini vacation to Raleigh, NC. Now it's time to get back to it and I feel so refreshed -- even though it was just for the weekend!

My first few days back I spent cleaning and organizing. They bought a new work station for the bakery area (my domain these days) that has a refridgerated unit in the bottom of the unit. What I had before was just a stainless steel countertop, which was ok, but this new work station -- well, it's the bomb. I also now have my own microwave and plenty of plating counter space. We did pretty well for our first weekend open and I was able to get out of there by 9:45 both Friday and Saturday. I am so excited that I am not scheduled to close!

I also made baked wonton wrappers, helped "design" a plating for a new dessert, and made mignardise for the weekend. We sold 8 of the new desserts our first night! I was so proud that I helped design it! YAY!

Monday (May 2nd) was my first major bake day. I tested 3 organic mixes that we are going to sell in the store. First I made cranberry bran muffins with "no sugar added". I am guessing that means besides the cranberries. I thought they were very tasty, while others thought they needed more sweetness. Secondly, I made corn muffins. I did not like these at all. The texture was all wrong and didn't taste like corn meal at all. Last, but not least, I made the chocolate cake. Besides the fact that I didn't butter the pans enough and they stuck to the pan -- the chocolate cake was SO divine and chocolatey!! I don't even like cake that much and I still thought it was excellent!

Later that day I attempted to make the mignardise, that week it was dark chocolate with a roasted almond inside. Well, I am not sure what my deal was, but I could not get the chocolate to temper correctly and they ended up turning color. I was so frustrated and felt bad for wasting all the chocolate -- and almonds! Not to mention I already was frustrated from the cake sticking incident. Lucky for me, Lady Chef is really cool and said -- "that's ok, you will go on vacation and come back all refreshed and everything will be back to normal."

Fast forward to this past Monday. I did more cleaning and organizing, mainly our freezers which totally needed it. We ended up pulling out some pasta, dumplings, and mini quiches to make for our employee meal. This is one of the awesome benefits I get working there -- she feeds us every night!

Tuesday night I ended up being the only one working besides Lady Chef. There were only 7 reservations, so you'd think it would not be that bad. However, when you have to prep and work 2 stations plus wash dishes, it becomes a bit of a challenge. I didn't get out until 10:20 and I was exhausted! It was a good night though, we make a great team. She was right -- I am getting right back into it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back to baking


In two days, I will begin my summer adventure in baking along with my beloved mixer friends. At the restaurant I have two of these side by side. They are both commercial grade, of course.


Sometimes I use just one, other times I use them both at once. Either way, the sound they make together is music to my ears. Sugary sweetness, buttery smooth, or chocolate covered -- it's all yummy dessert goodness!


I am really excited to start the season fresh. The few months I have had off were a help to my schoolwork, but did nothing for my pocketbook. Even though my pay is meager now, I am going to work my hardest so that someday I can make a decent living from my cooking skills. I hope to someday teach cooking classes so I can share my knowledge too!


Speaking of sharing knowledge, I made crepes yesterday for dinner. You can read all about it on my food blog. I have no shame in admitting we ate dessert for dinner. We loved every minute of it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Doing the happy dance!

I scored 100% on my restaurant project!! WAHOO!!


I was genuinely shocked when I saw the score! I knew I had put a lot of effort into it, but I certainly could not have predicted 100!

My instructor told us (my project partner and I) that she normally does not give out 100s, so that made me feel awesome. Even better, she requested a copy of it to use as a sample for her class.

If this is a sign of things to come, which I am sure it is, then I am really excited about my future as a culinarian. What a great way to start off my weekend!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Homework is...inspiring?

Today it certainly is! I was doing some research for the oral part of my exam this Thursday in my hospitality class. One of our topic choices is to find a franchise we had not heard of and find 10 facts about the business. Before our written part of the exam, we talk to the class about what we learned about our chosen topic.

I ran across this website called The Franchise Mall and was clicking around trying to find something interesting to talk about and clicked on a company called Sofi's Crepes . I really only clicked on the link because I just happen to LOVE crepes. Since going to Tunisia in the fall and eating the best crepe I've ever had, it's been in the back of my mind to eat one again. Soon.

The best part about this company, and the most inspiring, is how it was started. The owner, Ann Costlow, was a former stock broker and decided to leave her 16 year career and found herself cooking on a boat called The Baltimore Pride. Check out the short video on this page to see the rest of her story.

