Category Archives: Culinary School

My culinary school experience

Hands-on Cooking Class – June 27, Comfort Food LA in Sherman Oaks

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What are you doing on Saturday, June 27th? Join me in a hands-on cooking class at Comfort Food LA in Sherman Oaks!  I will be teaching students how to make 3 courses.

1) A starter cheese course with gluten-free crackers and farmers market veggies

2) A comforting “meat”loaf with cauliflower purée, gravy, and a side vegetable

3) A delicious and easy dessert, chocolate chai cookies

I will not only teach you how to make the food, you will be able to make the food yourselves, and learn how to plate it, too.  At the end of the class, we can all enjoy the fruits of our labor together and/or you can pack whatever you don’t eat home with you.

Attend the class on your own or make it a date with a special someone–a fun activity while learning some cooking skills from trained chefs!

I teamed up with some of my favorite culinary instructors (Chef Caren Watts and Chef Andy Pastore) from my time at Le Cordon Bleu to bring this special organic, plant-based, whole foods, vegan class to you!

The skills you learn can be applied to your next dinner party or just in your every day life in the kitchen.  I hope you will join me!

Space is limited, so sign up today!  Sign up using this link here, http://comfortfoodla.com/product/vegan-cooking-class/

Hope to see you there!!!

 

More on Comfort Food…

Comfort Food’s classes are taught by industry professionals with a background in culinary education.  Our goal is for everyone to improve their skills and have a better understanding of food and cooking.Comfort Food is a modern cooking school for the home cook and the professional alike.  Our classes appeal to cooks of any skill level.  But one thing remains the same: the caliber of education you will receive is on par with the culinary education at some of the top culinary schools in the country.

Our industry-trained chefs teach hands-on classes in a variety of time schedules to appeal to the busy, yet serious cook.

Our step-by-step approach brings the professional kitchen to you, to build skill level and confidence in whatever you are cooking.

Fully interactive classes allow you to get your hands on every aspect of the day’s lesson with guidance from the instructor.

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Hi Lalo!

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I just wanted to take the time to give a shout out to my friend, Lalo.  He said he was going to check my blog soon for a particular reason.  I wonder what he’ll think once he reads on… :-P

The two classmates I am most close to in my graduating class are Lalo and Yumi.  We share friendly competition and motivate each other to get better everyday.  Lalo kicks butt, though.  He is quick.  In this industry, speed is key and that’s what I think the chef instructors like so much about him.  That, and his perfectly cooked meats and al dente pasta, his great attitude, and oh…that great smile…can’t forget that.

Yumi and I have been getting the same marks in class, and we share the same instructors.  When it comes down to it, I think our marks are lower in comparison to Lalo’s because of speed.  After speaking with my instructor and taking in his suggestions for improvement, I already noticed progress.  I turned in my food in good time.  Yumi too.  I hope to see improvement in this week’s work performance versus last week’s.

Moving on to non-school-related stuff…

Lalo, Yumi, and I have plans to go to my chef instructor, Chef Pastore’s Vinolio Enoteca/Wine Bar/Ristorante next weekend.  I can’t wait!  From several sources, I heard it’s the best pizza in town, with the best crust ever!!! We could have gone this weekend, but I already have a committment to attend an out-of-town wedding.  The club I belong to at school, Neighborhoodz, is going to Vinolio this weekend.  They’ll try out a variety of pizzas that he will make especially for the club.  I’m jealous.  I’m hoping that Lalo can ask Chef Pastore to make a variety of pizzas for us too when we head over!  Lalo, can you ask him to hook us up?!!

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Fruit Tart

Fruit Tart I made in class

Fruit Tart I made in class

Since today was a Staff Development day at school, I didn’t have class, which means I didn’t wake up at 4:20am to get ready for school.  Instead, I was able to wake up at a normal hour.  Before  Peyman walked to work, he and I shared a delicious cup of coffee and a slice of the fruit tart.  I made a huge dinner last night that left no room for a sweet dessert, so we had it this morning.  I was a bit surprised by the flavor and texture.  The crust wasn’t as sweet as I like and I didn’t love the filling either.  It’s a vanilla bean custard.

