(Day 4 of Culinary Fundamentals, continued)
My Chef likes to play it “old school” as other Chefs say. We have three big bins in our kitchen, one grey for trash, one yellow for recycling, and one blue for compost. Chef is very careful to make sure we all know that it costs the school $150 per un-compostable item that ends up going to the compost site. To ensure we understand, if he finds anything, any plastic, a glove, etc, that does not belong he will take that trash bin and throw its contents are far as he can all over the kitchen.
You see, Chef is always watching. And if he notices someone put something in those bins, he will sweep in faster than a hawk taking down prey. This particular day we were making consommé, an ultra clarified soup that is absolutely fat-free, crystal clear and contains a garnish of some type. The clarification for this process involves egg whites and lean ground chicken, as these proteins denature and coagulate which then aids in trapping the impurities and fat of the liquid. Naturally, we had a lot of egg yolks and ground chicken in that bin by the time someone made the mistake of adding a disposable glove to the mix.
Chef didn’t say a word when he saw it happen. I was working at my station, trying to make sure that I stayed on task and didn’t fall any further behind on time than I was. All of a sudden I hear and feel something splattering on the floor next to my feet and legs. I gasp and turn, and Chef is less than two feet from me with a now empty garbage can. Any closer and all the contents would have been dumped on top of me. It was everywhere on the floor, had spattered up on the door to my lowboy (refrigerator below the counter I was working at), and even on the oven. I think this may have been yet another warning to me, as if to say, “You need to prove you deserve to be here.” The entire class stops what they are doing to clean it up. Due to the raw products, we had to perform extra steps and wash, rinse and sanitize the floors and surfaces which just took extra time many of us couldn’t spare. I was not the only person late to serve Chef that day.
Even better, today was the first day we actually had a full dish to present. It was the consommé with brunoise garnish. I was late presenting, but it was all there, seasoned correctly, my color was right, and my yield was right on point. My cup was hot and so was my soup. I had correctly blanched my garnish (despite the imperfectly cut shapes) and it was all there. I was standing ready to present to Chef waiting for him to be done with the student ahead of me. When he called me up, I took a bigger step forward than I meant to, perhaps out of excitement, and about a quart of my soup spilled over the side of my cup.
It was like an out of body experience, one where I could see my face drop from a ready-to-present smile and trying to put my best foot forward to complete disappointment and sadness. Then there was Chef’s reaction. A slight raise of the eyebrows very small nod, as if it was expected, and a slight sigh.
“Oh no.” I said, all my breathe leaving me. “That would happen today.” After everything else, this should have been expected.
“That’s why we have to be extra careful.” Chef said, slightly raising the pitch of his voice and emphasizing the extra.
“Yes, Chef.” I nodded, it was all I could do. It was done, tomorrow would have to be better. Although I could already sense that Chef was wondering what on earth he was going to do with me.
I didn’t know what I was going to do with me.
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