Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crowded, hot kitchen here I come!

Here it is. I'm in. The dreaded class where we create food for paying customers, under the noses of at least three chefs who won't hesitate a nanosecond to come down on any errors like a ton of polenta.

I feel like Dorothy, going up the tornado in the house, looking at all kinds of things and people flying by as I look out the window. In this case, knives, potatoes, duck breasts, rondos, slabs of meat, flames, heat, dishes, looming faces of supervisors, haggled fellow students. Drama, emotion, all that Kitchen Confidential stuff. Well, this time there's no Auntie Em to help you, my pretty!

My first task is to find three chefs, each with twelve recipes that I'd really love to prepare. I suppose this means they're favorite foods. Do I even have 36 favorite recipes from one chef?

When I buy cookbooks, I look for variety. What cuisines don't I have covered? Which recipes look good? Is there a good recipe for civet de lapin? So, I tend to jump chefs.

I'm just not a hero worshipper. They're just people. I don't even want to meet a famous chef; they appear authoritarian, arrogant, obnoxious, unpleasant. I imagine myself treated to some combination of ignored, screamed at, dissed, insulted, cussed at. There might be a laughing Buddha style zen master chef, a mentor worthy of meeting out there, but I've never heard of him. Zen master chefs don't get multimillion dollar television contracts or run three star restaurants, it seems. Except maybe that guy in the subway in Japan, serving sushi.

A fellow student who survived the class added some sage advice: don't pick recipes that might be challenging. Pick things that anyone in the class can put together, yet are somehow excellent nonetheless. So much for my crazy chef with grilled and planked meats. Not practical. Although the techniques are relatively straightforward, they do involve hot coals, soaked planks of wood, basting and lots of smoke in the face.

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