I had planned to spend the day with my mom and sister’s family, and they were expecting a delicious fruit tart.  I know they’re definition of a delicious fruit tart and if I had delivered the remaining tart that we sliced into already, they wouldn’t be satisfied.  In my family, we like crisp and sweet tart crust and rich and creamy filling…

The slice I had this morning

The slice I had this morning

I decided to make another fruit tart for the family, using my go-to recipe.  It’s a recipe that I will not share because I may sell these one day.  One thing I’ll let you in on is, it’s a spin off of a famous person’s recipe.  I call it MY recipe since I add my special love to it and a special ingredient, sour cream.  In the filling is cream cheese, sour cream, and a few other ingredients.. yum!  I try to make it like the folks do at The Farm in Santa Cruz.  They have one of the best tarts I’ve tasted and I know they put sour cream in their fruit tart filling.  I made a very mini version of my tart for Riva’s baby shower, and this is the biggest tart I ever made, at about 14 inches in diameter…. I think I still need to work on my selection and placement of fruit.  In time, I will figure it out.

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Riva's Baby Shower Tea Party

Riva's Baby Shower Tea Party

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The only pictures I have of my mini fruit tarts are pictures from a distance.

The only pictures I have of my mini fruit tarts are pictures from a distance.

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Baking 110

Going into culinary school, I didn’t expect to enjoy the baking aspect much since baking requires a lot of waiting around.  I’ve baked before, using family recipes, cookbooks and online recipes from the Food Network, and whenever yeast was involved, I dreaded waiting around for dough to rise and sitting in a hot kitchen.  Many, many moons ago, Grandma Rosita (my dad’s mom’s twin) taught my mom how to make her husband’s, Grandpa Floyd’s, great grandma’s Southern pecan rolls.  My mom busts out the recipe every year during the holidays, so they’re something to always look forward to.  Southern, old school recipes require a lot of love and care, which means a lot of time, so they usually taste better than the baking powder/soda quick-bake, no butter, kind of recipe.  It’s a yearly tradition for me to watch my mom make pecan rolls, and I have never been a fan of waiting around, twiddling my thumbs, as we waited for the dough to proof (rise), not just once but twice.  And one thing I don’t look forward to is the scrubbing and scraping of the sticky pans.  Because of this, I’d been drawn to quick, easy, no fuss baking recipes.

In high school and in college, I loved to entertain friends with food.  Some of my parties would be pure dessert parties.  In high school, my sisters and I would bake up a variety of sweet treats and our friends would come over to enjoy them along with conversation.

In college, along with the many dinner parties I threw, were cookie-baking parties where, surprisingly, more males showed up than females.  When a friend would walk through the door, I’d hand them a recipe, show them the ingredients and tools used for baking, everyone would bake, and we’d have a ton of cookies to enjoy with our coffee klasche.  Baking and cooking with friends is such a blast, especially since my friends always offered to do the dishes!

In school, we do things the old-school way – we bake bread using fresh yeast, we mix ingredients with a whisk and bowl scraper, and we knead the dough with our hands.  To my surprise, I love my baking class!  Especially since we have a proofer which rises the dough in no time, we get very creative with the aethetics of some of the baked goods, and there are less dishes I have to wash since I use plastic wrap to hold my ingredients.  There’s always something to work on.  Again, I am in an accelerated culinary program and we have much to cover within a short period of time, so there is no time for me to stand around and pick my nose, much less to use the restroom.

Even though I may have a weaker bladder, I really appreciate baking now.  I consider myself to be more of an artistic manual laborer, and baking (and cooking) is a perfect outlet for me.  Today I finally learned how to waterproof or moistureproof a fruit tart shell.  I sort of figured it out when I made the mini fruit tarts for Riva’s baby shower.  I thought back to Marie’s wedding – the dessert was excellent… it was a fruit tart with chocolate brushed inside the pastry shell.  When making the tarts for the baby shower I thought, the Hyatt chefs must have done something to keep from getting the tart soggy from the pastry cream and fruit – they have to make and keep 200 tarts from getting soggy… I thought the chocolate was the barrier and I was so right.  About 3 years ago, Marie and I catered a tea party, and our fruit tarts came out soggy… wish we knew how to moisture proof the shell back then.  Thank God for school – I am aware of much more food science.  Here are secrets to keeping the fruit tart crust crisp and not soggy.

1) Before completely browing the pie crust/tart shell, brush a coating of egg whites inside the shell (not too thick of a coat..you don’t want scrambled eggs).  Place back in the oven to finish (lightly) browning the sides of the crust.  Cool completely before placing the pastry cream into the crust.  Place in refrigerator for quick cooling.

2) Once pie crust/tart shell is browned (lightly), cool completely.  You can put it in the refrigerator or freezer for quick cooling.  Brush a light coating of melted chocolate inside the crust.  Cool completely before adding the pastry cream.

