Saturday, September 6, 2008

Salad Daze

The best thing about starting on the Garde Manger station is the chance to work with Chef Laura once again. Our assistant Chef for Levels I, II, and III – she brings a calming air to the kitchen.

Chef Laura walked us through the process for the evening, showed us how the two appetizer dishes we make are prepared and she gave us the lay of the land. The Garde Manger kitchen is its own separate space amidst the sea of controlled chaos.

There are four appetizers on the menu of L’Ecole – Level V students make two and the other two are made by Level VI students with whom we share the space. Our job is to coordinate our orders so they go out together. On the menu, we are making an Arugula, red & yellow roasted tomato, goat cheese and olive tapenade tart on puff pastry. Our other dish is a sautéed calamari with garlic and lemon dusted with herbed Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) served with a salad of shaved fennel and haricots verts. Level VI students make a consomme with foie gras gnocchi and a salmon roll with a lemon sauce.

Chef asks me to tackle the puff pastry (that was made from a previous class) and roll out two of them so it will be ready to bake. As I roll out the delicate dough I notice that it is tearing from the gentle pressure of the rolling pin. As I baked the puff pastry and took it out of the convection oven our faces dropped – the butter in the dough was never properly incorporated when it was first made and it basically produced a flat, lifeless hard cracker that we had to toss out. Chef asked me to run up to the second floor pastry kitchens and ask the chefs if they had any dough to spare – no dice. However, Chef Karen who is in the Production kitchen miraculously came to our rescue with frozen dough that she had in the freezer. Towards the end of the night I started making puff pastry for our next night so we would be aptly prepared for service.

As the orders rolled in we took turns calling them out and coordinated our dishes very well. I spent a good portion of the evening running trays of appetizers up to the front of the kitchen. Mid-way through service the orders for digestive salads started cranking out. The restaurant serves a small mixed green salad with ricotta salata and a quenelle of sorbet to aid in digestion and clean the palate before serving dessert – which look spectacular.

When the final orders for digestive salads were completed we started to clean up our space and call it a night. We worked really well under the fast-pace getting our appetizer plates out quickly and artfully prepared. The Level VI students pitched in when it was quiet for them and I was impressed by their willingness to help out. As always its a pleasure working with Chef Laura, she is a consummate professional with a great sense of humor and I’m looking forward to the next 3 classes dishing up the apps.

Make your reservations now for L'Ecole (reservations can be made on (! Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday - I'll be dishing out something good and I may even surprise you with something special. Let me know if you make a reservation so that I'm aware.

To learn more about L'Ecole and browse the current menu - click here.

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