I am sure you can see why I was so inspired! Just another sign that I have made the right choice to leave my career and start something new! I totally agree with what she says in the video about work -- and feel the exact same way about working at the restaurant.

So next time you are in Baltimore, check out Sofi's Crepes -- and have one for me too!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just Pondering My Plans

I've been knee deep in my school project for weeks and it is finally due this Friday. What I find pretty ironic is that I have an exam, project, and taxes all due in the same week. Obviously I am not in the accounting field anymore, because I am pretty sure I am the only one who has noticed. Either that, or I am the only one in class that waited until last minute to get their taxes together.


None the less, I have been moving right along with school. We only have until April 30th then a summer break for this girl. I know it's only been one semester, but this break is welcome because I will get to work full time for the first time in a year. Yes, I will be making part time wages in comparison to what I was used to, but all the hard work is going to pay off when I open my own business.

Speaking of the restaurant, I did get my schedule in the mail last week and I am really happy with it! I won't have to close the restaurant when I work nights, I am only scheduled to 9:30 and there are other employees on the schedule for close! Yahoo! I love getting good news like this, especially because I will want some kind of social life this summer!

In the fall I will be starting my lab classes for culinary school along with a safety and sanitation course. I will be sure to spare you all the details of the disgusting things found in kitchens -- I have already heard this class has many gross topics. This should be pretty hilarious considering I am somewhat of a clean freakish germophobe.

For the lab classes I have Professional Cookery and Intro to Baking. My instructor for Intro to Baking is the same one I have for Menu Planning (Chef Lucy) so I am pretty excited about that. Pro cook is Chef Shawn and I don't know his style yet -- something to look forward to. I am taking 12 credit hours, but will be in class 22 hours per week. Needless to say, it will be a busy fall, but the good news is that I will most likely finish by spring of 2012. Sounds like a plan to me.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I can't stop laughing

For some reason, I can't stop laughing at this conversation. I guess I am easily amused. Let me premise it by saying that I am always telling BF he needs to check with me before putting anything in the dryer. I have to repeat myself constantly because he "forgets". I don't complain about it, because a) he's doing the laundry and b) I told him if he shrinks something, then he is replacing it.


BF: Do you want your clothes to be washed inside out?



Me: What?



BF: Do you want your clothes washed inside out?



Me: What? Which ones?



BF: I don't know, any of them.



Me: Well, that's kind of an odd question, give me an example.



BF: You've got a bunch of clothes here that are inside out and thought maybe that's how you wanted them washed.



Me: LMAO



BF: I thought maybe you were trying to trick me.



Me: Can't...stop....laughing....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Short attention span

I should be working on my school project, but instead I finished reading my first Chelsea Handler book, surfed Facebook, and then called my sister to tell her about a big compliment BF gave us this morning at breakfast.

Let me flashback about 10 or so years ago. My sister was dating this guy who was slightly younger than I was and had just graduated college. He was nice enough, but his insecurity soon started to become a source of comedy for us as did many of her beaus. He always seemed quite jealous of the close relationship that my sister and I had and we thought it was hilarious. We were sisters and shared 2o something years together doing stupid and fun things, how could we not be close?


The last straw came when he accused us of speaking our own "language" in front of him to cover up the fact we were talking about him. He called it "sister speak". My sister and I found this completely amusing and the only response we found fitting was to roll in laughter on the floor. Seriously, he thought that making fun of him was a past time for us. Well, it sure wasn't until he brought up "sister speak". Needless to say, his insecurity got the best of him and he was soon history.


Back to present day time. BF and I were eating breakfast this morning discussing comedians and what we like/do not like about them. We basically have different tastes in many areas of life (shocking, isn't it??!!lol) and we soon discovered that our comedic planes are not flying out on the same runway, so to speak. He says he doesn't get the humor of people making fun of other people. Ok, he does have a point, but what we both agreed upon is that we don't like people who get up on stage and start ripping on themselves. It's not funny. If you don't like you, how can you expect other people to like you?


Anyhow, I told him that there are not many people who get my sense of humor, however, my sister is one person that I know will for SURE understand how funny I think I am. So then the following conversation ensues:


BF: I notice that when you talk with your sister on the phone, you sound different.


Me: Really?