If you ever have any questions about this or other baking questions, please do not hesistate to ask.  I may know the answer.  If not, I have the resources to figure it out.

In this posting, I have pictures of the many baked goods I made this week only.  I made my own laminated dough, a danish dough, which was very time consuming but very rewarding.  So as to not morph into a butterball, I share my goodies.  I dropped off all my baked goods to my family and they are very happy that I chose a career in culinary – they are benefiting greatly from my education already.  If you want any of my recipes that you see on my blog, simply ask!

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Sauteed Duck Breast with Dried Cherry Pan Sauce

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My dad was an avid golfer, and on many weekends, while he’d play 18-holes at the Bonita Golf Course, my mom would take my sisters and I for long walks.  There was a track along the perimeter of the golf course that we’d walk along, and we eventually would walk off the track to play at a neighboring park, to watch residents riding horses, to observe wildlife like birds, squirrels, families of possums sleeping upside down, holding onto tree branches with their tails, and, of course, ducks.  One of my favorite activities was feeding the ducks.  This was until I was about 10 years old.

When I was about 10 years old, my family and my parents’ friends’ families frequented a Chinese restaurant (can’t remember the name), where I experienced cooked duck for the very first time.  I remember being a little hesitant to take my first bite.  I loved playing with, being around, and feeding ducks at the golf course.  My dad told me I had to try it, so I sadly picked up a piece with my fork.  As I slowly opened my mouth to take a bite, I envisioned feeding the beautiful ducks at the golf course.  Once I popped the Chinese-style cooked duck in my mouth, I didn’t regret it – I thought it was absolutely delicious and from then on, I never looked at ducks the same way.  Duck is delicious.

Due to my father’s diabetes getting a bit out of control, we stopped going to that restaurant a few years later, and my mom tried cooking more lean dishes consisting mostly of defatted chicken and fish.  For years, I’ve been in a lot of control of my diet and exercise and I try really hard to stay at 130 pounds or lower- it’s a healthy weight for me.

I haven’t checked my weight since I started culinary school, and I haven’t held back on what I eat, so I’m sure I’m beyond my normal weight and am committed to get back down soon.

In order to cook delicious food, I need to taste my food.  Although I have most of my dad’s genes, I don’t want to deprive my taste buds – I’ll just work out more and try to eat in moderation.  I take my dishes home and split the portions with my honey or with my sister and her kids.  For me, I mostly taste the food, not indulge in a full plate of it.  Well, except last Friday night, when Peyman and I split 3 – 1 serving dishes (very small servings) – a filet mignon, a flank steak, and duck.  Peyman grew up with a pet duck, that he named Duckie.  Friday was his very first time to try duck, and it was my first time in 15+ years that I had it too.  We each had about 3 pieces.  The richness of the dish left us both wanting more… it was so good!

I told my mom about it and she wants me to cook it for her too.  She’s sees it as a delicacy.  I’ll just have to be on a look out for duck meat at markets like Whole Foods or Bristol Farms.  Duck meat, unlike chicken, is cooked medium to medium rare.  If you’ve never tried it, I recommend it.  I can’t wait to make it again.  

Here’s the recipe.  I know you’ll enjoy it!


Duck Breast with Dried Cherry Pan Sauce

Serving size : 1

Ingredients

1 Duck breast, skin on

1 Shallot, diced

1/4 cup Dried cherries

1/4 cup Red wine

1 cup of Veal stock

1 tablespoon butter, cut into squares – very cold

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions

Dried Cherry Pan Sauce

1) In a small saucepot, take a small piece of meat and fat from the duck (about 1 tbsp that you can get from cleaning/cutting off the duck breast). Create suc (browned bits of flavor at the bottom of the pan) by adding little oil and duck pieces to the pan. Saute’ over medium heat until browned.

2) if excessively fatty, defat pan.  Use about 1 tbsp of fat to sweat shallots.

3) Add shallots and little salt until the shallots have a little color on them.

4) Stir in dried cherries.

5) Off heat, add red wine. Then let it reduce on low heat until it is almost evaporated.

6) Add about veal stock.  Reduce slowly on low heat until you get a sauce consistency (coats back of a spoon).  Set aside until ready to serve.

7) Don’t strain sauce until ready to strain.  Want the flavors in the sauce to meld in with one another.

9) Once ready to serve, strain through a chinois or sieve into another small saucepot.

10) Over heat, add salt and pepper.  Adjust consistency, if too thick.  If too thick, add more stock.  If too loose, adjust by reduction (heat).

11) Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.

12) When consistency coats the back of a spoon, add butter off heat.


