Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Am Going To Miss This

This morning I went in for breakfast at the lodge, done work and happy to eat a delicious meal here one last time. I then said goodbye to everyone I had not yet, and dropped off my keys. My day was filled with packing and napping, then taking a bus to the airport at 2:00a.m. I am ready to fly home.
My tomato and cheese omelette for breakfast
I must admit the first month here was quite challenging at times, but the last few weeks have been so cheerful and amazing and my experience overall was priceless – a once in a lifetime opportunity I will never forget. Although it will be nice to be home, I am honestly sad to leave. I am going to miss the garlic whack, truffle mash, crotin de chevre, and lime confit. I am going to miss my crazy cornflake, my harshest critic, and my biggest supporter. I am going to miss being called Chef, v-bomb, the Bommelater, Daphne, Chicken Wing, Pumpkin, Fruit Loop, and the various other nicknames I’m really not sure how I earned. I am going to miss being the only female in the kitchen among three to five guys, and how I never felt they respected me any less for it, despite the fact I was only a student. I am going to miss the cheerful greetings of the servers when they walked into the pastry kitchen. I am going to miss the kitchen porter who spoke only a few words of English but who never stopped smiling at me. I am going to miss the peacefulness of such a quaint village and the hospitality of the people in it. I am going to miss the long hours and late nights at work that never seemed as long as they actually were. I am even going to miss the chef de partie who trained me on pastry, despite me telling him I would miss everyone except him (to which the head chef high-fived me), as he had become like a brother to me, and taught me so much. He is full of knowledge, but also personality. He respected me from the start, but I know over time he became very confident in my abilities and trusted me even more.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped asking how to do things because I already knew how. Somewhere along the way, I stopped asking what needed to be done because I was aware of the prep lists myself. Somewhere along the way, I stopped asking where ingredients were as my mind became engraved with the inventory of the entire estate. Somewhere along the way, I grew the ability to carry fifty pound bags of sugar up the stairs on my own. Somewhere along the way, I grew a backbone and a thicker skin. Somewhere along the way, I learned how to make the best chocolate mousse, how to halve pounds of cherry tomatoes in seconds, and how to serve over three hundred people in the bar in one day. Somewhere along the way, I learned more than I ever thought I would, and became capable of more than I ever thought I could. Somewhere along the way, I met so many new friends, ate so many new foods, and developed so many new memories.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Last Day Of Work

Today was my final day of work here on my internship, and if you think I slacked off or took it easy, you are completely wrong. I was in bright and early – may as well make the very most of my last day – to which the head chef just smiled and shook his head. Straight away I made two pans of vanilla and lime crème brulée, a quadruple batch of chocolate mousse, and a batch of blue cheese parfaits. The restaurant would be even more short staffed once I left, so I really wanted to leave my section in good shape for whoever would be taking it over, and ensure there wasn’t much prep to be done for tomorrow since the chef on pastry would be covering another section as well.

With these major tasks completed, I proceeded to my usual sorbet scooping (raspberry), petit four baking and traying, and bread weighing and making (tomato basil, sour cream and onion, oatmeal raisin). I assembled some more fruit flowers for the crème brulée garnish. I wanted to cut up more fruit to have for backup for this, but it was either have time for this or have time to make croutons. We had enough of both for today and tomorrow, and I decided to make the croutons since it was a slightly faster job and they would last longer than fresh fruit. Both jobs are tedious though, and require good knife skills. I also made sure to clean out the fridge and reorganize it for ease of use, relabel everything, and go through everything checking for orders and whatnot. I left three lists behind – a prep list for the next few days, a list of the amounts of each mise en place item I left on hand, and a list of all the bread flavors I tried, in case they wanted to get creative again. 