BF: Yea. I can always tell when it's her because of the tone of your voice. You know how Beavis and Butthead talk? Like when Butthead says, "Uh -- gotta ask my mom's boyfriend. Huh--huh." That's what you two sound like.


Me: Erupts into laughter. That's awesome! I can't wait to tell my sister! Thanks, honey, that's a huge compliment!


After breakfast, I decide to call my sister to tell her the good news. First thing I told her was the initial "you sound different" thing...


Sis: (Laughing loudly) Oh, does he want So and So's number?


Me: No wait, it gets better. He says we sound like Beavis and Butthead!


Sis: Ha ha. That's awesome, that's a huge compliment!


Me: That's what I said!!


Needless to say, we were both feeling great from the Beavis and Butthead moment and reminisced a bit about the good ole days. The best part is that BF finds all of this very amusing. Smart guy. Somethings never change, some people never grow up, but that's perfectly fine by me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This is no place for wimps

Last night BF and I were watching Chopped, after Lost was over of course, and I have to tell you I was seriously annoyed by this prick who kept flapping his mouth off. He was so cocky and annoying, we almost put it on mute to avoid hearing his whiny voice. Thankfully, he did not win -- we would have been outraged!!

The girl who won definitely deserved it, but I can't stand people who don't know when to shut up and just cook already! Cooking is not easy by any means, not everyone can pull together a great dish at a moments notice. I don't even admit being that talented, although I have become quite the Lady of "Left-Over Fusion" when it comes to creativity. Just ask my BF.

I am rounding off my 3rd month in culinary school and some of my classmates have already dropped out. This makes me wonder what the dropout rate is. With all the fanfare around Food Network, I am certain this is why enrollment is up -- what people don't realize is that being a chef isn't some fancy tv show. It is a TON of work. There are so many other aspects to the business besides knowing how to fry up a pound of bacon. Which, by the way, is one thing that I have mastered.

I have gained a lot of respect for those who have chosen the hospitality industry. I have toured at least 5 different hospitality businesses so far in my hospitality class, and each tour has opened my mind to where you can take your career after culinary school. You would be amazed at how these places operate up here. All winter they operate at a loss and depend on the summer tourist season to make it for the year.

My chosen course after certification is retail, however, one never knows where an opportunity will lead you. I won't close any doors at this point in my life -- the possibilities are endless. I just have to remember to keep my mouth shut and cook like a pro.

Speaking of pro, I am going to be working full time at the restaurant starting May 1st. I am elated to report that I will be doing ALL the dessert and mignardise making. **does a little dance** I will also be assisting at the garde manger station and also assisting Lady Chef with plating main course. It's going to be a fun and busy summer!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday


This is my first week participating in Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com. A friend of mine referred me to this blog several months ago, and I really have been impressed with the number of bloggers who post up their menus. I have found that the more planning I do, the less money is spent. No more "last minute" trips to the grocery store. Ok, well, less trips anyway.

My menu planning is for 2 adults and 3 children under 10 approximately 3x per week. I try to keep our meals balanced and healthy, which is sometimes a bigger challenge than it looks!
Monday: Pot Roast w Potatos & Green Beans (Pot roast will be made in DCB in microwave)
Tuesday: Mom's Enchiladas (Made w leftover pot roast)
Wednesday: Pork Tenderloin with Port & Cherry Sauce, Mashed Potatos, Peas, & Salad. (Little one is turning 3, so BF's parents will be over and we are going to have Chocolate Lava Cake for dessert.)
Thursday: Host Appreciation Party - I am trying an appetizer, main dish, and a dessert recipe from the new Season's Best Recipe Collection from PC.
Friday: Rotini w Ground Turkey (Turkey already cooked up and frozen)
Saturday: Pizza night

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tunisia: George Sebastian Villa

One of the first "tours" we went on in Tunisia was a "self-made" tour. We were determined to find the Sebastian House, knowing it was near or in Hammamet. After a taxi ride, a detour into the souk at Hammamet, a long walk and another taxi ride, we finally find ourselves at the George Sebastian Villa.

To give you a little history lesson, George Sebastian was a Romanian architect who traveled to Tunisia in the early 1900s. Sebastian liked Tunisia so much, he decided to build a home there in the 1920s. As you will see from the pictures, the architecture is just amazing. Open air areas throughout the house and large sprawling rooms. It was a great place for entertaining, they even had a "group bath" that could fit several people in it!