Sauteed Duck Breast

1) Clean/cut off veins on duck breast

2) Scour the breast, fat side up, lightly at an angle, creating 3 small x’s.

3) Season both sides with salt and pepper

4) In a saute’ pan, add 3-4 tablespoons of cold water.  Skin side down, add the duck breast and place on range top on low to medium heat, slowly raising the temperature. The skin should be a bit crisp and browned.  Cook the breast 75% of the way through. Remove excess fat.  Flip breast and take off heat.  Set aside.  Rest the breast in the pan for 5-7 minutes, then rest on a rack for 20 minutes.  The breast will be ready to serve in 20 minutes.  Do not cut the breast until it has rested for 20 minutes, or the juices will leave the meat and it won’t be as nice and tender as it should.  When ready to serve, quickly place in the oven to warm. 350 degrees for about a minute.  Remove immediately from the oven.

With a sharp knife (I use a Chef’s knife), cut the duck breast on a bias and serve the duck and the sauce with Herb Roasted Potatoes, recipe found in my site.

I hope you enjoy this as much as Peyman and I have!  Bon Appetite!

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Herb Roasted Potatoes

 

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My favorite way to prepare potatoes is to roast them with garlic and herbs. I love their flavor and how they are a bit crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.   I usually serve them with a side of mixed vegetables, with “meat”loaf, or even with stir-fry sans rice. Herb roasted potatoes are also super easy to make and make a lovely side dish.

Herb Roasted Potatoes

Servings: 2

Time: 45 minutes

Brief: Red bliss potatoes roasted with garlic and herbs are a bit crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

Diet: V, GF, GFV, DF, SF, SRF, CFNF, NF

 

Ingredients

6 red bliss potatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ tsp rosemary, minced

¼ tsp Italian parsley, minced

¼ tsp thyme, minced

2 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil

sea salt, as needed

cayenne pepper, as needed

 

Directions

1) Heat an unlined half sheet pan in a 400 F degree oven.

2) Cut the potatoes into quarters. In a large bowl, mix together garlic, herbs, 1Tbsp olive oil. Season with sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Add the potatoes to the bowl and coat the potatoes with the garlic herb mixture.

3) Once the pan in the oven is hot, open the oven, and carefully pull out the oven rack where the hot pan is set, quickly spray the pan with cooking spray and pour the potatoes onto the pan. You should hear a sizzle. The hot pan should give the potatoes a nice browning. Spread the potatoes into an even layer so that each piece is touching the pan.

4) Make sure to flip the potatoes a few times in the oven to prevent burning and to brown each side.

4) After 30-40 minutes, once the potatoes are browned and tender, remove the pan from the oven. Serve.

 

 

 

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“Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do You Have What it Takes?”

IMG_9515What a coincidence that the movie, Julie & Julia premiered the same month I started culinary school!  I didn’t even know the movie had been made until I was invited to a special screening for it early this month.

The movie’s tag line is so ME right now on so many levels, “Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do You Have What it Takes?”.  Here’s why… As you know, my passion and big source of happiness is from food and entertaining friends and family.  I am an aspiring cookbook writer, executive chef, and Food Network contributor.  Butter… butter was not part of my vocabulary until I started culinary school, 5 pounds less ago.  And, I have what it takes.  I’ve got the chops to prove it… and my chops are tasting even better with the help of the Le Cordon Bleu program.

I can just imagine the many parallels in my life, Julie’s and Julia’s lives.  I, too, am looking for joy in my life through cooking.  I am hoping that my career in culinary will make me an independent woman- emotionally, mentally, and financially.  I really want to feel a sense of fulfillment and empowerment, and I think I can get it through my culinary career.  I have felt a glimmer of it already, and I like it.  My life has already improved.

For those of you who know me, you know I’ve been on a long journey to find happiness in a career.  I’ve had many careers (too many) that I’ve had little to no passion for.  I was once an accountant, an accounting/finance recruiter, a real estate agent, an extra in movies and television, and concurrently with culinary school, I’m an executive administrator that handles HR, billing and invoicing, recruiting, insurance- you name it.  You wouldn’t believe that in the past year, I became a certified residential care facility for the elderly administrator, and I also almost became an early childhood development teacher.  For the past 10 years of my life, I’ve been on a quest to find a career that’s respectable and that would make me a lot of money.  I should have added happiness to the equation long ago.

