Tuesday, June 30, 2015

So Many Salads

Today was very much like yesterday. I was on the starter section again. It was about as busy as yesterday, but I only needed to call for help once – during the dinner rush when it got really busy. I was taught how to set up the station, and even was able to balance the orders with doing some prep for the station. This can be tough, because some of the top-sellers really need to be prepped every day, and it is hard to get ahead on anything else. For example, although we prepped, battered, and flash-fried a bunch of cod yesterday, we had to do more today to keep up with all the fish and chip orders.
Starter section refrigerated mise en place left side
Originally, I had yesterday and today off. I think this was because chef thought my parents were visiting longer than they were, so he gave me more time off. But with my family gone, I would rather be busy and get straight back to work, even if it may mean working another eight or nine consecutive days. Since we had extra people on, I thought I was placed on this section just to learn a new section. But now I realize that the cook who usually runs this station is leaving for good after Thursday, so I am wondering if they are now training me to take over that station. On one hand that sounds good, a more challenging, busy station with lots to do where I will constantly be working on the hot line. It will be tricky at first being by myself and getting everything done (today was busy enough, I can’t imagine Sunday), but I will never be completely alone in the kitchen. On the other hand, I am here on a culinary internship and I purposely chose a location that does bar food, fine dining, weddings and functions, breakfast, and afternoon tea so I could experience them all. I do not want to be stuck on one station for good. I won’t learn nearly as much that way. 

I am also curious as to why I was chosen for this position. There are plenty of other candidates, most of who have been in the kitchen much longer than me, as I only began a little over a month ago, or people who have much more restaurant experience than me. There are also two other student interns here, and I wonder why I was chosen over them. As I was putting together orders today, the head server working the pass asked me how long ago I had finished college. I responded saying I am not finished college, I’m only between my first and second year now. He then went on to say I was doing very well here, and when I told him I had no previous restaurant experience at all, he said I was very well suited for the job. So that made me feel quite good, and truly believe that I was doing a good job on my station, turning out high-quality dishes at a fast (enough) pace. In fact, a lot of people, other cooks and servers, asked me about my ‘promotion’ or if I had been ‘upgraded’. They also asked how my family enjoyed their stay here.
Right side
Today was hot – we are in a short heat wave here, and the kitchen was sweltering. No wonder so many diners chose to eat outside and order fresh salads.

Monday, June 29, 2015

On The Starter Section

Today was not an easy day. But then again, did I take on a culinary internship in a foreign country to take the easy way out? No. My visitors left at 10:30a.m., just as I went in to work, so of course that made me sad. I was looking forward to a full day of work to keep busy and keep my mind off things, but of course it was Monday and Mondays tend to be slow.

I set up the pastry section, as usual, but I was a bit annoyed. Having been off for a few days, someone else had been covering pastry and not only did I no longer know exactly what the inventory was, the place had not been restocked the night before and the ice cream freezer I had so carefully defrosted was frosty and dirty again. But once pastry was set up, I was promoted to the starter section on the hot line. I have done quite a few dishes here before, helping out when it gets busy, but today I was put there myself, as the one covering all the orders. There was another cook in to cover pastry orders, although she tried to get me to help her out or tell me how to do things even though she had plenty of time to do these things herself and it was her responsibility. I am wondering if she was a bit jealous. 
A dish I learned today - Kitchen Salad
Being on the starter line wasn’t a whole lot different, but you always have to be on your toes because the starter line gets the most orders coming in of all. You have to be able to keep several different orders straight at once, and complete orders with numerous items all to go out at the same time. The starter side has both hot and cold items, all of which need to be prepared last minute. It also requires coordination with the main course line – because mains need to go out at the same time so I can’t always begin to cook items right away. I also need to cover side dishes – so if a burger order comes in, I need to know when the burger is two minutes away from being done so I can cook the side dish of gaufrette potatoes. This sounds like enough tasks to juggle, but then you need to constantly be replenishing your stock – especially after five sandwich orders – you will need more bread. Replenishing stock also requires completing prep jobs during the slower times, such as battering fish for fish and chips, making onion rings, or filleting smoked salmon. 

The starter side may seem fairly straight-forward with mostly sandwiches and fried items, but there are over fifty individual ingredients to account for, and I must know where they are, where to get more, how to prep them, and how to cook them. I also need to keep all the different plates straight. My life would be a great deal easier if we used the same dishes for every menu item. I am quite glad I got started on this station on a Monday – a slow day where I would have time to get accustomed to the station before tackling a very busy day. I know I am a bit slow at plating, but with practice I will improve. There was not too much pressure on me today because the regular starter cook was there, showing me any dishes I was unsure of, and helping me out when a lot of orders came in. If I ever felt overwhelmed, or needed something in a pinch, I only had to call on him. And I was not too pressed to make prep, because it wasn’t too busy and the other cook was taking care of that while I stayed on the line. His boss, he called me. Anything I say goes. I was even put in charge of making sure we had enough back-up of everything and cleaning up the station at the end. 

Overall, the day may not have begun the greatest, but I got promoted and kept busy and had a new challenge on my hands. We even had time for some playful kitchen banter. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Afternoon Tea and More Pizza

This morning we walked around the old farmyard and through the forest by the lake on the estate. We also took a short drive into the countryside and the town next door. Then in the afternoon, we went to explore the inside of the castle before my parents went to their afternoon tea, an anniversary gift to them from my brothers and I. 
Afternoon tea sweets
 The afternoon tea menu is as follows:
Finger Sandwiches: Oak-cured Irish Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Crème Fraiche on Wholemeal; Refreshing Cucumber and Cream Cheese on White; Honey-baked Ham with Wholegrain Mustard on White
Selection of Sweet Treats: Chelsea Bun, Opera Cake, Shortbread, Mini Éclair, Mini Lemon Meringue, Mini Strawberry Cone, Crumpets, Tea Bread & Cake, Fruit Scones and Preserves with Clotted Cream
Selection of Teas or Freshly Brewed Coffee:
Freshly Brewed North South Regular Coffee 
Decaffeinated Coffee 
Americano, Espresso, Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato, Mocha, Café Latte, Double Espresso 
Choice of Herbal Teas (Irish Breakfast, Ronnefeldt Loose Tea, Classic Chai, Jungpana, Earl Grey, Green Keemun Leaf, Morgentau, Herbs & Ginger, Moroccan Mint, Camomile Blossoms)
Hot Chocolate with a choice of: Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate or Creamy Caramel 
Syrups (to add to coffee or hot chocolate): Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla, Hazelnut, Cinnamon, Irish Cream 
Garlic mushroom pizza
After that, we played around in the games room by our cottage a bit – jumbo connect four, jumbo jenga, ping pong, and pool. Then we went back to that wonderful pizzeria for supper, and for another short walk. Today was a laid-back, casual day spending quality time together.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Six Course Fine Dining

This morning was a fairly relaxed morning with more exploration of the estate grounds, especially the old gothic lodge and the lake beside the castle. After a light lunch we headed back into town for some shopping and errands. Then in the late afternoon, we went for a beginner horseback riding lesson at the equestrian center on the estate. This was quite fun – the first time really being on horseback for the three of us. We each got paired with a riding horse appropriate for our size, and were led around the estate, just a slow walk on horseback, by one of the equestrian center workers. We walked through the wetlands, forest, path to the old stable mews, and path to the old gothic lodge. The entire lesson lasted about an hour and was very enjoyable – the weather was perfect, the horses gentle and cooperative, and the experience relaxing. 

