Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wish me luck!!

So here we finally come to one of the big humps in this stint of Culinary School. The practical exam. Practicals pretty much consist of combining alot of the skills we've learned into class and using them in a dish. Back when I was in the Skills class this involved doing all the vegtable cuts on a carrot (and then using the said cuts in a salad), make a salad, make a stock, use the stock to make velute. Bone a chicken, use the breasts from said chicken to make a breaded Chicken Cordon Bleu and then combine them all to make a meal on the plate. Its actually alot easier than it sounds although at the time I was scared shitless.

For Banquets and Caterering its a bit more complicated. We have to make two forcemeats (a gallantine and a ballantine), tournet our selected veggies, pick a starch to "mold" as a platform. And then Aspic it all. Aspic'ing is the practice of putting a geletin on it to hold it together. Its used for display purposes and to give it a shine. In other words, a skill we won't be using much in the real world. I'm not too confident in my abilities of making the forcemeats, I suck at tournet'ing and suck at aspicing. On the bright side, I'm good at everything else. So who knows.

My big concern (aka this is where I get contemplative) is that I can sometimes get overwhelmed which sometimes leads to a lack of confidence. Which is ultimately what led to me dropping out the first time. I tend to compare myself to others in class as opposed to just focusing on my own. I've been getting better at asking for help when needed which actually led to a bit of a closer friendship/mentorship from one of my teachers. As well as becoming somewhat good friends with a guy in my class. I need to keep telling myself "I know I can" and as long as I try my best and am not half ass'ing it, then thats what should make me happy.

Work is going good. I'm getting about 22 hrs a week which comes out to about 360 or so dollars every two weeks that I somehow make last. Damn it sucks living pay check to paycheck again. But thats life.

On the brightside, my birthday is in two weeks. Not only (in theory) do I get to get plastered for free. But hopefully I'll be getting a few new cooking related books. Despite being a big Bourdain fan, the Les Halles Cookbook DID NOT make it on the list. Only cause I know that if my mom puts two and two together that thats the "unofficial" cook book of one of my favorite chefs, I won't be getting it till Christmas (thus why I probably won't be getting Mario Batali's Italian Grill until then). So I'm totally using the inevitable b-day money I get to get it. heh

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The inevitability of restaurant/culinsary school networking

"This is what sucks about taking a few years off and then coming back. I don't know anybody and you all know who half the people are in all your classes"

~me to my group partner Steve (during Bakery/Deli Management)

Its a little known fact that if you spend long enough in the restaurant industry that eventually you find yourself hanging out more and more with other restaurant employees. Not just the ones you work with but you find yourself meeting intentionally or un-intentionally other restaurant employees. Either due to the proximity of their restaurant to yours (I.E. back when I was at the Lansing Carrabba's, the Outback next door was a popular post work hang out), or due to the incestous nature of the business (which I'm about to get to in the next sentence). Eventually if you drink the kool-aid and decide you have the lack of sanity to work the rest of the life in the business, these other restaurant workers (especially the ones who also decide to become lifers) pretty much become your lifeblood. I don't know how many instances I've read, either in memoirs of some of the chef's I like, or from hearing from others, where someone has become a chef or sous chef and instantly called everyone they know to get them to work for them. Or vice versa. They are also prone to pass on opportunities, give references, etc etc. You get the picture.

Its much the same way here in Culinary School. Most people (aka not me) start off in the bakery class or Skill Development or Bakery/Deli Management, meet a bunch of people in the class, then switch, have another lab, have some of the same people in their class and some different. And so on. By the end of their first year or so, they're pretty much on their way to knowing half the department. Which works out great as far as networking goes. Between fellow students AND techers its pretty easy to get hooked up with a job upon graduation which works out pretty well.

On the flip side, theres also the dirty realization (at both school and in the professional world) that all your faults or any controveries are also going to be passed around. For instance, my drinking buddy/unofficial wingman Jonny used to be a server at Carrabba's until he got caught screwing with the checks. He would give people their checks at the full amount, they would pay, and if they paid with cash, he would split the checks taking off any coffee's/soft drinks close the non-drink half and have the money go for that, then later he's get an manager to "delete his screw-up" and then keep the money (yes people, one of my best friends was essentially a con artist) After he got fired he applied to Logans and sure enough they called Carrabba's and he didn't get the job. Another example is someone who I currently have (or had) a class with. They have slowly built up the reputation of coming to class in various stages of intoxication and even at times drank some of the alcohol in the walk in. In came to a head yesterday when during our banquet our teacher sent them home. Her problem was so common knowledge that when me and another class mate were talking about it in the locker room today that someone walked in and know exactly who we were talking about.