Throughout the day I was saying goodbye to people, and they were all complimenting me on what great work I have done. I didn’t slack off, but I was a bit chattier than usual. Pretty much every single one of them asked me if I would come back, so I am thinking I really have to return. I apparently will always have a job offering there if I would like it. Two head servers told me I was always so polite, several servers told me I was the nicest chef here, a chef de partie admitted she would miss my singing and my bread, and the chef de partie who basically taught me everything I know about pastry wished me the best of luck several times. 
A special dessert I made for the servers tonight
Service went very well – there were only thirty-three diners in tonight, and the quiet, casual night made for a light and fun atmosphere in the kitchen, exactly what I would want for my last day here – no stress. At the end of the night, one of the chefs was telling me the estate is technically short five chefs now. He said there is a huge shortage of chefs, well good chefs. Which is why I will always have a job here. He went on to say how well I had done, how it is basically unheard of to have a student responsible for an entire section in a five-star hotel restaurant; it just does not happen. Yet here I was, beating the odds again! 
To celebrate, a crowd from work headed to the pub where we laughed and reminisced. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chocolata

I got in early again and got straight to work on three jobs – making spice bread, making chocolate mousse, and making a fruit platter for the spa. The head chef was making another 200 or so Bailey’s cheesecakes, so we had to share space again. I was in fine shape for service tonight (forty-four diners) but decided to get a bunch of little prep jobs done ahead for whoever takes over this section. So I made delice chocolate toffee, milk chocolate mojito slice, white chocolate lime ganache. I also cut crème brulée and made exotic fruit pearls, cut up some cheese, and made caramel. I scooped my sorbet (blackcurrent) and made my breads (tomato basil, honey mustard, black olive pesto). Then I set up for service and did all my labelling.
Chocolata, chocolata, chocolata.....
 Service was swell, I helped with apps and veg and potatoes and starters when I wasn’t doing pastry. It seemed like no one was ordering desserts, then of course after everyone else had left, I got about six or seven pastry orders at once to do, and everyone wanted dessert! That’s just the way it is sometimes. I received several compliments today. One of the servers told me a chef de partie in the bar would definitely miss me and had called me the “role model student”. Several of the servers said what a great job I had done – how of all the interns I was the best, and stuck it out the longest. They all ask me if I enjoyed it, if I am happy to go home, and if I will come back. Two diners raved about my mojitos tonight for ten minutes (according to their server) and the head server told me that last night one person had asked about me – if I was a female chef on pastry, and if I was classically French-trained, and was impressed by my desserts! Honestly, when I walked into this internship my confidence was low and I was scared I would just eek by and make a lot of mistakes, but now, I feel I really achieved some great things!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Tastings As Second Nature

This morning I got in early again, as it was my third-last day, and I thought I had a lot to do with two tastings and all, but after being at work for ten minutes I quickly realized I didn’t have that much to do after all. I immediately made pavlovas and madeleine mix for the tastings, and organized the bread, crumble, bread pudding, and petit fours as well. Then I scooped my sorbet (passionfruit) and decided since I didn’t have much else to do and was running low on it, to make chocolate delice mousse. While I was getting that on the go, the sous chef came and told me the breakfast chef was going to come help me for an hour or so before leaving. He told me he never worked pastry before, so to give him some easy jobs. I said, ok, but I don’t really know what to get him to do – as I already had the sorbet scooped, the bread dough weighed out, and a bunch of fruit cut for fruit flowers. The sous chef seemed impressed and said, “Wow, you really are in good shape. Very organized. That’s what makes you a great worker.” In the end, I got the chef to make goat’s cheese tortes for us to freeze and have on hand for the cheese plates to bake as needed. We weren’t out, but now it is one task we won’t have to worry about for a while. 

 While he was working away, I also made lime confit, lime foam, passionfruit emulsion, assembled more delices, and baked and trayed the petit fours. I checked for orders, cut some cheese, and cut up some delice biscuit. I rolled some passionfruit jelly roll, then made my breads (tomato basil, cranberry orange, smokey bacon). I had two servers comment on my breads again today. They were saying how it’s the first thing everyone asks when they walk in, “What kind of breads do you have today?” and how they look forward to trying the new kinds and how good the honey one was, and how yummy the cranberry orange sounds, etc. I am not sure what they will do after I leave and it is back to onion, fennel, bacon, Parmesan, and golden raisin in rotation, but I love the praise.
My breads of the day - cranberry orange, tomato basil, smokey bacon
I noticed the crème brulée seemed really soft, like the first time I made it and didn’t cook it long enough. It had been made on my day off, so I asked the chef how long he cooked it, and just mentioned it seemed soft so he would know better for next time. He then remembered he forgot to put the custard powder in, but then accused me of blaming him. I’m not blaming him, I am just pointing it out for future reference as they always did with me! 