Immediately following our riding lesson, we quickly changed and went to the fine dining restaurant where we had a reservation for a six course meal. Being a Saturday night, the place was quite busy, with two large groups in, but there were plenty of servers and they gave us very nice treatment, knowing me as a colleague there. I have not been out to fine dine very often, and am used to being on the other side of the kitchen, so this entire experience was a pleasant change. 

Here are the menu items we chose: 

Bread Rolls: tomato and basil, onion, mustard.

Appetizer: Lamb kidney paté with pommes duchesse.

Rabbit Starter
Starters: Sweet Onion Soup with gubbeen cheese crouton; Pan-fried local chicken livers with dried fruit compote, chicken jus, and tarragon vinaigrette; Terrine of Rabbit with wild mushroom, wrapped in cured ham, served with spiced pear chutney, toasted brioche, and pickled girolles; Trio of Goat's Cheese: Rhyfield parfait, gratinated crottin de chavignol, breaded boilie goats cheese, ratatouille chutney, basil pesto, balsamic reduction.

Soup: Coconut Parsnip with paprika oil.
Sorbet: Green Apple.

Duck Entrée
Entrées: Braised Rare Breed Pork Plate - braised pork cheeks and honey glazed belly, warm salad of apple, celery and lentil, black pudding and apple dressing, pork jus; Fish of The Day - pan-fried hake with mashed potatoes and citrus dressing; Roast Loin of Irish Lamb with herb crust, ratatouille, pea purée, and greek yogurt and mint sphere; Roast Breast of Silverhill Duck - gateaux of confit leg, orange marmalade, creamed sweet potato, red currant jus.

Sides: mange tout, parsnip chips, gratin dauphinoise potatoes.

Delice Dessert
Desserts: Hot Chocolate Mousse Soufflé with vanilla ice cream x2; Mojito of Lime Confit - mint and white chocolate ganache, dark rum crumble, lemon sorbet foam; Dark Chocolate and Passionfruit Delice - cannelloni of passion fruit curd, dark chocolate mousse, sponge base, passion fruit emulsion.

Petit Fours: blueberry madeleine, apple marshmallow, white chocolate fudge, nougat, caramel.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Road Trip, Chocolate Fudge Cake, and Pizza

Crumpets for breakfast

This morning, after sleeping in and fixing some crumpets for breakfast, I showed my visitors around the village – the antique shop, the bed and breakfast, the village shop, and the chocolate shop. After a quick lunch of sandwiches in our cottage, we went on a road trip. We drove north and stopped at another castle, to take some photos and some photos of the mountains and the coastline. Of course I had found a bakery in the area, so we stopped there and shared a sinfully delicious chocolate fudge cake. It was a lovely sunny day and the drive was quite pleasant. 
Wedding cakes in the bakery window

Pizza for supper
After the drive, we went for a casual, light supper in the little pizza place, in the village. This was lovely – we didn’t have a reservation but the friendly and accommodating staff squeezed us in and put us at a table in a private room with a fireplace and plenty of antiques to look at while we waited for our food. The pizza – wood-oven thin crust pizza served on thick wooden boards, was absolutely delicious. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and it was some of the best pizza I have had. Although the desserts looked tempting, we were quite full, but figured we may have time to return on Sunday. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cozy Cottage Stay

Starter of cream of vegetable soup
Dad's chicken dish
Today was a better day, as my visitors finally arrived. I thought about going into work for a breakfast shift in the morning to work in some more time at work before they arrived, but I didn’t know exactly how early they were arriving, or if it would be worth it. And I was quite tired after working eight long days in a row, so I decided to take the day off after all. My visitors arrived around 2:00p.m. We settled into our cottage, then made a trip into town where I took care of another business matter and we went to supper at one of the well-known restaurants in town. Other than that though, we just took the day easy, as my visitors were imaginably very tired and jet-lagged. 

The burger
My penne dish

Here is what we ate at the restaurant…
Me: three-course early bird menu of cream of vegetable soup with wheaten bread, penne pasta with Indian spiced vegetables and tomato and basil cream, and fruit of the forest cheesecake.
Mom: grilled chicken escalope with carrots and parsnips and roasted potatoes.
Dad: pan-fried chicken escalope served on a bacon and basil mash with tobacco onions, red wine jus, and fresh vegetables. 
Brother: beef burger with bacon, cheese, tomato, and crispy onions with onion rings, coleslaw, and garden salad.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Delay In Visitors

Today was a strange day indeed. I went into work for the usual 11:00a.m. to 10:00p.m. pastry and prep bar shift. However, this morning I was more cheerful than usual as I was expecting visitors from home today – my parents and oldest brother. They planned a two-week trip around the country, spending five days with me on the estate renting one of the old family cottages through the woods. Upon arriving at work, after putting the ice cream back in the ice cream freezer, I saw the note left for basket requests, and the only thing on it was one welcome basket for four guests. I knew that was for my family’s cottage, so I asked to put the basket together myself. The head chef insisted I add more than what is on the typical list (four oranges, four apples, two liters of milk, one liter of orange juice, one loaf of bread, one pound of butter, four yogurts, and some jam). I also got to choose what kind of stuff I wanted – so I added miniature ice cream tubs, bananas, potato bread, and crumpets, and chose the best flavors of yogurts. Chef then added a bag of chips, some chocolate truffles, some chocolate bars, wheaten bread, and a bag of cereal himself. As soon as I had the basket ready to go, someone from accommodations came in to tell me my parents had emailed saying their flight connection had been cancelled and they wouldn’t be coming until tomorrow. I thought she was joking at first. It isn’t winter, so why would it be cancelled? But no, she was serious, and I was devastated and left with so many questions but no way to get them answered at the moment. I had to work. I told chef, who simply responded with, “Oh, that’s ok, just put the stuff for the basket back in the fridge then.” No, that’s not what I meant. I wasn’t worried about the basket at all. I was worried about my family.