Not only was the Sebastian Villa a perfect venue for entertaining, there is quite a history inside those walls. Right before the Germans lost Africa in WWII, Erwin Romell made the Sebastian Villa his headquarters. Romell was the head of the German/African Core. In 1943 the Sebastian Villa was made headquarters again by Field Marshall Montgomery, the commanding officer of the British Army. This was right before the invasion of Sicily by the England and the US, and with Sicily being about 95 miles from the northernmost point of Tunisia, the location makes sense.

After the war, Winston Churchill, made the Sebastian Villa his home to write his memoirs. Many other dignitaries used the villa as there getaway throughout the years. The villa really is truly rich in history so you can see why we (especially BF) wanted to visit the home. My main attraction, of course, was the architecture.





























Saturday, February 27, 2010

Poof! I'm busy!

I find it pretty funny that only 6 short months ago I was itching for things to do. I was bored, I felt like I was getting nowhere, then "POOF!", epiphany beholds and now I am enthralled with so many things! I just love it! I love being busy, I love my jobs, I love my classes, and I love the fact that all these things are contributing to me living my dream.

I haven't been working on my DB10 project, and I am kind of bummed about it. I want to be able to continue working that project and all the other projects that suddenly appeared from no where. Why is it that when we have nothing to do, there is nothing to do. But when you have things going on, all kinds of things to do crop up? Anyway, I still keep it in place on my monthly goal list because I really don't want to forget about it altogether. Like this blog, it just isn't going anywhere. It's there waiting for me when I am ready.

What I have been doing is working on my restaurant project. It is a TON of work, but FUN work. We have our menu almost in place and we are now working on standardized recipes and cost cards. This part of the project is probably one of the most tedious of tasks. We have to make all our recipes into 10 servings as a standard and break things down to the oz. The cost cards break everything down by cost on invoice to cost per recipe item, it's pretty darn cool if you ask me. You can easily figure out the cost per plate of a dish and use that information to set your prices or to see how profitable a menu item actually is. I will say this: NOT DOING COST CARDS or MENU ANALYSIS are the main reasons restaurants fail. Without a doubt.

This is where having a BBA comes in handy. I have more business training than many, if not all, of my classmates. I've worked for family biz, helped run several other businesses, and I know how to figure out why companies are not profitable. Hmmm...maybe this can be a consulting side gig...

Ok, let's keep me focused!! My PC Director has set me up with an accountability partner and I am SO excited about it! I am really trying to make the most of my business, and I know it will help the both of us be successful! We are both participating in a program called Step Up Your Business that is full of trainings and exercises to help you increase your show bookings and grow your team. I have really enjoyed it so far and I am really excited to start implementing some great new things into my shows!

Off to dive into cost cards while I listen to my dog bark at a western flick the BF is watching on TV. Apparently he has a knack to pick out the bad guys...or maybe it's just the horses.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lost in.....Lost

While my BF is lost in the TV show, Lost, I really can't talk to him. He gets all zombie like and his eyes glaze over when I try to engage in conversation. I never followed the show, but it seems interesting enough. But I have to pretend I am not interested just to be funny.

I digress. I really want to talk about tonight, so lend me your ear for a minute will you? Ok, your eyes and your time, but who is really at their computer right now? You all are probably watching Lost.

Tonight I went to my first ACF meeting, I just joined the organization as a student member a few weeks ago. I have to say, I was really impressed how friendly and welcoming everyone was. I met chefs from several different local restaurants, the hospital, and the local college. I also met a caterer, a nutritionist/chef and another staff member from school. Talk about networking, I think I hit the jackpot!

We start off the meeting with dinner and social time. The meeting was hosted by the chef at the hospital and he prepared us a great feast! To begin, we had quinoa atop mixed greens with oranges and chevre (my fav!). Our main course was lamp chops (bone in!) with a yummy mushroom sauce, brussel sprouts, and mashed red potatoes (skins on - yum!). For dessert, we had panna cotta with a raspberry sauce, a raspberry, a blackberry, a blueberry, and garnished with fresh mint.

