Final Practical Exam + a Vegan Experience

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today was quite the day! I traveled to school with a strong stench of garlic... Chef asked all of us to peel a couple of bulbs of garlic each and bring it back to school today. I think it was for some event he's doing? There were definitely no vampires going near me today. I kept getting whiffs of garlic coming from my bag..not very pleasant.

My mom came to school with me today to attend the Alex Guarnaschelli cooking demonstration (I bought her a ticket for Christmas). We love watching Alex's new show "Alex's Day Off" on Food Network (Sundays and Tuesdays at 9:30 AM). I love the way she talks about food and cooking. You can tell that she has such a passion for food and her career when she speaks. I was so jealous that my mom got to attend the event while I had to take my practical.

I walked my mom to the 12th floor (where the event was held) and hung out for a bit while hoping to catch a glimpse of Alex. I saw her setting up in the room and decided to go in and introduce myself. I am definitely not the forward type to just have the confidence to walk into a kitchen and introduce myself to a Food Network star, but my mom helped me gain the courage. I knew I would regret it if I didn't take the chance. It helped that I was in my uniform and could tell her that I was about to take my module 5 practical. She was super nice, wished me luck, and even gave me a few words of wisdom.

Here's a picture my mom snapped during the demonstration:

I entered kitchen 1401 ready to take my exam and still a little bit starstruck from meeting one of my favorite chefs. We set up the kitchen to perfection and began going through the list of things to complete for our exam. I started out very calm and got through the mise en place with ease.

After fabricating my chicken, I immediately started braising the legs, thighs, and wings. Next, I blanched my green vegetables and presented them to Chef. They were perfect. By that time, it was already nearing 3:30 and my mom came up to check on me since her demonstration was over. I was doing really well at that point and had no problem with her standing outside the kitchen and observing. I grilled my chicken paillard and was about to take my braised chicken out of the oven. While I was putting the finishing touches on my braise and reducing the liquid, I noticed my mom wasn't watching anymore (I figured she left and went shopping to kill time while I was finishing up). As I was about to plate my braised chicken, I went to grab the handle of the saute pan... the saute pan that just came out of a 400 degree oven.. OUCH! My whole hand was scorched. As any chef would do, I complained that it hurt like hell, but did nothing about it and continued to cook and plate my dish. Eventually I couldn't take the pain anymore and sunk my hand in the nearest bowl of ice water. Gahh.. my hand STILL hurts!

As I walked to the end of the hall to present my braised chicken, I noticed an extra person at the "judges table".... MY MOM! I was pretty frazzled at this point after burning myself, so seeing her was a bit of a shock. She was sitting next to chef trying everyone's dishes. I presented my dish to chef..and apparantly my mom too. I'm not going to lie, it was a bit weird to have my chef and mom critiquing my braised chicken, that apparantly needed more salt...

At this point, I just started getting emotional. My hand REALLY hurt, I wasn't happy with my braise, and why was my mom judging my class's food with Chef?!!! I overreacted a little and told my mom to leave, but Chef insisted she stayed. I'm glad she did... I shouldn't have let that affect my performance. I eventually pulled it together and presented my perfect sauteed supreme of chicken with pan sauce and my ..umm.. not so perfect puree. My puree was fine -was the right consistency and tasted good, but I didn't take the time to make sure it was hot when I served it. It was getting towards the end of class and frankly, I just wanted to be done!

In the last hour of class, the kitchen was chaotic, so there was a HUGE cleanup at the end. We actually didn't get out of class until around 5:20. Lets just say, I was in need of a nice glass of wine when we left! My mom and I went to a local wine bar and discussed the crazy happenings of the day over a nice glass of cabernet.

Then, we walked up a couple of blocks to Blossom Restaurant for a Vegan dinner! I ordered the Feijoadinha with Smokey Tempeh-- a stew of smoky roasted tempeh, black beans, chayote squash, and sweet potatoes in an orange-lime broth:
This dish was AMAZING!! I especially loved the crunchy sweet potato crisps on top, which added a nice texture to the stew.

My mom ordered a "seiten" special that was grilled and was atop some vegetables, kale, and a red pepper sauce. It was also very good, but I liked my dish more ;)

A lot of people are against trying vegan meals, but if you go to a good restaurant that knows how to serve up gourmet vegan dishes, it is soo good! I prefer it to a steak dinner!

Time to go collapse into bed... long long day!


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