I tried to shake it off, and move on to work – making crispy fried onions for today’s special (pork and leek sausage coil with onion marmalade potatoes, mange tout and yellow pepper, crispy parley, Cajun fried onions, and mustard cream sauce), making mashed potatoes, and supreming yet more chicken – eighty breasts to be exact. I am starting to get really good at that. At first, chef said I was going quite fast, but then said I had slowed down and needed to pick up the pace, that I was daydreaming. He was right, actually, my mind was preoccupied, and then he began to ask me questions about my parent’s trip plans and I tried to speed up again. I moved on to sealing the breasts, and of course, once I was almost done, chef came along, looked at me and said “No!” and walked away. This frustrates me to the upmost, as he does this kind of thing often. He comes along, says no, and leaves. Well, I obviously don’t know what I am doing wrong, or else I wouldn’t be doing it, and I am not going to know if you don’t tell me, and if you want it done a specific way, you should have shown me how to do it in the first place, and not when I am nearly finished!!! So then he leaves it to one of the other cooks to come to explain it to me, which is an issue for two main reasons. Number one, every one of the cooks has their own variation on how to do things, and they all do things differently, so I would like to know which way the chef would like it done so I can do it properly. Number two, I am a student intern and I am supposed to be working under and learning from a chef. Are you really telling me you do not have time to demonstrate some basic procedures for me? Just like when I accidentally used the wrong color cutting board yet again, chef did not tell me right there, you need to use a red chopping board for that, instead he muttered something under his breath about the hundredth time and one of the other cooks had to tell me what was wrong again.

So later on apparently chef was talking to one of the other cooks about me (again), and saying how I needed to know how to plate the main courses so I could jump in and help on busy days like Sundays. Well that’s funny, because any time I try to help or watch how these dishes are being done, you accuse me of just standing around and how I need to get busy. How am I supposed to learn if I cannot stand there and watch? If you expect me to do it right, then I need to be taught how to do it. 

Anyways, later I did get to watch and help plate some main courses, along with making boxty, cleaning, etc. I also got to check into the cottage my family has been planning to stay in (along with the welcome basket), so I am comfortable here for tonight. 
The kitchen at the cottage.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Defrosting The Ice Cream Freezer

Before talking about work today, I should talk about going out last night, or I guess it was early this morning technically. Despite being a Monday, quite a few of the kitchen workers and servers were going out that night, and I decided to join them for some fun. I like to go to socialize with them outside of work, where you are free to talk and fool around a bit and get to know each other better. It was a good time.
Today began as a slightly odd day. I did my set-up, then was helping out others. I was asked to vac-pac a bunch of different filleted fish for the restaurant upstairs. While I was doing that, another chef from the restaurant upstairs asked me to portion eighteen liters of chicken jus into bags and vac-pac that as well. But then the cook from the bar asked me where I was working today, and told me to continue slicing onions for her. I mean, aside from attending to dessert orders, I do not have a specific task list to work from, so I just help out everyone as asked as I can, usually listening to the person highest in authority first.

Early in the afternoon, when it was quiet, I decided to defrost the ice cream freezer next to the pastry section. It was built up with a lot of ice and needed cleaning desperately. So I had to move all the contents to the large walk-in freezer on the other side of the kitchen. This may not sound too bad, but when seven of the eight desserts on the menu require ice cream, it is a nuisance to be running back and forth all the time – it takes longer to get orders out and the ice cream was melting more quickly. That’s why I tried to choose a less busy time of day, but of course the freezer wasn’t ready to use again in time for the evening rush. Tomorrow I will load it back up with ice cream before opening time. 

A few other events of the day – chef getting me to make the big batch of mashed potatoes for the restaurant service tonight. He left me with the hot butter-cream-spice mixture and told me to put the potatoes in piping bags. He didn’t specify to season the potatoes, and I wasn’t sure what he had put in the butter mixture, so I tasted them and seasoned them and tasted them and seasoned them. I had nearly finished putting them in piping bags when he came by and tasted them, and told me they were not seasoned or mixed properly. He should have specified he wanted to taste them first. He added a ton more salt and pepper, even though I thought I had already aired on the side of salty (but I forgot just how salty chefs like things). He then got me to help him mix them, as apparently it was a two-person job. Later, I was asked why one of my desserts did not have icing sugar on it, which I had never done before and was never told to do. And I was right – it was not supposed to have icing sugar. Why try to find faults I made when I haven’t made any?

Other than that, it wasn’t a bad day, and I even got to do a dessert of the day – lemon tart with raspberry sorbet and raspberry coulis.
Dessert of the day

Monday, June 22, 2015

Three Course Lunch For Thirty-Three

Today was a typical Monday in the bar. Fairly quiet, with a few rushes around the expected times. Again, I made sure my pastry section was set-up, then helped with prep for other stations – making mashed potatoes, cutting and sautéing button mushrooms, chopping shallots, washing lettuce, butchering and sealing chicken, etc. I also cleaned out the walk-in fridge, organizing it and checking all dates. 

The most note-worthy part of the day was we were expecting a group of thirty-three people to stop in for a three course luncheon. They wanted to be in and out within an hour if possible, so we planned a set menu in advance – a starter of vegetable soup and wheaten bread, a main of quiche Lorraine with a side salad, and a choice of warm apple raisin crumble with vanilla ice cream or fresh fruit salad for dessert. The big pot of soup was ready and heated. The bread was sliced – and we had thirty plates set out with soup bowls and bread, waiting to be filled. The plates were set-up at the back of the kitchen for the main courses as well, already with the garnish, and the salad just needed to be dressed. The quiches were baked and just needed to be heated in the oven. I was in charge of desserts of course, and needed to wait until the final orders for how many of each choice came in, but I had the plates and bowls ready, fruit salad handy, and apple crumbles topped and ready for the oven. I even balled some ice cream in advance. The group showed up an hour late and complained service was not fast enough. I really don’t think we could have made it any faster unless we the cooks came and delivered the food ourselves. It was all ready to go and hot – and I don’t know how they scarfed it all down that fast. But over all, it was successful and our rush of the day. I even got one of the leftover quiches for lunch – delicious.
Quiche Lorraine with a side salad
Today was another fun day in the kitchen, but for a different reason. Today there was really no pressure and we could relax a bit while getting things done. I was working with two young, friendly coworkers, and we were able to joke around with each other and the servers. I am really beginning to feel more comfortable here, and feel more like part of the kitchen family.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Dessert-Worthy Father's Day

Today I was back to working in the bar – just in time for the busiest day of the week, Sunday. But not only was today Sunday, it was Father’s Day Sunday. I got there by 11:00a.m., found out what was done on the pastry section from the cook who had been there all week. Pastry was left in very good shape – there was plenty of everything, as we are always sure to do lots of prep on Saturdays to prepare for the busy Sundays. So I finished setting up the station, and had a few tasks I had in mind that I could complete – filling ramekins with apple filling, making brownie mix, slicing strawberries, etc. The problem was, I was having trouble getting to them. At first, the appetizer and main course stations needed help with a few things – making mashed potatoes, prepping salad, etc. My little arm can only turn the potato ricer so fast, and it was a huge batch of mash! But after, it was the number of dessert orders.