We then discussed where our next 3 meetings are going to be held and the potential guest speakers. Next month we are going to a winery, woo hoo! In April, our meeting is about 6 blocks from my house and the speaker is going to talk about buying local produce and meats. Excellent topic! In my restaurant project at school, we are going to "buy" local ingredients whenever possible. It really is a growing trend for restaurants, as it should be here in Michigan since we are crop diversified. Finally, we wrap up in May for the summer at a yacht club and we are hoping to have Fustini's, a local vinegar and oil company, talk to us about balsamic vinegars.

After the official meeting is the education portion. Today, the nutritionist/chef from the hospital talked about the health benefits of chocolate and we had a little chocolate tasting. My favorite, of course, was the darkest chocolate at 85% cacao. We learned that the reason dark chocolate is better for you is that as the cacao percent goes down, it is replaced with hydrogenous fats to bring flavor to the chocolate. What is hydrogenous fats, you ask? Oh yes, ones that are chemically bombarded with hydrogen. And no, I am not kidding.

Flavors vary in cacao depending on which region they are from. For instance, the Green and Black's Organic 85% cacao bar that was my personal favorite, comes from Trinidad. Cacao from Trinidad tends to hav complex fruitiness plus appealing spices such as cinnamon. No wonder it was a winner, I love spicy and cinnamon.

Tips on using chocolate as a health benefit:

1. Choose dark chocolate
2. The first ingredient listed should be cocoa or chocolate liquor, NOT sugar
3. Limit yourself to a few ounces per day and cut calories elsewhere to keep your wieght in line

We also had some bonus information when she started talking about "low-fat" and "fat-free" diets. This was by far one of the most important parts of her presentation. She said that those diets are not healthy for you because you don't know what you are eating. Example would be the fake "butters" or margarines. She said it's better for you to have real butter in moderation than to use the chemically made substitutes. In fact, she says she cooks in 1/2 butter and 1/2 lard!!! Basically you want to stick to natural sources of fat, like what is found in meat and dairy. Other examples of fat you can consume is olive oil and fish oil. It's all about portion control, people, and I tell you what - I can't wait to bring back my stick of butter!! YAHOO!

Let's talk about high cholesterol for a minute. There is no proof that any one type of food can cause high cholesterol, so break out those eggs and make an omelette! It is recommended that you buy farm fresh eggs too. Yes, they are more expensive, but better for you! Causes of high cholesterol: smoking, not exercising, and too much hydrogenated oils. It's basically a lifestyle thing, not a food consumption thing. Interesting!!

After the meeting, I mingled for a bit and spoke with the chef from the hospital. He said to come by anytime and he will give me a tour. He also told me about a really cool event that they put on for their high-rolling donators in August that sounds fabulous. They also have opportunities for local chefs to be the "guest chef" for the day in the "innovation station". They service around 250 to 300 meals in an hour and a half!! WOW!

What a great night! I am so excited that I joined this organization. Friendly, down to earth folks that all have a love of food. It's like I'm in Foodie Heaven.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Quote of the Year

"I recognized that it doesn't matter if a guy is sexy, funny, smart, charismatic and rich if he doesn't make you feel safe to communicate openly, safe to trust his commitment and loyalty, or safe to be your fullest self. A relationship of shared virtue where each partner challenges and supports the other to bloom into their best possible selves."

~Karen Salmansohn

I read this today in my Oprah e-newsletter and thought it was a perfect description of an ideal relationship for me. I do have to admit, had I known this years ago, I may not have the best BF ever today. Timing is everything, and I think I timed it just right.

Friday, January 29, 2010

DB10

Oh! I forgot to mention something else I am doing too! I found this program called Designing the Best 10 Years of Your Life: Your Personal Strategic Plan for Achieving Lifelong Goals by Darren Hardy of Success Magazine on another post on a blog I read called I'm an Organizing Junkie.

What is it, you may ask? It really is what the title eludes to, a personal strategic plan. The program lasts 8 weeks and you recieve new emails and worksheets twice a week in order for you to work along with the program. It's been a TON of work, but I am really enjoying finding out more about myself than I thought I knew. The best part is that one of my good friends is participating along with me and we keep each other "in check".

So, if you want to know what I've been up to lately, that's it in an nutshell!!

Maybe next I'll get to those Tunisia pictures I promised......

Culinary School!!