I prepped the desserts for the tastings, cleaned down, set up for service, and even did the chef de partie a favor by making mint crème fraiche (I wouldn’t have if I had known he had time but just wanted to go for a smoke break). This was after he had been teasing me all day, and tried to tell me we had 95 diners booked for tomorrow (it’s really only 27). Service went well – I wasn’t very busy since the sous chef was helping with apps and starters as well, though he didn’t seem to want to do much and was mostly on his phone. So I did pitch in with starters and veg, and he told me to slow down because I was making the actual starter chef look bad. We had twenty-seven tables of two and one table of four and I did all the pastry orders, and the only thing the sous chef picked on was the cleanliness of the plates. I wipe my plates when I make a mistake, but I shouldn’t have to wipe them before plating. Something is clearly wrong with our dishwasher if they aren’t coming out clean. 

The sous chef is off the next two days, so it was my last day working with him. At the end of the night he gave me a hug, and asked when he would see me again – next summer? He said I was welcome back and had a job there anytime, that I was a really good worker and the best commis the ever had, which I took as very high praise, especially coming from him. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Lot Of Desserts To Fill

This morning I got in at 10:30, knowing we were expecting eighty diners tonight. And plus, it’s my fourth last day of work, so I may as well make it a long day. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there yet, but the sous chef was in. He told me I would be on my own today for orders, and said it not like he didn’t think I could handle it, but like it was a big feat. Like I hadn’t been on my own on pastry the past three weeks. He said I had to have everything done though – that I couldn’t suddenly realize I was in the shits during service, so he said if I found myself in the shits today, to let them know in plenty of time so someone could help me with prep. I said yes, but I knew I wouldn’t ask for help. I don’t let myself get in the shits. I got a lot done on Thursday and was in good shape. If I thought I was at all in the shits, I would have come in yesterday on my day off, even if just for a couple of hours. That’s just how I am.
Every day I (try) to scoop a bunch of perfect quennelles of sorbet. This one is not perfect (and I also did not scoop it, I ate it). It's harder than it looks!
So I got to work – since I was in nice and early, I decided to make another batch of chocolate soufflé mousse since we had a bunch of diners on the reduced menu tonight and that would be popular, and mousse is quick and easy to make but you can’t just whip some out of nowhere in the middle of service. While that was on the go, I scooped the raspberry sorbet, and cut fruit and assembled fruit flowers for the crème brulée garnish. I moved on to baking and traying petit fours, slicing cheese and getting everything ready for cheese plates, and making passionfruit jelly. Then it was time to start breads, since I had extra big batches to roll (tomato basil, onion, herb and cheese). When breads were done, I prepped the desserts and petit fours for a special dietary requirements (gluten free and dairy free), and made up birthday and anniversary plates for several of the diners tonight. I cut up some passionfruit, cleaned up, and set up, and was ready to go!

During service, I didn’t have as much to do at first, because there was another chef helping with apps, veg, and starters, so I was the runner (running for things we needed last minute). But I did get a lot of pastry orders, and a variety of them. And there were several large groups – a four, a five, a six, a ten, and a fourteen, among a bunch of twos. But I handled them all myself. I would say service went fairly smoothly for a busy night, even among a few strange diner requests, except when the chef on mains didn’t cook a beef medium-rare or something, and instead of just cooking it straight away since that table’s orders were going out, the sous chef spent five minutes giving out to him. At that point, I was helping to clean the starter section and just tried to stay out of the way.

Friday, September 25, 2015

One Thousand Hours

Yesterday I realized I had reached the one thousand hour mark on my internship. I needed a minimum of six hundred hours, and now I have reached one thousand hours. This is good, it just means that much more experience, and that many more hours I can count toward chef certification.