I have never seen this many dessert orders come in! Some days I have worked in the bar and only had a total of about three dessert orders all day. Other times, I get dessert orders but only at specific times – such as the lunch and supper rushes. And usually it will be single orders, not orders with two to three desserts. Today, however, was completely different. I was getting a lot of dessert orders, approximately fifty in total at final count. And many of these dessert orders were for eight to ten desserts! Having fifteen dessert orders for three different tables hanging in front of you can be quite daunting – as you want to get them out as fast as possible, have them all ready for one table at the same time, and not keep the other table waiting. I am still not used to working busy restaurant service shifts, so having a waiter shout, “one brownie, one tarte, one bread and butter with vanilla ice cream instead of rum and raisin, two kids ice cream sundaes, one all vanilla, one kids ice cream sundae with chocolate and vanilla” can be scary. But I managed to pull all the orders off – didn’t mess up any or have them sent back. Didn’t forget about any, or run out of product. Occasionally the other cooks would ask me if I needed help, and I could have used it, but wanted to be able to say I did this myself, wanted the practice. Plus, they offered help, but were swamped themselves and really didn’t have time to bail me out. Usually on a typical day, I would be popping over to the hot line to help them out, which I did do today as well – frying items and making sandwiches and such, but not nearly as often as usual. 

I was quite proud of myself today – I seemed to have more confidence and be moving much faster than usual. I never thought I couldn’t do it, but today really made me feel proud and accomplished. The chef on main courses said I did really well today and he was quite impressed. I went steady from 11:00a.m. to 10:00p.m., hardly stopping for anything, cleaning up when service was almost closed (though I was still getting the odd dessert order forty minutes after closing time). I made sure the place was scrubbed and shining before I left. This is the kind of rush that keeps me going, This is the kind of busy day that makes me thrive and love this industry – eleven hour days at work that feel like one hour has passed.
I thought today was not going to be a great day – that’s what it looked like from the start. It was raining, I was working with the sous chef as the expeditor (we usually don’t even have an expeditor and only a maximum of two people on the line, not four). But he did not really have the time, nor any reason to get on my case today – I was doing dessert orders as given, left and right! I was speaking up for myself too – accusing him when I saw him take my ice cream spoon from off my station to use for pesto! The one thing I did not like was when he told me to keep the order dockets for desserts on my station – instead of filing them with the completed orders. I have never been told to do this before, and he said it was, “In case there is a problem with one of the orders, so I don’t have to dig through them all.” Implying if there was going to be an issue with an order, it would be one I had filled. 

Other than that though, the day went along really well, one of my favorite days at work so far, as I was feeling much more relaxed and at ease. Even on busy days, you still find a bit of time to fool around in the kitchen. Here is a funny example from today: the phone rang, one of the cook’s answered, hung up, then told the other cook a chef upstairs wanted to see him (it was someone completely different on the phone). Now this cook had just finished making himself a quick sandwich as there was a slight lull in orders and we really hadn’t breaked all day. He often makes sandwiches, and tasty hot ones – like sausage and garlic mayo and whatnot. He makes triple decker sandwiches and cuts them into four triangles, and eats as he goes. He had only gotten the chance to eat one triangle, then ran upstairs to see what the chef wanted. As soon as he was gone, the three of us left in the kitchen each snatched up one triangle and quickly shoved it in our mouths. Then he came back, was confused because the other chef had no idea what he was talking about, and saw his sandwich was gone. They tried to blame it on me, innocently standing at the deep fryer frying their onions for them. But all in all, it was a funny joke, and just one example of how we in the kitchen are just a family that can joke with each other.
One of the seven different desserts I got many requests for today -
Warm Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What Are You Making?

Today was a beautiful and warm day for a wedding, and not stressful either because we were well-prepared. I actually got a good glimpse of the bride today, which made me feel sentimental and really enjoy working at weddings, making the couple's dream day come true! I did the typical make up some canapés and help prepare desserts. Then they couldn’t really decide where to send me – stay at the castle or go to the marquee, at either place, not much more needed to be done. After a staff meal of garden salad, roast pork loin, and roast baby potatoes, I offered to stay at the castle and help out the breakfast chef, who was not the normal breakfast chef but the weekend breakfast chef. That way, I would have something to do and he could leave early. I helped prepare some afternoon tea items – miniature lemon meringue tarts, chocolate-dipped éclairs, Chelsea buns, and shortbread cookies. I also cut up some tea cake as well.

There still wasn’t much that needed to be done, and I had some leftovers from making up the pastries, so I decided to whip up a quick dessert for staff. The regular breakfast chef had told me the executive chef doesn’t mind if we do this if it is a way to use up leftovers. And that is simply what I did – I didn’t even need to add any new product to it, simply used things that would have been trash anyway. I had leftover meringue from making the lemon meringue tarts, leftover melted chocolate from dipping the éclairs, leftover miniature croissants from breakfast, and leftover whipped cream from filling the éclairs. So I made a bread pudding-esque dessert. I mixed the chocolate with some of the meringue to make a mousse, then tore the croissants into bite-sized pieces and mixed them in. I spread this on a platter, topped with the remainder of the meringue, and torched it with a blow torch. Then I added a little strawberry purée to the whipped cream to give it a little color and used it as garnish. Several of the servers who were just waiting around to serve canapés were quite excited, and inquisitive as to what I was making. So I let them taste it right away and they all thought it was good! I mean, it had chocolate, so how could it not be tasty, right? They were slightly surprised to get a sweet treat.
'Leftovers' Pudding
Later on it was over to the marquee for serving the wedding dinner. It was slightly exciting for me tonight because I learned how to plate a new appetizer – Gateau of Fresh Crab with avocado, lime, and garden leaves. Service went smoothly and we were done before 9:00p.m.