I started my classes the 2nd week in January, and let me tell you how excited I am! I am taking 2 classes this semester, Hospitality Today and Menu Planning. I am not taking lab classs this semester because they were already full, but it is actually turning out better for me. First of all, I think I would have been too overwhelmed - both my classes have HUGE semester projects in them! Secondly, my instructor for the Menu Planning class is Chef Lucy and she is one of the Chefs that teaches the professional cooking class. I liked her style from Day 1 and was immediately thankful that I know who I am going to pick for my instructor. YAY!

I love school. I love learning. I especially love culinary school and learning about an industry that I know nothing about. I love being able to apply what I learned earning my BBA and the school of life to my culinary classes. I am SO happy that I made the decision to do this!!

In my Hospitality class, our project is to perform a detailed evaluation a resort property. I have chosen Biltmore Estates for my resort because a) I've been there b) It has MANY amenities and offerings and c) who knows, maybe I will do my internship there! In case you didn't know, The Biltmore is America's largest privately owned home, and is still owned by the original family that built it in 1895. Did you know that Biltmore offers business courses, many of them tailored around customer service? Biltmore also has a winery, horse stables, the mansion, The Inn at Biltmore, weddings, bike trails, at least 3 restaurants, I could go on! I seriously could spend DAYS there!

The best part of this semester is my Menu Planning class. I am learning so much about the industry AND our semester project is to plan and design a restaurant! We are working with a partner on this one, which has it's good points and bad, and it is VERY detailed. We plan everything from the menu to the kitchen design to the decor to staffing. Thankfully, we only have to cost out the menu so the sky's the limit for equipment and decor! This is the best way for me to learn about the ENTIRE restaurant biz, and my little experience where I work has actually helped me tremendously.

Anyhow, school is cool and it keeps me busy. Work at the restaurant is few and far between due to the off-season, but I am going to really start focusing on my PC biz for income. There are a lot of things I want to do in my lifetime, and I know I can do it if I jump in with both feet!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Butterflies

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly."
~Richard Bach
I want to tell you how I feel about butterflies. Butterflies symbolize the beauty and freedom of life, they are beautiful to look at and they are free to go where ever they choose. The price paid for beauty and freedom is a life that is short and outlived by many, as butterflies don't live but a day.
Once upon a time, I had some extremely hard choices to make in my life and realized that I was truly like a butterfly. I loved soaking in every moment that life has to offer, knowing that someday it would all come to an end. At that time, I made the choice to keep flying and find that adventure instead of allowing myself to be trapped in the net of a pedestrian life.
Since then, my life has changed even more. I still live the butterfly mantra, as I try to incorporate adventure into my new roles in life. Each day, I have to remind myself that there is beauty in life and it is way too short for me to waste on anything negative. You too, have the freedom to choose. You too, can see the beauty in life.
Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Inspirational Quotes

I subscribe to a few "inspirational" daily emails and I love to share some of the more meaningful quotes that I find with my friends. I used to have an email distribution list called Inspiration and I would send quotes out with a little write up on my thoughts about the quote. I've decided to do a little of both, and share my quotes and thoughts with you on this blog, by the suggestion of a great friend of mine. I think this fits perfectly in with the theme of my blog, as these quotes have been and continue to be an integral part of my adventure in finding my passion. I hope you enjoy them!

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours."

--Henry David Thoreau

I have always had a vivid imagination, especially as a kid. I used to have several (about 10 of them) imaginary friends that would come play with me, and my Mom even invited one over for dinner. Well, he couldn't make it because his mom said no, but how nice of my Mom to include him! Looking back at that conversation, I realize that maybe my Mom was onto something. I think that was the first time someone encouraged me to use my imagination, and maybe that is why it's always been an active part of my brain.


Imagining and dreaming are wonderful ways we can escape our realities of today, but who says we cannot get there? Try taking a few steps toward that life you want to lead and see what happens. I took a bold step when quitting my job almost a year and a half ago, and look at me now, I have a part time job that I LOVE working in one of the best restaurants in the area and I am starting culinary school tomorrow! Of course I don't expect everyone to be so drastic about it, but then again........why not?


Friday, January 8, 2010

Tunisia Part 2

You've probably been wondering where the rest of my trip report and pictures are, unless of course you are one of the few luckies that I have bored with my 750 picture slide show. Well, folks, here we go....

Tuesday, Nov 17th

While BF was hobnobbing with the French and Japanese at breakfast, I took the opportunity to sleep in. Yay! We got ready for lunch and decided to check out the La Shirazad to make sure it was open, and it was! The restaurant also doubles as a dinner theatre at night, so it was really quite cool inside. They had tables all setup for us along with a buffet, and the food was excellent!





