All good things must come to an end, our last night in the Buffet kitchen we cleaned up from the mess we made from producing a bounty of food and rotated to our new role for the coming two weeks in the Production kitchen. The Production kitchen is where all the fish and meat gets prepped for the school’s restaurant, L’École. At the beginning of each class, we go through all of the items that the main kitchen needs butchered or filleted for that evening. I’ve broken down a whole leg of lamb, cleaned squid, filleted mackerel, frenched racks of pork and I am learning all of this under the guidance of an amazing Chef. I met Chef Janet in a lecture class we had very early on when we were all in Level I. She taught us how to sharpen our knives on a whet stone and calibrate our new thermometers. She fascinated me with her stories and excitement when it came to charcuterie. She possesses the kind of excitement for food that is intoxicating and I am thrilled to learn from her experience and be around her fun, excited energy.
Immediately, on our first full night, we got to work breaking down lamb, venison, tenderloins, halibut and sea bass that were so large it required two large cutting boards to fillet them. Once we whip through everything the restaurant needs we go to task on making charcuterie items and learning lots of different techniques. That night Chef Janet suggested we dry cure salmon with Tequila, mint, and salt. We prepped trout with a dry cure to later cold smoke it in another class. Lastly, my partner and I removed the pork loin from a rack of rib chops and Chef Janet guided us in making Canadian Bacon by brining the pork loin in a wet cure of salt, water, maple syrup and crushed sage. All the food items we made needed a few days to cure and we followed the step-by-step process of making dry and wet cures and why you would choose one over another.
At the end of the night, after we labeled and wrapped up all that we were working on, Chef Janet bounced around the kitchen and asked us what we wanted to do for future classes. Before we could even think of an answer she belted out ideas that almost overwhelmed me with anticipation. Thoughts of making your own bacon, duck prosciutto, seafood sausage, duck rillette, foie gras, and smoked meats was so intriguing I almost blurted out, “I want to do it all!”
I’m more fascinated now with charcuterie and butchering than I ever thought I would be. Understanding how curing evolved through the ages as a way to preserve food when refrigeration was not available is ingenious. Lastly, the fear of not knowing how to butcher large cuts of meat is no longer a daunting task – not that I know everything by any means! Just the simple act of buying a whole fish and being confident enough that I could take that fish and make boneless fillets for dinner is a rewarding feeling.