Tonight’s menu was:
Canapés: Tempura of Prawn with Sweet Chilli Sauce, Filo Tartlets with Smoked Chicken, Black Olives & Pesto, Baby Baked Potatoes with red onion marmalade and crème fraiche. 
Starter: Gateau of Fresh Crab, avocado, lime, garden leaves. 
Alternative: Rosace of Melon, cured ham, red port jus.
Vegetarian: Goat’s Cheese Parfait with Ratatouille Chutney & Basil Pesto, Balsamic and Sherry Reduction
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls. 
Soup:  Cream of Celeriac with smoked bacon, scented with truffle oil.
Sorbet: Apricot & Lime
Main Course Option #1 – Meat: Sirloin Steak served medium-rare, braised shallot, celeriac purée, fondant potato, rich red wine jus.
Main Course Option #2 - Fish: Grilled Salmon, salad of fennel marinated in lemon, baby spinach, vierge dressing.
Main Course Option #3 – Vegetarian: Provençal Vegetable Pithivier with Red Pepper Tapenade & Basil Pesto.
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Pavlova with fresh fruit, strawberry purée, and chantilly cream.
Petits Fours Assortment: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Short Wedding Service

Nothing really new or exciting happened today. I began work at the castle at 11:00a.m., preparing canapés and other items needed for today’s wedding. Soon, I brought some supplies over to the marquee and got to do the beginning of the plates, instead of just finishing them. I plated the starter and the salmon main, and prepared some salad and some bread. Then back over to the castle for lunch – fish and chips and salad and green beans, as well as another special staff dessert, bread pudding made from leftover croissants, fruit preserves, and white chocolate custard. Then back to the marquee for more prep, then back to the castle for plating and serving canapés. Finally back to the marquee for serving the wedding.
It was a relatively small function – 177 guests, and service went quickly and smoothly, and didn’t go much past 8:00p.m.
Tonight’s menu was:
Canapés: Salmon & Crème Fraîche on Blinis, Tempura of Prawn with Sweet Chilli Sauce, Mini Vegetable Spring Rolls, Filo Tartlets with Smoked Chicken, Black Olives & Pesto, Spiced Chicken Kebabs, Breaded Mozzarella Sticks. 
Starter: Marinated Escalope of Local Chicken, sliced plum tomato with mixed leaves, balsamic, and basil pesto.
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls. 
Soup:  Cream of Leek and Potato, with truffle oil.
Sorbet: Lemon
Main Course Option #1 – Meat: Sirloin Steak served medium- well, braised shallot, celeriac purée, fondant potato, brandy and Madagascar green peppercorn sauce.
Main Course Option #2 - Fish: Grilled Salmon, salad of fennel marinated in lemon, baby spinach, vierge dressing.
Main Course Option #3 – Vegetarian: Provençal Vegetable Pithivier with Red Pepper Tapenade & Basil Pesto
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Warm Apple and Berry Crumble, vanilla ice cream.
Petits Fours Assortment: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 
Not sure when/how I changed so much - but I went from not going near
any meat showing even a hint of pink to preferring my steak this rare!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Sweet End To A Day

Afternoon tea plates - top plate of sweets with
sandwiches poking out on the middle plate
 Today was much like yesterday, except we knew we would be done even earlier today since we had accomplished so much yesterday. I went in to help out with breakfast again, and tried some smoked kippers with lemon herb butter for my breakfast. Then I moved on to picking yet more crab (we hadn’t finished it all yesterday), making up the crab cakes, sealing cocktail sausages, vacpacking soup, picking and chopping parsley, etc. We also worked on desserts – pavlovas with fresh fruit and cream and apple berry crumbles. I was on a roll today, working quickly and actually knowing what I was doing. I could move on to new tasks without having to ask a million questions, like where is this kept, how does the vacpack machine work, how do I do this, etc. I even got to sign for several deliveries – something I still don’t totally feel I should be qualified to do despite being trained to do it. They were small, simple orders from our regular, trusted suppliers and I just had to basically confirm the delivery invoice matched the products delivered and they were in good condition, then put the items away.
Bottom plate of sweets

I took a late lunch that was quite lovely – a melt-in-the-mouth roast pork with rich brown sauce, Shepherd’s pie with cheesy mashed potatoes, boiled green beans, baked beans, cherry tomatoes, and fruit salad. 

Later in the day, when we were pretty much done our wedding prep, I helped out the breakfast/afternoon tea chef by making up a bunch of bacon buddies for the evening wedding buffets. Then I helped him out by plating afternoon tea. I absolutely adore the idea of afternoon tea, and the cute and dainty sweets and sandwiches served at it. Here, afternoon tea consists of choice of beverage (tea, coffee, or even champagne) prepared by the servers. Then a tower of plates – the bottom containing warm scones with icing sugar, preserves, and creams, crisp buttered crumpets, Chelsea buns, and tea bread. The middle plate has the finger sandwiches – smoked salmon with horseradish crème fresh on wholemeal, honey baked ham and whole grain mustard on white, and cucumber and cream cheese on white. The top plate is, in my opinion, the best and contains all the sweets: chocolate-dipped éclairs, lemon meringue tartlets, opera cake, macaroons, shortbread cookies, and fruit cones. One of each item is provided for each guest, so afternoon tea is really a (sweet) meal in itself. I was preparing and plating the items, and the chef insisted I try all the items, so I basically had my own afternoon tea ceremony myself (minus the tea, but I chose not to have that). I can honestly say, afternoon tea is delicious and a charming experience. He offered to let me go home early, but I was enjoying myself and offered to stay, so instead he decided to take off early leaving me in charge of the remainder of the afternoon teas.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Sweet Start To A Day

This morning I was scheduled for a short, quiet, easy day of prep at the castle before two weddings on Friday and Saturday, so I decided to go in for breakfast again at 7:00a.m. I love going in for breakfast because the breakfast cook is so friendly, he chats amicably, asking me questions and telling me about himself. He also makes sure to explain what he is doing as he is going along so I can learn from him. I actually arrived before him this morning, and he greeted me with “Hello. Eager as ever to get to work I see!” People who have been in the industry for several years tend to lose some of their passion and energy towards food. They tell me I will too, but for the time being, I am young and energetic.

Breakfast was very quiet this morning, but that simply gave us a chance to work on more treats for afternoon tea. I made granola yogurt parfaits and potato bread, then helped with miniature lemon meringue tarts and chocolate éclairs. He insisted I fix myself a breakfast – so I settled on scrambled eggs, which they put in a ring mold here after cooking and wrap smoked salmon around it for a beautiful presentation, along with all the sides. He had some leftover meringue from the tarts, so he decided to use it up by baking meringue cookies for staff lunch, and making up some chocolate mousse to put in the middle of them. Of course he let me sample the components.
The raspberry jam and chocolate mousse filled meringue sandwich cookies using 'leftovers'. Delicious!
At 9:00a.m., I began wedding prep, which involves seemingly tedious, monotonous and annoying tasks that are necessary in order to be able to put together the dishes at the time of the wedding reception. The two wedding menus we were prepping for were very similar to past weddings – standard canapés, beef and fish main courses, soups, starters, desserts, etc. The tasks that comprised the majority of my time today included slicing two boxes of plum tomatoes for a chicken salad starter, picking basil and making pesto, prepping the fillings for smoked chicken and smoked salmon canapés, and picking crab for crab cakes. I thought picking the crab was a bit ridiculous. We order in flaked crab meat in small frozen bags. Then we have to thaw it and pick through it by hand, each flake at a time, as there are a few tiny bones the same color as the meat. The problem is, this takes forever, is hard on the back and neck, and I hardly find any bones to make it worthwhile. I mean, it’s like canned salmon – there will be a few bones left in it, but they are soft edible bones (full of calcium) that you probably won’t even notice eating. I hardly think it’s worth the time and money for my employer to hire me to do this. Also, it puts the crab at higher risk of contamination, as it spends a longer time in the ambient room temperature food danger zone and is extensively handled by food workers’ fingers. If we are really that concerned about having no bones, we should order a different crab product that does not contain bones. That’s my rant for today.