Inside the La Shirazad

My lunch...pasta, bread with Harissa, lentils, beets, and olives, of course!


I tried several first course dishes including lentils, which are commonly used in Tunisia. I found some of the pasta dishes bland, so I did what anyone would do - added Harissa! We met some JC's from California at lunch that were brand new to their chapter. Can you imagine, you join this organization, then 3 mos later you are eating lunch in Tunisia with people all over the world? Amazing! We also met a gentleman, Hans-Peter, from the Netherlands who told us about a really cool art project his chapter ran to raise money for Unicef. They found 30 artists who donated a piece of art for the project to be auctioned and raised over 30 thousand Euro! Now THAT is impressive!


After lunch, we decided to grab a cab to head into Hammamet and see if we could find the George Sebastian Villa I had found on the Tunisia travel site: tunisia.com. Since our French is limited, and our Tunisian Arabic even more so, it was hard for us to communicate to the taxi drivers where we wanted to go. We ended up taking the cab to Hammamet and figured we might see it on the way, since it was supposed to be on the main road. We didn't see it, and the taxi driver had no idea who George Sebastian was, so we ended up dropped off by the Medina. No problem for us, we found a little side adventure!







Ah...the Mediterranean!



While we were taking pictures of each other by the Mediterranean Sea, a young man approached us and asked if we remembered him from the hotel. Mind you, we'd been here 3 days and have already met dozens of people, and maybe we did meet him... Well, as it turns out, we didn't, he was just a pawn to get us into the rug shop "one day only" open house. lol. It was actually pretty entertaining and we got to see some beautiful rugs! Apparently the rug shops are government run and they are priced out by how long they take. Needless to say, I liked the expensive ones! VERY beautiful, and when we are in a better financial position - we are definitely buying one!

Me in the rug store....




The Medina in Hammamet

At the rug store, they served us some traditional mint tea after showing us dozens of rugs. We grabbed some contact information, tipped the carpet "rollers" and went on our way! Next stop was the souk, where we did a little shopping. We ended up with some spices to take back to my boss at the restaurant, a silver necklace with a hand of fatima charm on it for yours truly, a dress for BF's daughter, and some scarves for various relatives.
We then decided to start walking back to Yasmine Hammamet to see if we could find the George Sebastian house ourselves. We stopped to buy a small bag of popcorn from a street vendor (we both LOVE popcorn, it's known as "PC" in our household!) and took a leisurely walk. We then decided we better grab a cab before it started to get dark, so we flagged one down and had him take us to the "theatre" which was one of the landmarks we were told to look for. Well, he drops us off and we don't see any theatre, but see this big white walled in area and signs for a cultural center. We find the entrance to the cultural center and decide to just go in...lo and behold, this is where the George Sebastian house is! And the AMPHITHEATRE!!
Up next! Pictures from the George Sebastian house! Stay tuned!


















Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Starting the New Year right!

There was a time in my life where I was extremely organized. I like to consider myself organized now, but it's more of an organized chaos type of thing. Last night I was talking to BF, and was explaining to him how good it felt to know where everything was, be on point, and how great it felt to be in that position.

To be specific, it was my job to be organized and people counted on me because they knew I could help them. I knew the answers, and if I didn't, I would find it. I was at the top of my game.

I started wondering what happened to that part of me. The part that put me in the next three jobs afterward earning more titles and money that I ever thought I could at such a young age. The part of me that made me feel like I have accomplished something great at the end of the day. The part of me that truly looked forward to the future and what it has to offer.

Does more responsiblity = less organization? Does aging make you forget how important it is to stay organized? Do I care less about it today then I did 10 years ago? Am I searching for something that does not even exist?

No. No. No. And definitely NO.

I've decided that I want to be on top of my game now more than ever. It's time to stop whining about the could have's, should have's, and would have's and just get on with it. I want that feeling of desire that made me work toward the goals I had and accomplish them.

That part of me still exists, you know. It just comes in a different form and I didn't even recognize it until my epiphany last night. It's just a matter of folding it into my current life and making it work.

This year, I am starting the New Year right. Positive attitude, positive results. No resolutions, because there is nothing to resolve. My life is just where it needs to be.

Happy New Year!