The First Week (and some other stuff)

May 26, 2010 at 9:03 PM (Culinary Class, Not A Recipe) (, , , , )

My second week of class is almost over and I’m only now updating about the first week. I am so awesome. Right? Right, guys?

You may recall how nervous I was before things started. Among other things I was very concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to afford all of the equipment I needed and that I wouldn’t have it in time to really do well in the class. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. Thanks to my amazingly supportive boyfriend and some money my mom had sent me earlier I managed to scrape together enough money to get my supplies (although I do still need a lighter and a digital timer, but whatever, I can go another week) and my uniform, so that was taken care of. As for some of my other worries…

–What if it turned out the instructor was a total hardass jerk who was just mean and yelled and hated me?

Chef Backer. He's so sassy.

Luckily, I was way, way off on this one. Chef Backer ≠ Gordon Ramsay. As he replied to someone who asked him if class was going to be anything like Hell’s Kitchen, “I don’t get off on being an asshole.” Phew.At the same time, it’s definitely not super party fun time. We’re in class for a reason and although we got off to a slow start (more on that later), things are…well, the pressure’s on. Not only to live up to Chef’s expectations, but also to live up to my own expectations.

–What if everyone in my class was totally weird and smelly and hated me?

Well. One of my classmates is actually a little bit smelly sometimes (no names will be used), but for the most part everyone is really congenial and supportive of each other. It’s a great atmosphere to learn in so far. One thing that stood out on the first day when we were doing introductions was how much some people have gone through to get to this point. Cancer, drug addiction, long-term unemployment…on the one hand, I feel like I have a huge advantage because I haven’t had these struggles and I’m still fairly young (the youngest in my class–next youngest is 27 I believe), so I can put all of my energy and enthusiasm into this. On the other hand, I don’t have the life experience and definitely feel like for all my motivation, this class means so much MORE to someone who has had to deal with everything these people have had to deal with.

On the OTHER other hand (the foot? or some third mutant extremity?), from what I’ve seen so far, while some people should have all the motivation and drive in the world, they’re just not putting in the same effort. For example, we have readings out of our textbook to do–nothing crazy, just about food and cooking. You know, what we’re in class for. Reading is no substitute for practice and experience, but we can’t really go home and take apart a cow in order to learn about the different cuts of meat and the best cooking methods for them, so it’s necessary. Still, someone the other day told me that they hated reading and “My thinking is, why read when you have a TV?” Then stay home and watch Food Network, bro.

A few other tidbits about my classmates before this turns into a novel. On the first day it looked like out of a 12 person class, I was going to be the only girl. Not that I would necessarily mind, but there’s still a certain camaraderie between women, especially in a new situation, that would have eased my fears about being alienated from the rest of the class. Then the other woman in the class showed up–she’s great (even though we’re totally different–she’s married with a 14 year old kid, and I’m, you know…not). I am really looking forward to working with her when it’s our week to be lab partners.  My lab partner the first week was also a guy that seemed a little bit intimidating at first (mostly because of his size, I’ll be honest), but we actually have a lot in common and working with him was a pleasure. Okay, moving on even though I still have more to say, because I am sure you’re tired of reading by now.

–What if it turned out that I secretly sucked at cooking and I couldn’t even hold a knife and broke all of my equipment and started a fire?

This hasn’t happened yet! Obviously I’m still a total amateur, but I am learning a lot (today I took apart a whole chicken! Pretty impressive for someone that only buys boneless, skinless breasts, if I do say so myself) and am definitely giving my all every single class. I just hope I can continue to keep this up and that if I do make mistakes or fuck up, I don’t let it discourage me.

That’s all I’m going to say on that for the time being–now for a quick rundown of the week, since I know you are all fascinated (seriously though, like ten people asked me how my first day went, so interest levels seemed high enough to write up all the juicy details).

Monday was our intro day, we didn’t have to wear uniforms or bring equipment (although some people did), and based on classes I’d taken in college I figured we’d be handed a syllabus and shown out the door. Nope. We were there for the entire. Four. Hours. I make it sound awful but it was actually great and relieved a lot of my anxiety, as well as getting me excited for what was to come. We did hit some speedbumps–most people didn’t have their books yet, and the bookstore wasn’t going to get them in until Thursday, so the homework we were supposed to be working on already was just…not going to get done.  Also, a lot of people didn’t have their knife kits (the bookstore ran out of those too, whoops) and THOSE weren’t going to be in until Wednesday–so we weren’t going to be able to start knife skills until Thursday. Definitely not how the first week was supposed to go, apparently, but it ended up working out alright in the end…

Tuesday we were just doing homework in class. I had read chapter 1 and chapter 5 the night before (since I had ordered my book on Amazon weeks earlier) to get a headstart, and it really helped me out. Working with my partner we ended up finishing all of our work so we had less to worry about for later, which was definitely an advantage. We also went over a few of our homework assignments–they’re just questions from, I guess, an accompanying book of tests (teacher’s edition?) and some of them are kind of tricky but it’s really not labor-intensive.