Fortunately, I work for Peyman.  He is somewhat flexible with my schedule and with my work location, so for a few months now, I have been working from home.  While at work/home, after the presidential election, I would switch the Food Network on almost 24/7, and I’d experiment with recipes.  I soon started preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for Peyman everyday.  Soon, my life was becoming very food-based and I was gaining happiness from it.  While working for Peyman, I decided to pursue a different career in education/child care.  After getting CPR certified to become a preschool teacher, I realized that I didn’t want to wipe boogers or change diapers of my little students –  I wouldn’t be happy.  I realized that I had to pursue a career in something I loved; something dealing with food.  Golly, I deal with food everyday, I’ve always enjoyed learning new recipes and making people happy with my creations, so a career in culinary, I thought, would suit me perfectly.  That was when I contacted the California School of Culinary Arts – Le Cordon Bleu.  It was the best call I made in a long time… I have been pleased with the decision ever since and hope this is the last change in career for me.

As the youngest of six daughters, I’ve always wanted to please my parents the same way my older sisters did, as students and professionals in medicine, law, and business.  That’s the reason I went into accounting in the first place.  To my parents, it was a respectable profession.  Cooking, not so much… so I thought.

In retrospect, I think my dad was trying to give me a hint about what I’d end up doing career-wise.  My father passed away in 2001, while I was in college.  At my oldest sister’s medical school graduation party, 2 years before his death, he delivered a speech, of course, mentioning his children.  He was so proud of us (well most of us, I always thought).  I will never forget what he said about me… “And my daughter, Yvonne…the youngest.  Yvonne is in her 2nd year at UC Santa Cruz.  She has not decided on a career yet, but decided to major in business.  She mentioned that she wants to be a business woman, but I’ve always thought she’d make a good chef or a supermodel.”  Comments such as those would easily hurt me because I was under the impression that my parents raised us, hoping we’d be doctors, lawyers, or engineers…something great.  I always took his comments as insults.  I guess I wanted to be like my sisters more than I thought.  Looking back, I see some truth in what he had to say – now I see that he WASN’T trying to hurt me with his comments.  He was right.  My father knew best.

If only I had experienced food the same way I do today, and also if we had the Food Network back then, I’d pursued this career earlier on.  Giada De Laurentiis, Batali, Morimoto, and all the other Food Network chefs make the culinary arts very respectable and a bit glamorous.  I consider chefs to be great people.  It’s an awesome profession.

As I try to recollect whatever my dad would tell me, the more I realized he loved me and supported my happiness.  My dad didn’t randomly say I would make a good chef or supermodel.  Here is some background.  First off, I wasn’t the best math or science student growing up.  As a teenager, after school, if I wasn’t at cheerleading practice, at a student body leadership function, or performing in a talent show, I’d be in my parent’s kitchen.

In my very early years of life, I noticed my dad’s incessant complaints of my mom’s food- he’d complain of her lack of seasoning.  My mother grew up in a provincial town in the Philippines where fresh fish and seafood was readily available.  The food was so fresh that very little salt and pepper was needed to complete a dish- just add a tomato, onions, garlic, and it was done.  My father, a city boy, from Pasay City, Philippines, grew up poor, eating flavorful pork, beef, and who-knows-what dishes.  Now that I think of it, the food he ate was probably so flavorful to mask the rotting flavor of the meat.  On weekends as a youngin’, I’d tag along with my dad to work (he owned a real estate company in San Diego).  During these times, my dad would take me out to eat and we’d order the same food.  I developed a similar palatte to his because of this.

In high school, I learned my mom’s staple dishes, started whipping up some recipes from the Good Houskeeping Cookbook, and after a while, I took over making dinner or just seasoning my mom’s dishes for her.  I considered myself to be my dad’s personal chef.  Since I knew I couldn’t please my dad with my grades in math and science, I tried to please my dad’s palatte.  I always wanted approval from him, and in cooking I’d get his nod of approval.

Now quickly, why did my dad mention I might be a model?  When I was a teenager, my sister, Riva, would send pictures of me to modeling agencies and to model searches, mostly without my knowledge or consent.  Mind you, in high school I was thin and 5’6″ tall.  For an Asian, 5’6″ is considered tall.  She thought I’d make a good model, haha.  As a result of Riva’s efforts, my parents received phone calls for interviews at modeling agencies.  We went to an interview once but they wanted my parents to pay for modeling lessons like catwalk struts and makeup application.  My parents thought all agencies were gimmicks and not legit, especially if there was an initial fee.  There was a model search where I was told I was sponsored by either Sprite or Squirt.  I was supposedly a “finalist”.  In order to attend the finals, I had to leave town during my final exams.  My parents were for education, so end of story.