Staff lunch at the castle was nice as always – chicken curry with rice and fries and fruit salad, yogurt, and cherry tomatoes and baked beans from breakfast. And of course, the chocolate and jam filled meringue cookies, as well as a chocolate biscuit cake. Supper back at the lodge, upon finishing prep around 5:00p.m., was burgers and fries.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Strolling The Wetlands Paths

Another day off today, another day to relax, catch up on things, and take a walk to explore the area. After a nice staff meal of steamed mixed vegetables, roasted baby potatoes, roast chicken in gravy, and penne casserole, I set off to walk the Integrated Constructed Wetlands paths. This was somewhere I hadn’t explored before, and a really beautiful marshy, forest, river, grass, walking path area all in one. It was fun to explore.
The wetlands

Since I don’t have much to say about food and work today, I will talk a bit about my exercise regime here (or lack of it) since that is somewhat related, and definitely related to the industry I am currently working in. Back home, I took up running when I began culinary (I didn’t start them both at the same time on purpose, that is just coincidental). I enjoyed running, especially outside, and tried to get out for a run everyday – some days would be much shorter than others, but I still got out unless I really didn’t feel like it. Running gave me some time to myself every day, some time to think, to relax, to exercise, and to stay healthy. There were a few periods of time where I didn’t run (dead of winter, during an injury), but for the most part I stuck to it, because I liked it and I wanted to.

Since I have arrived here, almost a month ago, I have not run. Not once. I brought my running shoes. The weather has been perfect running weather – not too hot and often overcast. There are plenty of paths and places in this small village where I could run. Yet I have not. Why? There are several reasons. One being I simply don’t want to. Don’t feel like it. Now, I am not saying that is a good excuse to not exercise, but in my case, it is fine, because I am not shunning exercise completely due to laziness. Another big reason is I simply don’t have time. Ok, I do theoretically have time, but I choose to use that time for other purposes. I refuse to get up extra early to run, as I value my sleep too much. I am not running in the dark after work. I tend to be at work close to twelve hours for most of my shifts, and the remainder of my time during the day is used to blog, contact family, do some gentle yoga/stretches and do chores. At the end of a twelve hour day on my feet, I really don’t think I need to run. Even on my days off, I use them as rest days. So instead of running, I use my days off to gently stroll my area. This puts less pressure on me, and allows me to relax and truly appreciate the area around me (and bring along a camera). Running can be hard on the body, and I think I am benefiting from a rest from running for awhile. I don’t need to run while I am here, I will stay healthy and distress in other, less taxing ways.
Path through the forest - perfect for strolling or running

So will I run while I am here? I won’t rule it out completely – I may take an occasional jog, but I have no plans to run regularly anytime soon. While I am here, I am going to focus on enjoying myself while learning as much as I can. And not worry about counteracting all my eating with more running because I don’t need to.

At the end of the day, staff supper tonight was chicken legs, pork sausage, baked potatoes with and without salsa, and creamy coleslaw.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Taking Care of Business

Today I had the day off, but I had to travel to a town an hour’s drive away to take care of some paperwork for work. Work provided transportation, but it was simply to the government building, where the wait was over an hour, and back. No time to stop and explore what looked like a lovely town – I saw a nice bakery and plenty of pubs and little shops I would have liked to explore. On the way I saw a lot of countryside – many cows and sheep and farms.

Other than that I took a relaxing day, which I guess I needed. I didn’t do much – I made it back just in time to catch the last of staff lunch of salad and pasta casserole, then spent a quiet day at home looking into planning activities in the area for the near future. 
Beautiful countryside and farm animals

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Slow Sunday Service

Today started out with a (not-so-welcome) surprise for me. Since I was on a restaurant shift again, I assumed I would be working pastry again, then plating apps, starters, and veg during service. I was wrong. When I got there at 11:30a.m., I was put to work with the chef on prepping starters, which was not the usual person prepping starters, as he was off today, but the chef that gave me a hard time yesterday. Great! My last day on restaurant service for awhile, and I am set to work in an unfamiliar station with an all too familiar chef.

Of course he had to give me directions of what to do one task at a time, even if they were simple tasks. Which doesn’t seem too bad if you are working side-by-side, but being sous chef, he disappears and disperses all over the three kitchens often. I began with gathering ingredients, then blanching, peeling, and seeding tomatoes, roasting potatoes, slicing and sweating onions, dicing red peppers, toasting bread – short, easy tasks like that which I already know how to do. The most exciting part was when I was waiting for direction as to what to do next, and the main course chef asked me to help him roll our beetroot pasta. Then chef asked me to pick rabbit for a terrine, and I was really concerned as to what that meant, but luckily he just meant pulling cooked rabbit meat off the bones. Most difficult part of this – the rabbit actually looked and smelled very appetizing. I think I might have had it only once before. I decided to focus on being precise today, and not so much fast, because if chef found so much as one seed in my tomatoes, I would be told off.

Next I had to set up the app, veg, and starch stations for service, as they would be my main responsibility again. I also had to take them down and clean them up after service. Again, I was responsible for a few starters, mostly the crab one again. I was doing up a few plates, but one of them didn’t look great as it had been placed under the heat lamp since the starter station was full, and the basil foam had liquefied. Understandably, chef asked me to redo it. I did. When I turned around to make some veg, I heard him say to another cook that it looked like shit and asked him to redo it. I don’t agree that chefs need to be mean, but if you have a problem with something I did, I would much prefer if you said it to my face rather than behind my back. He had foamed the basil cream before each use, which I had, but he didn’t believe me until he went to do a plate himself, and found the basil cream was not the right consistency, and I was not to blame. We were not so busy tonight, service was slow and more relaxed, and I finished clean-up (which the other chefs seemed to have abandoned) around 10:30.
One starter - a tomato basil terrine, tomato sorbet, and tomato jelly.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What Do You Want From Me?

