Sunday, June 22, 2008

Leading the Pack

From now until our real Mid-term in mid July the game plan has changed – Chef Nicolay has put us into groups of four to train as a mini kitchen set-up covering the four main stations: Garde Manger, Poissonnier, Saucier and Pâtissier.

Our group of four students must execute one dish from each station and after each class we will rotate into the next station. Our first night I started on Garde Manger and had to make our Consommé Printanier. I have a good group to work with – all very focused students and I’ve had the enjoyment of working with each of them individually in the past.

The very first night as we were assigned to our group and stations we realized that the student on the Pâtissier station was absent. Chef told us to cover the station just as we would have to in a normal restaurant. Since the Consommé is relatively a low maintenance dish, I jumped on the Pâtissier station to make the Génoise and Crème Anglaise since my station mates had more involved dishes.

The main objectives are timing, quality, and cooperation. If your teammate is in the proverbial “weeds” it is the collective job of the team to pull them out and get the dishes out on time and perfect. I was wearing my communications hat that night and was belting out reassurances and posing questions to the team to ensure we were where we needed to be in the process. I think I might have been a little bossy but I wanted us to do well and we need to rely on each other and felt we needed a leader for the evening’s flow of progress.

When it comes to seasoning the final dish – we do this collectively so different palates can gauge saltiness, flavor and body – we each contribute thoughts, ideas and recommendations.

We plated the Consommé Printanier on time, Chef said it was very well done. Next few dishes are presented in 15 minute intervals. So if the Consommé is due by 8:30 pm then the skate a la Grenobloise must be ready at 8:45 then the roasted chicken is plated for a 9:00 pm slot and finally the Genoise at 9:15 pm. We all need to be on our game to get these dishes out on time. The night was successful, we received the usual amount of critique but nothing was off the mark.

Part of the hysteria is to also make an Amuse Bouche to compliment the dishes and is presented to Chef between 7:30 and 8:30 pm. That night Michal’s idea won us over, Ashley roasted some red peppers, and Michal cut them spread on some goat cheese and rolled them into spirals with some mushroom duxelles in the center. Very pretty and an appealing “little bite” to awaken the senses. Chef liked it very much.

The Amuse Bouche has become more and more popular at finer & trendy restaurants. Before a diner settles in on what to have for dinner, the Chef sends out a little something delicious from the kitchen to surprise you and stir up your senses. The French term literally translates to "mouth amuser" (bouche = mouth; amuser = to amuse, or to please). We take our Amuse Bouche very seriously – and we’ve decided each of us will have the opportunity to take the lead each night and prepare our own bite-size creation to please Chef.

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