Wednesday–more book work. I was getting frustrated and bored by this point (and had done my work at home anyway), but Chef noticed and gave me this awesome Professional Baking book to look at while I killed time. He seems to have gotten it into his head that I am going to be a pastry chef–not that I have ruled that out, but I’m not sure that’s my ultimate goal. Then again, I’m not sure what my ultimate goal is at all, so that might not be saying much. I copied down a few recipes while I had the book–now, theoretically, I can make mascarpone cheese at home! Fuck you and your $5 8-oz. tubs, EarthFare. Ahem. Anyway, after class I went and picked up my knife kit from the store so I would be ready for…

Thursday! Finally, working with food! Nothing major, just various size dices (including an onion), julienne, brunoise, chiffonade, mincing garlic and turning it into paste, chopping parsley AND tomato concasseé. I was not familiar with this, but you blanch and peel a tomato, quarter and deseed it, and then do a medium dice. My only issue with the concasseé is that–and I know this might be odd since not everyone is a tomato lover like me–you just get rid of the seeds. I was like BUT. THE SEEDS ARE THE BEST PART. D= I just want to put them in a bowl and eat them with salt but I think eating the produce waste is frowned upon. Alas. Anyway, my knife skills weren’t as horrendous as I was expecting them to be–the knives in our kits are pretty decent as well, which helps. We did go over sharpening and honing (definitely just wrote “hopening, good job, me) but I don’t have a sharpener or whestone of any kind (I do have a steel though), and I wish we could go more into detail with that, because there’s a big difference between knowing how to sharpen a knife and actually being able to sharpen a knife.

Okay. HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED THIS NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LENGTH POST.

It’s not over yet–one more tidbit. This Saturday, Slow Food Asheville is having a little thing at the North Asheville Tailgate Market–a Strawberry [short]Cake Walk. Not remarkable, BUT, they actually invited me to participate (I RSVP’d yes, of course) and also said that all local food bloggers who participate will get a mention (and a link!) in the June newsletter. I need readers to desperately pine away while I go weeks and weeks without updating, so that’s a major reason for my participation, but I’m also looking forward to feeling a little but more involved with my new community.

I have to say, I was so hesitant about moving to Asheville last year–my reasons for doing so, as some of you may know, were worth more than any reasons to stay in the DC area, but I was still concerned about what I was giving up…but this city is really becoming home to me, and I am happy.

What I am less happy about is this hideously unflattering shot of me in my uniform. Never trusting Josh to take good photos of me again. =P

Oh yeah. Everything is too big, it's so sexy.

You know you’re loving those houndstooth pants, and the hat. And our couch.

Anyway, Chef has given me the go-ahead to take pictures in class for the blog (actually he is very supportive), so I WILL BE UPDATING REGULARLY I SWEAR. Probably a slew of posts in the next few days while I try to get caught up so I can start posting things the same day I cook them by next week. Now I have to finish up my homework for tomorrow.

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3 Comments

  1. Beth said,

    1. You look like a giant in your uniform–Josh needs to work on his angles!
    2. Your teacher is so cute!

    Keep having fun! I’m so proud of you!

  2. Sam said,

    Hi Stacie-
    I just stumbled across yr blog from a random retweet link and was interested in your story, not least because your life has strange parallels to my own, ie I’m a professional cook who went to cooking school and have been called a “commie” by more people than I care to think about.

    What do you see as the connection between your politics and your chosen career? For me it was that restaurants always seemed like the most social place & the best communities, and I like to cook good food because it always makes people happy! (I saw something to the effect of that last reason somewhere on your blog).

    Anyhoo, I’m a few years down the road from where you are- and a bit of a bumpy road it’s been- so I wondered if there was any useful conversation we could have.

    Or, you know, feel free to just ignore this comment 🙂

    Regards,
    Sam
    calzero77 (at) gmail.com

  3. iliketobakeshit said,

    i am totally enjoying your slew of posts. LIAR.

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