I think this phenomenon in general is one of those things that is a universal thing to all industries. Only I think that due to the turnover rate and the availiability of opportunities its amped up a bit for the food industry. Its one of those things like our facination with potty humor, and the crazy hours, and our habit of dropping less than polite words and the pressure, that you almost have to get used to. And if not, then you probably don't belong in restaurants. Not trying to be a dick, but thats the way it is.

And like always, this was one of those musings that started off with a thought in my head (aka the conversation in the locker room) and blew up to the blog you're reading now. Fun times

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We now interupt this food related blog to show you that yes I DO have non-food related intrests

So up there in the little blurb under the name of the blog I mention I statskeep for the local roller derby leage, The Grand Raggidy Roller Girls. On top of that I also help the Kalamazoo Derby Dames. I've been doing that a little over two years.

I got involved partially due to watching the short lived series "Rollergirls," but mostly because New Holland Brewing Co, which is where I worked at the time, was one of their sponsers and I went to a bout, got addicted, but also found out that my short attention span when it comes to sports made it hard to watch. So I ended up volunteering and they havn't gotten rid of me since. ha.

At first it was something I just did for fun and to have a chance to meet more people in GR. I was at the cusp of FINALLY moving to GR and wanted to meet more people from the town. But now, I've learned to love the sport itself, and my responsibilites to the point where my cynic nature and my bluntness (I blame the aspergers) gets me in trouble if I point out things too bluntly (I like to call it tough love).

I'm mostly a scorekeeper. Pretty much my invovlement consists of being a hermit from everyone for a month, showing up about an hour and a half before the bout starts (when most volunteers are there for another hour before that), occasionally downing a beer or two (which I'm not really supposed to be doing...but I stand by the fact that it doesn't affect what I do), doing my job, then running off to the afterparty and making a drunkien a-hole of myself.

Despite the fact I don't make many non-bouts appearances, I always do like to remind myself (and others) that the derby folk are almost like a second family with me. Not counting the Calvin folk (Zigs, Boersma etc etc), or APD or Dynalo, pretty much everyone I know in GR I met through derby. I can honestly say that I wouldn't be who I was today if it wasn't for derby. Actually, I might be, but I wouldn't know as many of the same people. Last spring I got voted "Number 1 fan" and my reply was "what the hell for?" Despite my sarcastic assesment of what I do, I don't do it because I'm a fan. I mean I am a fan, but for me, my dedication is mostly because I love everyone involved to death and have fun doing it. The minute it stops being fun for me, is the minute I leave. And despite previous statements I may have made, I don't do it for recognizement (although it would've been damn funny/cool to win the "honorary Derby girl" award).

I guess the point of this blog is kind of a tribute to them. And a thanks to nobody in paticular for making it such a wonderful experience. For putting up with all my cynical comments, and my drunken tomfoolery. And a special thanks to those who I have become super close friends with.

~Tim aka The Jager Bomber.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hooray for school!

" they could make sausage out of him"
~me, on the Simpsons Halloween special when Krusty gets knocked into a wood grinder

Its about time I felt compelled to write a blog.

Anyway things are progressing really well at work and school. Training to work morning dishwashing shift was an utter disaster. Ok, not really. It went alright. But, I don't have the speed. Its another one of those catch 22. I probably won't work regular day time dishwashing shifts till I can get faster, yet I won't get faster unless I work regular day time shifts. But thats okay, cause I've been getting prep shifts too. So it works out.

School has been VERY interesting. Last week we made force meats (and this week we finally got to eat them). We also made sausage (which is a force meat). And when I say "made" I don't mean cook. I mean we actually started off when beef. Cut it in to smaller pieces, grind them, mix with spices, then grind again and then put into casings (aka pig intestines). Fun shit.

Today we're supposed to be doing ice carving. While I really don't have much artistic talent. The prospect of ice carvin sounds interesting. So I hope its something I'll enjoy.

Anyway, I HAVE PICTURES. Only they're not on my computer yet so I'll put them up later