Saturday, April 5, 2008

Comprehensive & Practical

Wednesday night was tough, we had our Level I comprehensive exam and our practical. We met Chef outside of a kitchen that we’ve never worked in before – not knowing the lay of the land always makes me apprehensive. He called us in and we were assigned a station.

We began the evening with our written comprehensive exam which covered Level I material. I read each question thoroughly and answered it as best I could from what I had studied and remembered doing in class. After our written exam we went right into our practical. We were given a potato, onion, carrot and turnip. We set up our stations with the appropriate knives and waited for our instruction.

We were tested on knife skills, time management and organization. We had to take the turnip and cut it into julienne and brunoise cuts. The carrot was to be cut into jardinière and macédoine, the onion was cut into ciseler and émincer. We had 30 minutes to clean our veggies, peel them and cut them into the appropriate sizes. We were judged on accuracy and how much we wasted of the vegetable. The time clock started and I washed, peeled, and got to work. I finished with a little time to spare. We were asked to plate our cut vegetables, then put our ID on the chopping board and leave the kitchen when we were done. In the hallway, my fellow classmates nursed bloody fingers, and chatted about what they did right and wrong. Once time ran out, all the students had to leave the kitchen in the same manner and have our work graded by the proctor.

The kitchen door opened and we are called in to the next part of the test. We had to take the potato and make four perfect cocotte-sized pieces. I bought this fantastic tournage knife that has made a world of difference. I carefully sculpted four impressive specimens (at least I thought they represented some of my best work). Again, ID on the chopping board then out into the hallway until time ran out. Cocottes are the bane of many an FCI student’s existence. It just takes practice, control and a very sharp paring knife.

The old kitchen doors swung open again and we were called back. Lastly, we had to cook our macédoine carrots à l’anglaise as our final test in the practical. Once it was all over I was relieved and happy it was all over. We immediately had a break for family dinner then a lecture followed in the classroom upstairs.

At the end of the night, after our lecture, Chef gave us our final Level I grades. He handed out the comprehensive exam and went over it. I was so shocked to receive a perfect score! I thought I must have screwed something up but I guess my answers were spot on. He then called us up individually and presented our practical grade for the evening where I received a 98! I was thrilled and felt so happy to have done so well. On the train ride home I was finally able to exhale and smile. One battle under my belt with many more to go!

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