Today was another day working in the restaurant. Again, I was doing prep work for the pastry section. When I got there around 11:30, the chef gave me a list of things he wanted me to complete, most of which were things I had already done before and was comfortable doing. So I began – making the fruit flower garnish for the crème brulées, scooping up sorbet (have I mentioned how much I hate scooping ice cream? Well sorbet is worse – it goes from rock solid to a melted puddle in seconds), making croutons, preparing passionfruit, making up the three types of bread rolls, and making cheese appetizers. I also did some other small tasks such as cleaning, wrapping and labelling, fetching ingredients, etc. I worked quietly alone for most of the day – which was fine by me!

When I went down for staff meal (chicken and potatoes, what a surprise) the other chef got me to put together four welcome baskets for the hotel – two breakfast, one welcome, and one girl’s getaway package, which consist of small food items such as cartons of juice, loaves of bread, apples, miniature tubs of ice cream, bags of chips, eggs, etc. Then it was back up to the restaurant for service. 

I was given the same tasks as before – the appetizer, which tonight was a little foie gras parfait, the vegetable side dish, which was essentially the same, but this time with a roesti potato, and the crab starter. To be honest, service time frustrates me. I am really having trouble getting this system down pat. And tonight I was working with a different head chef, which made matters even worse. He called for two apps. I put them out. He says, “No. No. Don’t put them on the pass yet until they are actually ordered.” I take them off. He calls for two apps. I put them out. “No. This is a different two apps.” I take them back. He calls the order for two apps. I put them out. He scrutinizes them to ensure they are one hundred percent flawless. 
Appetizer - foie gras parfait. Looks like dessert.
He calls at me to get a crab starter. I go to put the crab in the deep-fryer. It’s already in. Then he calls for two apps. Well, which am I supposed to do? I can’t be two places at once. He asks where the crab is. I’m getting the apps. He asks where the apps are. I’m getting the crab. But the worst part of the night was the veg. Since the veg simply accompanies the main course and is not a course within itself, it is never called for/ordered. And it has to be timed perfectly to go out with the main courses. Cooked vegetables do not sit well, especially with sauce and garnish. I am not familiar with the mains. I have no idea how long it takes to completely cook and plate the mains, especially not by this chef, as every chef is different. I don’t know when to start cooking and plating veg. He calls for two veg, I put them on the pass. They sit there. He calls for two veg, I answer that they are done. He says, “No. No. You’re doing them too early.” I respond saying he already called for them. “No, I didn’t.” This occurs several times, except to make matters worse, sometimes the number of veg changes. At one point he called for four veg, which I promptly put on the pass. He asks where they went. I said I put them out. He asks the server, she says they went out. He says, “No, but I need them here now.” There were two sets of four veg to go out – I was right by what I did, he didn’t communicate the orders clearly.

At one point I am standing, glancing at the order sheets, trying to catch my breath, figure out what I can do next, and not be in the way. There are no app orders coming up, I had some veg prepped, what can I do? He tells me I shouldn’t just stand there, but I have seen others stand for a few moments during service, or worse yet, check their phones. He gets after me for not doing callbacks, which basically means if he calls two apps, I respond back two apps or say yes. I do callbacks when I hear calls, if I don’t callback, I didn’t hear you. I’m sorry, I don’t speak your accent and I am not used to loud kitchens, so you may need to direct your calls at me or make them louder.

We served forty-six tonight, and finished up around 10:00p.m. I was told I could leave, then told I needed to help clean, then told I needed to help put stuff away, then told to get home.

Friday, June 12, 2015

BBQ Prep

Grilled pork sausage coils
This morning began a bit frustrating for me. I was told to come in for 9:00 to work with one of the chefs preparing for a barbeque function that would happen this weekend. I was early, as usual, but 9:00 came and passed and the chef still was not in. I went up to chat with the two cooks working the breakfast shift in the other kitchen, but they did not need any help and I began to feel in the way. So I went back downstairs and prepped the dessert station, as is normally my job in the bar. It was not my job today, but I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to start on anything without being instructed to do so, and there were no tasks I knew of that needed doing. So I made sure the pastry section was well set-up for the day, including filling some ramekins with apple filling for the apple crumble dessert.

Grilled beef burgers

Finally, the chef appeared around 10:30, but had some office work to do, and wasn’t with me until nearly 11:00, so I could have slept in and come in at my usual time. He put me straight to work, implying we had a lot to do in little time, which wasn’t my fault – I was there two hours ago! He did give me a lunch break though, where there was fish and chips for a change, along with salad and tomato penne casserole. I sealed meats for the barbeque. Sealing is the term used here for par-cooking meats here, sort of like searing to get a crust on both sides, then wrapping them to finish cooking later. I grilled pork sausage coils and beef burgers upstairs, where it was quiet and I enjoyed the simple task of grilling I had become used to in culinary school. Then I cut up quite a few racks of ribs and packaged them and finished packaging the meats for the barbecue. When I finished that, I noticed there was a large produce order that had come in that everyone was sort of ignoring even though it was in the way, so I put that away properly. Then I did some simple tasks such as help prep for staff supper (burgers with all the condiments and fries), cleaning, preparing prawns, and putting away a frozen order. Overall, it was a less hectic and slower day, and I finished up around 6:30p.m.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Business Trip Into Town

Today on my day off I had to travel into town to take care of some errands. This was my first time in town, besides just arriving at the bus station there my first day. I was told it was a small town, and at first it seemed big and busy to me, but I quickly realized there are just a lot of things packed into a small area, and it is fairly easy to navigate.

After staff lunch of fried chicken, fries, garden salad, and breakfast leftovers, I took a taxi into town. I had to get the village shop to call the taxi for me, as I still do not have my phone set up, but as is everyone in this tiny village, they were very nice and chatted with me until the taxi came, asking me who my favorite chefs were and whatnot (they have never heard of Cake Boss!?). The taxi driver was also incredibly friendly.

My first stop was setting up a bank account, which I managed to do despite not having an appointment. The teller was even kind enough to give me very specific directions and a hand-drawn map to my next stop, which I was incredibly thankful for considering I did not know the town at all yet. I arrived twenty minutes before they opened and there was already a line-up around the corner. This stop was not as successful, as apparently I have to travel to a different town an hour away to obtain a number for work. That would have been nice to know before waiting for an hour. Next stop to register my stay here – a requirement for staying more than three months. I was approaching my deadline of thirty days after arrival to do this. Apparently only one person can do this, and he isn’t in very often, so nine people were waiting for him. I was second in line and the first person took 55 minutes. I got registered, but I will have to go back there again.
The bakery - I'll take the chocolate one on the left, and that fudge cake, and that little square, and well, one of everything please!
Now it was time to have some fun and explore. My first stop I didn’t even plan but it ended up being a really nice bakery where I drooled over the cakes and pastries, and the offerings in the adjacent café. Luckily there were free cake samples, which were delicious, not surprising considering this was the bakery my birthday cake had come from. I stopped in at the mall, bought a few necessities, and drooled over some more food establishments and restaurants on my way – making a silent note of where I would have to visit when I had more time. I also visited the park and walked by a few churches, the library, and the post office before finding an awesome little kitchen accessory store. I could spend hours in there, but it was nearing supper time and everything was closing. I attempted to set up a phone plan at three different mobile shops, but none of them were compatible with the SIM card I had.

