On our first day of school, I didn’t have to go to the 7:30 am class — it’s a measurements course that I took when I was at Pepperdine. I also took statistics, so I am pretty well covered. While I won’t shout the answer to “how many fluid ounces are in a gallon” immediately — I’d have to think for a second, I don’t think I need to take it over. Fortunately, the course advisor agreed with me. So, I showed up at 8:00 for the reception. That took place in our Square One Bistro, a kitchen run by Chef Greg Atkinson with the 3rd Quarter students. Doughnuts, fruit, and coffee for breakfast. Then we headed to an hour-and-a-half presentation by the Dean and several faculty. The school president, Dr. Killpatrick, even stopped by.
After that, we headed to our first lecture. Chef Gregg Shiosaki is responsible for the 1st Quarter students, and I think he has quite a bit of work cut out for him. I think he’s up to the task. He is a tall, Japanese-American chef with a black pony tail twisted into a neat knot below his toque (and above his collar). He wears a crisp white chef’s coat, striped black pants, and clogs. He swears by clogs, and he seems to move in them easily. When I tried them on, I couldn’t get comfortable with the heel-lift, which is the design of clogs.
After introductions and lunch, he started right away on a packet of information he provided us. Attendance, uniform wear, appropriate behavior, knife safety… the basics of all new college class lectures, right? Oh, besides the kitchen and knife safety. Then the chef professor finally gave us our uniforms, for which I’d been measured for quite a while. I was pretty excited to get it. The last time I was given a uniform, it was dark blue, woolen, and ill-fitting. The first chef coat I was given was by the Food Service squadron at Dyess AFB, when I had to look the part of a food service manager for Thanksgiving.
On the subsequent days of school, we have been receiving introductions, tours, and safety presentations.
The instructor went through our knife shopping list. He said a starter set of knives — not a pre-assembled set, but a set you gather — should cost about $250. Yikes. One of my classmates, Rebecca, said that her culinary friends said they only use 4 or 5 knives in the kitchen: the French or Chef’s Knife, the pairing knife, the boning knife, and the vegetable or Santoku knife. Thanks to my work with Day by Day Gourmet, I have a few knives, but I have to go knife shopping this weekend!
Yesterday, our fourth day of school, we finally saw the Chef’s Knife Demonstration. Julienne, Batonnet, and Medium Dice were terms thrown at us. Although the Chef thought he went slow enough so we could all see (we sat in stadium-style seats while he demo’d with a slanted mirror reflecting his work), I distinctly felt a little overwhelmed. Sure, I’ve heard the terms and can roughly describe them., but if you tell me to julienne these carrots, I’d probably give you some assortment of tiny sticks, twigs, and misshapen skinny bits of carrot. I look around the class, and I think most of the students feel the same way, but there are a few line cooks, food service professionals, and self-trained individuals who look completely at home with those terms. I will have to make close friends with one of them and see if he or she will coach my cuts.
That brings me to this other thought. I noticed — nay, realized with fear — that the chef went through the cuts really quickly, more quickly than I could write down. So, I am so grateful that Rouxbe has videos that we can review to get an in-depth, close-up view of each cut. The explanation, spoken in a clear voice, is really helpful. I can replay the video as often as I want, as well, so I don’t have to feel foolish asking the Chef to repeat his comments over and over. So, for your viewing pleasure, here’s one of the videos I intend to watch over and over.
This video is taken from a lesson series, and you can view the preview of that course here. Rouxbe is a paid online subscription, so the link may request that you pay. If you’re looking to develop skills, or if you want details on cuts you’re learning at school, you might enjoy this.
Well, I’m off to buy the rest of my equipment and to start cutting pounds and pounds of carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery!