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.


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!