I returned with another friendly taxi driver to staff meal of roast chicken and salad. Although not much of my day, aside from visiting the bakery and cooking store, was food-related, I feel it is important to share it here in order to share the challenges and responsibilities that need to be dealt with when preparing for a work term in another country.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

FINALLY Visiting The Chocolate Shop

Today was a lovely day. It was another day off for me and it started out lovely. I finally had a day off where the village chocolate shop was open. So after waking up, heading to staff lunch, which was also lovely – bacon, sausages, roasted tomatoes, grilled portabello mushrooms, black and white pudding, rice casserole, garden salad, and not to forget the four types of potatoes (loaded mashed, fondant, fries, and bread), I headed over to the chocolate shop.
A sign in the chocolate shop. Very true.
The owner is so nice, and someone you can easily chat with. We talked and she told me a bit about her business and I told her a bit about myself. She gave me five samples of her chocolate - mint dark chocolate, raspberry milk chocolate, honeycomb milk chocolate, orange milk chocolate, and a white chocolate. I will definitely be back there again.

In the afternoon I went for another walk and saw quite a few farms. Then I visited a little pizzeria and tea room in town, where the owner introduced me to the staff, invited me back to hang out anytime, and even offered me a job – saying I could work there on my days off and he would pay me. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Getting Used To The Restaurant

Today I worked in the restaurant again. It was quite similar to yesterday, except I did a few different things during prep and held a few different responsibilities during service. I got in at 11:30a.m., and began with scaling out the bread dough recipes for the three types of rolls (onion, bacon, and tomato basil) and scooping sorbet (pear). Then I did some tasks such as grating cheese, chopping bacon, and crushing walnuts. I made the custard for the vanilla lime exotic crème brulée, and the garnish, which are pretty fruit flowers made out of pineapple, kiwi, and mango. I also made some more banana tarte tatins. Then I cut up several types of cheese for cheese platters.

After vegetable curry, rice, and fries as staff meal, it was time for service. I was in charge of the amuse-bouche appetizer again, which tonight was a miniature Ceasar-style salad with iceberg lettuce, bacon, crouton, and dressing aside a chicken mousse. I was assigned to one of the starters – the crab one which consists of a batter-coated deep-fried zucchini blossom stuffed with crab atop basil foam, with a red pepper jelly, a bruschetta quenelle, and crispy basil. I was also in charge of the vegetable and potato side dishes, though I did have help with those. The vegetables were the same as last night, but the potatoes were fondant potatoes. 
Fruit Flowers for crème bruléee garnish
I still am not completely comfortable in this kitchen and with the process of how things go, how orders come in, and how fast they are sent out. On top of this, communication is an issue. The head chef is good to yell out the orders, and we are good to do callbacks, and he is good to give us times on the mains, the problem is I find he mumbles and has a thick accent and speaks too low in a noisy kitchen, and I often don’t make out what he said. The others are used to it and can understand him, I cannot. So sometimes others would have to repeat to me, “two apps” or something like that, which I really appreciated, though I should not have to be told twice. 

Again, this chef said I was very quiet, and I didn’t have to hide in the corner (the app station is in the corner of the kitchen). It’s true, I don’t speak with him much, as I don’t work with him that often and I find him tricky to understand. And usually I don’t wander around the kitchen telling stories, I focus on my work, especially in new settings when I am nervous. But apparently I am the first cook this place has had that didn’t talk, haha.

Monday, June 08, 2015

First Restaurant Shift

Today I worked in the restaurant for the first time. The restaurant is a fine dining restaurant, just upstairs from the bar and lounge, and holds two AA Rosettes. I was excited to work in this type of setting, a brand-new experience for me. Every night, we have a set number of diners arriving in groups at specific times, as reservations are required. We don’t know exactly what they will order, but we do have an idea of how many to prep for. There is an appetizer or chef’s choice, the same for everyone, then choice of starter, main, and dessert. There is also a set sorbet, cheese plate, and petit fours tray for each night.

I began at 12:00p.m., and was put in the pastry section. I started with balling tonight’s sorbet – black current, and slicing plums to make a plum compote. Then I made banana tarte tatins, which involved making caramel and placing a spoonful in ramekins, slicing bananas and arranging them in the ramekins, and cutting pastry to put over top, then baking them. I got to make lollipops – which was really just using a cool metal cone dispenser to pipe hot sugar, but it was fun. I also got to play with more caramel – winding it around a rolling pin to make fancy rings of caramel as a dessert garnish. I made three types of rolls – tomato basil, cheese, and pommery mustard, and chocolate mousse.
I really enjoyed today, of course I love working in pastry the most and the pastry chef is super nice. But also because it is more laid back, sure everything needs to get done, but there is no huge rush. Also the pastry section is quiet and I can be in my own world.

Dinner service began at 6:00p.m., and I was put in charge of making the appetizer for the night - foie gras duck mousse with sweet apple raisin chutney, microgreens, and hazelnut crisp. I was also shown how to do the vegetable side dishes of the day to accompany the main courses – cauliflower gratin, with béchamel sauce and herb bread crumbs, and snow peas with bacon and toasted almonds, as well as champ potatoes. I also helped with a few of the desserts, and was shown how to do most of the starters.
The appetizer I was in charge of plating.
I enjoyed plating fancy dishes, where each detail counts, quality is emphasized much more than quantity, and not one thing can be in disarray on the plate. The restaurant kitchen is semi-open, so although kitchen staff cannot be seen, they can be heard. This is the part I found the most difficult because the machines (ovens, fans, etc.) behind us are noisy, making it hard to hear the wait staff call orders and hear each other, yet we cannot yell. What I also found challenging was I was working with a group of four who basically do this every night. They barely need to communicate with each other, they have each other’s backs and know exactly what is going on. They also know the process. Being my first time working in the restaurant, I didn’t totally understand all their lingo yet, or what follows what and how fast to send orders, but that will come! Our last group was scheduled to arrive around 9:00p.m., and because six course meals take time, we finished cleaning up around 10:30p.m.