Back to my culinary story, like Julie and Julia of Julie & Julia, I hope my career in the culinary field will be fulfilling and everlasting.  As I mentioned, I want to write a few cookbooks, be a chef at a high-end restaurant (like Lucques in Los Angeles), and maybe someday I can be a Food Network chef.  I think I’m a few steps closer since I kicked butt in my first class.  I think my dad would have been proud.  Although he is no longer physically here, I still feel very connected to him, and that his spirit and energy is still very much alive in me.  Cheers to you Dad.  I will always love you.

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Good news!!!

Yesterday, in culinary school, we took our final exam and practicals, and today we deep-cleaned the classroom and had an exit interview with our instructor.  It was officially the last day of my first class in culinary school, Introduction to Culinary Arts 101.

I was very pleased with my instructor’s feedback during my exit interview.  He said that ravioli is a tough dish to make and that I executed it perfectly.  As far as his suggestions for improvement, all I need to work on is consistency in execution.  I agree and am working on it.  On a more positive note, the best news of my day was, I received the only “A” in his class!!!  I feel SOOO good!  I learned that there was another “A” given out by the other chef instructor in my class, so I wondered who the other talented recipient was.  (Mind you, my  class consists of about a little over 30 students and we have 2 chef instructors that facilitate the class.  Each student is assigned one chef instructor.)

A few minutes ago, my buddy Lalo, my cooking station partner called me.  He’s sort of a lab partner – he works next to me and we share burners.  Although we’re in very close quarters, we prepare our dishes individually…our dishes are not collaborative in effort.  So anyway, about Lalo’s phone call – he called to tell me that he wants to keep me as his cooking partner because we’re obviously doing something right.  He was the last to have his exit interview with his chef.  He also received great news – he was the student to receive an “A” in the other chef’s class!  I was so stoked!  Shoot – we better keep kicking ass throughout our culinary education.  I wonder if, at graduation, there’s a valedictorian.  We could be co-valedictorians!  Lalo said that his chef, Chef Pastore, mentioned how “A”‘s aren’t given out often, that Intro 1 is actually a very difficult class because we’re fresh, new students that haven’t been broken into the culinary world yet.  Also, usually those with experience in restaurants are usually the ones that get “A”‘s.  We both do not have restaurant experience.  Well if you call being a server, host, and ice cream scooper experience, then I had a little experience in college…but I never prepared food the way I do now.  I love it!

I can’t wait till our next class, Intro 201, which starts on Monday.

One more thing – I asked my chef, Chef Carpenter,  if I could share recipes I learn in class on my blog.  I wasn’t sure before so that’s why I haven’t been posting recipes, but now that I know I can, I will.  Those are to come soon.

For now, I must get ready to drive down to San Diego for my niece’s Princess Tea Party… it’s her 4th birthday and my whole family and her guests are dressing up as princesses and boys are dressing as princes, I guess.  The adults will drink tea and the little ones will be having punch and juice with tea sandwiches and sweets.  I’ll be decorating the cake.  I really excited.  I love costumes, tea sandwiches, and I can’t wait to see my family again!

I hope you all enjoy your weekend!  Don’t forget to apply sunblock, drink lots of water, and to check out my blog again soon because I will be posting my favorite recipes I learned in class!

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I am going to be a chef!

Greetings, I’m back! IMG_8948

My life has changed so much since last Monday.  As you know, I started culinary school last Monday.

I wanted to share my experiences at culinary school from day one, but I seemed to have kept running out of time.  As of today, I am very happy.  School is awesome – I have wonderful feedback from my chef instructors.

Finally, here’s what’s been going on with culinary school.  First, let me mention that I’m in an accelerated Le Cordon Bleu program, so my days are jam-packed and very fast-paced.  I chose to take the A schedule – the morning schedule, so that I can still hold a job after school.  This means I start school at 6am, 5 days a week.  My chef instructors want us to arrive early, so I wake up by 4:30am and I’m at school by 5:30am.    Adjusting my sleeping schedule has been tough though…I’m not adjusting.  I can’t seem to get to bed before 11pm- in my life right now, there’s so much to do and so little time!  That said, I don’t get much sleep anymore.  When I moan and groan about it to my sisters, they each have their own version of, “Welcome to my world.  With kids, you’re lucky to get a wink of sleep”.  That always makes me feel better, and makes me want to hold off on having any kiddies any time soon :P (by the way, my sister Mimi, had her 3rd baby this morning! Congrats, Mim!).  I love my nephews as if they were my own kids, so as for now, that’s good enough for me.

