I’m two days late on this post, and it’s because of two (very justified) reasons:
a) We went out drinking after our final exam/”graduation.”
b) I’m not ready to admit it’s over.
I started culinary school six months ago after being miserable at my job. I was nervous when I began school that I wouldn’t be good enough or I wouldn’t fit in or I wouldn’t like it, but those feelings melted away almost instantly. The International Culinary Center was like a home to me, and now when I wake up in the morning, I feel a little bit empty because I’m not walking into school with my peers and joking around my chefs. But let me hit pause on this sob story. Let’s get down to what I did on my last day of school: I took the final exam. And it was the worst dish I ever put out. Bah humbug.
Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but I’m completely allowed to say that when one of the judges on my panel was Chef Andre Soltner! The final started with a written exam where you have to write ver-ba-tim a recipe that you’ve made during Level 6. Then you pick out of a hat two dishes you’ll have to make for a panel of four judges. That’s two dishes, four plates of each, eight plates total. I got the cured mackerel appetizer and the tri-tip (steak) entree. I was feeling good with these two options, but in the back of my mind, I was nervous about overcooking my steak.
When we got into the kitchen, it was go time. I felt like I had three hands as I put potatoes in water to boil, roasted red peppers, peeled shallots for my steak sauce, and marinated meat and cured fish. Then there are two chefs who are looking over every move you make to take notes and deduct points when necessary. So obviously, this was a pretty stressful environment. And when I pulled out my potatoes, I first thought I overcooked them and wouldn’t be able to macedoine them (dice them). But when I ate a piece of scrap, I realized they were borderline underdone. Ugh. First blunder.
When 12:45 p.m. came along, I needed to be out the door with my four mackerels, and luckily I made it on time and my plates looked nice. When I got back into the kitchen, I needed to finish my sweet potato fries, strain my sauce, sear my steak, and set up my station to plate. I had about 40 minutes to do this, but it felt like 15 minutes. But when it came to the 20 minute mark, I started searing my steaks. My intuition told me to leave them in the oven for only two minutes, but for some reason I decided to keep them in longer. Hence, my mid-rare steaks became medium steaks. And it was so painful to listen to Chef Soltner tell me my steak was slightly overcooked. Mon dieu. And then have the other three judges repeat this critique.
Chef Jeff told us the week before our final that he’d remember our last dish rather than our first. I really hope no one remembers my steak dish. But the good news? I passed. I’m probably no longer at the top of my class, but it’s a good story to tell. The girl known as “the carnivore” overcooked her steak entree. This will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.
TIP OF THE DAY: Timing is everything. Write a prep list of what you need to get down, and write it in the order in which it needs to be made.