Sleep has no effect on my performance at school, really.  By the time I get to school, I am so pumped up with adrenaline that little sleep or no sleep doesn’t phase me.  After school is another story – my eyes start to roll back so I try to take a 15 minute power naps.

Although I don’t sleep anymore and I have to wear a uniform that requires me to look androgynous, I really love what I’m learning!  Before I go on though, I want to talk about my uniform.  It’s a big change in my wardrobe.  I must arrive at school in full uniform, dressed in my checkered chef’s pants, chef’s jacket, handkerchief tied around my neck, black or white socks, and my huge, size 10, steel-toed, non-slip, combat boot-looking shoes.  My hair must be tucked in completely (no ponytail showing) under my chef hat, I have to cut down my nails, can’t wear nail polish or makeup, but I wear eyeliner and lip gloss anyway ;) .  Once we start cooking, I have wear a long apron, tied at the waist, and have a few dish towels tucked into my apron.  I walk into school with my knife kit too.  It has a bunch of cool knives and other chef tools.  I hope to never forget any of my tools or uniform pieces mentioned above- that would be a nightmare.  The school’s pretty strict.  If I forget my hat, I will be banned from class until I am in full uniform.

I pack extra uniforms in my trunk.  If I were to miss 10 minutes of class time, I’d miss out on a lot of info –  they don’t waste time!  We work straight through and stand throughout the class.  It took about a week to get used to my heavy shoes.  Last week, after class, I’d have to lift my legs to get circulation.  My legs hurt so much – I can’t believe how big my shoes are!  I feel like Frankenstein when I wear them.  Ok, that’s enough about my uniform, back to food… :)

At Le Cordon Bleu, we learn French technique.  Why French?  They say if you know how to cook in a French kitchen, you can survive cooking in any kitchen throughout the world.

My first lesson was to learn how to hold a knife, then knife cuts.  I have to learn the French terms for all things food, and I have to memorize all the dimensions of the many knife cuts.

If you’re curious, the proper way to hold a knife is to choke up on the blade of the knife, with your thumb on one side of the blade and your index finger on the other. If you’re a righty, your right thumb is on the left side of the blade and your pointer is on the right side of the blade.   Also, claw your opposite hand to avoid cutting off your fingers and use your left hand to give you even more control as you cut.  The left side of the blade should be resting on your left middle finger, which acts as a guide.   If you’re a righty, remember to tuck your thumb in, right behind the middle finger.  If this doesn’t make sense, I’ll have a video on this someday.  During the first 3 days of class, I kid you not, about 10 students cut themselves.

Glazed Carrots - learned how to blanch and glaze!

Glazed Carrots - oblique cuts. I learned how to blanch and glaze!

Good knife cuts in the culinary world are worth a lot of money.  During the Chef’s demo Thursday, he said, “keep in mind presentation and why you want uniformly cut pieces.  People will notice the beauty in your food, in this example, ratatouille – the sizes are uniform and they will pay more money for the extra care.  The presentation and the flavor is an experience that you create for them.”  Below, you will see how I put the dish together.  I was rushed to prepare this dish so my eggplant isn’t uniformly cut…and there’s a tomato that was supposed to be tomato concasse – chopped (oops!)- this was my practice run!  Peyman liked this dish when I made it for him last week, and when I was tested on it last Friday, at the end of class, my chef intructor told me, “Yvonne – your ratatouille was the best thing I ate today.”  Mind you, we have about 32 students in my class and last Friday we were tested on 3 dishes.  I was really happy to receive such postive feedback!  Last week’s experiences really inspired me to continue pursuing a career as a chef.

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Macedoine cuts - 1/4" x 1/4 " x 1/4"

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My Ratatouile

My Ratatouile

I’ve cooked a lot of things in class already, and I’m amazed by the flavors I can put together now.  I’m so happy because this is what I went to school for!  I made the most beautifully-tasting and -looking risotto last Thursday.  I wish I took pictures but I didn’t get a chance – I needed to serve it hot.  The chef tasted it and asked if I ever made it before.  I told him,  “only the kind from Trader Joe’s”, and he said it was really good and that I never cooked risotto before if it was the Trader Joe’s kind.  After presenting my plate, I took a couple bites, then my classmates scarfed it down.  I love the flavors of the foods I make.  I would love to eat my dishes, but stop myself.  I never used as much butter in my life and should stick to just tasting my food, not eating the whole plate.

After we have lecture and watch chef demos, students are supposed to replicate what the chefs did.  We then present our dishes to the chef instructor and we get feedback.  So far, I’ve received more positive feedback.  Chef likes how I flavor and season most of my dishes- I still need to work on adding more or less salt to my potatoes and rice, steaming my potatoes/carrots through, and being more consistent with my knife cuts.  It’s tough work, especially when there are strict deadlines for plates.

My first 3 days were tough.  More and more, during production, my classmates around my station relied on my notes and what I told them.  Why?  They weren’t good note takers.  As a result, last Wednesday I performed terribly – I couldn’t finish one dish on time because I lost focus and was distracted with, “Yvonne, do I add butter?”, “Yvonne, how do I cook this?”  I made it clear that I was annoyed and fed up with them and moved stations on Thursday.  So far, so good!  My station mates are pretty awesome.  We all mesh really well and I’m much happier!   The group that I left, however, told me I was ‘messed up” for ditching them.  I told them it was for the best and no hard feelings.

Now, let me talk about homework.  Yes, homework.  Some of you were surprised to hear that I have homework at culinary school.  Mostly, homework is comprised of lots of reading, writing, and knife cuts.  At school, we’ve been using the chef’s knife most.

The chef's knife on top is what I'd use a lot at home.  The bottom chef's knife is what we use mostly at school.

The chef's knife on top is what I'd use a lot at home. The bottom chef's knife is what we use mostly at school.

We mostly practice our cuts on potatoes and carrots

We mostly practice our cuts on potatoes and carrots

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My homework for tonight is to make 4 potato tournets.  I still don’t understand how to cut them correctly – no one in class does, besides the chef.  I’m going to youtube it now, make the cuts, read, then prepare dinner.  Right now, in the fridge, I’m marinading orange roughy fillets in ziplock bag.  My marinade includes: a blended oil (75% canola and 25% extra virgin olive oil), lemon juice, chopped garlic, bay leaf, salt, freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  I’m going to grill it then serve with rice pilaf and either steamed broccoli or glazed carrots.

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Culinary school starts in 2 weeks!

My culinary school orientation is this Saturday!  At orientation students pick up all their tools, take tours and become better familiar with the program.  I wanted to beat the lines at the equipment pick-up site.  In doing so, I made an appointment to pick up everything prior to orientation.  As of yesterday, I have almost everything I need to start.  Yay!  I have my books, uniforms, aprons, knife set and other tools!   I am so excited!!!  I can’t wait!  I know this may sound strange, but I go to bed thinking about what great recipes I can share and come up with.  I want a large repertoire of original recipes.

I watch the Food Network religiously, and I actually like all of the featured chefs, but my favorites include Giada De Laurentiis, Ina Garten, Paula Deen, and Sunny Anderson.  Recipes I’ve used and loved most were created by Giada De Laurentiis, Paula Deen, Sandra Lee and Alton Brown.  I enjoy watching the show Throwdown with Bobby Flay but feel really bad for his opponents when they lose in front of their friends and customers, especially when they thought it was their day to shine on national television.  When the german chocolate cake girl lost the throw down, I yelled at the television, well at Bobby, because I wanted her to win..and I was almost sure that Cake Man Ray was going to win the red velvet cake challenge because his cake looked so moist, red, and delicious but Bobby won… so I yelled at Bobby again.  I’m not going to tell you what I said.. I wasn’t too harsh… and I still like Bobby.  I just feel bad for the proprietors – how well will the show benefit them when they lose?  Someone could easily use Bobby’s recipes to open up a cake stand next door called, The Recipe That Won.  I’m still going to watch the show though because it’s good entertainment… and I’m going to try his red velvet and german chocolate cake recipes too…yum!

red velvet

Throwdown is a great show for Bobby because he’s challenging himself to create recipes that can top the very best recipes out there.  I can’t wait to do the same and to learn more about what flavors work with one another.  Some day I’d like to be a part of the Food Network family.  In fact, a former coworker of mine, Jeffrey Saad, is a contestant on the show The Next Food Network Star.  I think he’s going to win or will at least have his own show.  Jeffrey and I didn’t know each other personally.  He conducted a few training sessions that I attended at Coldwell Banker – Beverly Hills East, then he left shortly after that to start his own firm.  I must say, I always thought Jeffrey had a strong presence and a lot of charm that made him very magnetic and effective.  I know he will go far in whatever he sets out to do.  I can’t wait to watch his show and try his recipes.

Before and during culinary school, I plan to post recipes that I enjoy and know you will enjoy too.  I’m sure my recipe development will change tremendously during my schooling and I’m really excited about it.

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