I have come to realize, that just as work was getting really good – just as I was really enjoying it, feeling much more comfortable and relaxed and creative at work, it is almost time to go home. I only have four days of work left. Of course the first month is always going to be the toughest, but I am glad I am not dying to leave here now. Yes, it will be exciting to get home and see my loved ones, but I am not dreading my last hours of work. 

Speaking of chef certification, a lot of the staff, both servers and other kitchen staff, call me chef now. I find this really odd because I am only an intern, nowhere near a chef yet, and the real chefs here don’t even seem to like being called chef. I do though, I love walking around and being greeted by everyone as, ‘Hello Chef Rebecca!” Even the head chef now calls me ‘chef’ or ‘boss’.
'Chef Rebecca' hard at work. Another unintentional selfie.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lots of Mojitos

This morning I was in by 11:00a.m., and by 1:00p.m., I had made a quadruple batch of dark chocolate soufflé mousse, a quadruple batch of lime confit, eight times the batch of creamy mint and lime white chocolate ganache, five times the batch of dark rum crumble, picked a bag of mint for the crème brulée garnish, and had my station completely set up and ready to go – and I wasn’t stopping! We weren’t overly busy tonight – expecting forty diners, but we were expecting ninety diners on Saturday and we are closed tomorrow so everyone has the day off, so I was getting as much advance prep done as I could. Saturday would just be for topping up and last minute prep, as I would be busy scooping a lot of sorbet, rolling a lot of bread rolls, and traying a lot of petit fours. Plus some wedding tastings to prep for.

Today I also sliced some blue cheese parfait, rolled two trays of passionfruit jelly roll, and cut a tray of crème brulée, along with the usual petit four jobs, replenishing stock, cleaning and organizing, making bread (tomato basil, rosemary olive oil, honey spice), etc. I brought my two new bread flavors down to a chef de partie in the bar and my official bread taster, the only other female chef around. We both agreed that these were two winning flavors – you could really taste the flavors I put in them. The server working the pass asked what great flavors I had on today, and told me she really liked my cinnamon raisin ones even though she doesn’t like raisins and took four of them home. Glad to hear my inventive flavors are appreciated and my bread doesn’t go to waste! Just before service, chef called me into his office to show me the review from the wedding tasting last night. He showed me the comment about “they enjoyed the mousse, but thought the portion size was too big”. He had said to me last night that it was too large after six courses, but that I could probably eat it (I totally could). But the thing is, the pastry chef okayed it and it has been so long since I have worked a wedding and I never piped the mousse so they honestly can’t expect me to know – I just filled the glass! Oh well, better too much than too little.
Dessert of Today - Mojito of Lime Confit
Our first table was not in until 6:30p.m., so I was about to start slicing up fruit for fruit flowers for backup and prep for Saturday, the only job I had not gotten around to today, but the chef de partie on starters said it was a rule that no prep was done after 6:00p.m. I told him it was also a rule not to just stand around, but the sous chef had told me I needed to help the starter chef out tonight with starters and apps and veg and potatoes like I had been doing lately, because he is not good enough. I am not sure if that comment was a joke or not, but I didn’t do my fruit prep, even though it killed me to stand idle.

Other than that service went well. I did help out all around. I sold a lot of mojitos, and a few soufflés tonight as well. I could tell the new chef on mains was struggling a bit tonight, and I had agreed to show him how to use the robocoup after service to grate cheese much faster and more efficiently. I also stayed to help him clean up and pack things up. Normally I am used to being the last one in the kitchen at night, but lately he has been staying even later than me. I don’t really mind helping out, a simple thank you would be nice though.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

No Soufflés???

Today I got into work to a prep list left by the chef who covered pastry for me yesterday. He would be off the next two days, so I couldn’t even ask him any questions, but he did leave me his phone number. He had some things rearranged, but the station was still in order. I was also impressed by how much he got done for me yesterday – he made chocolate orange mousse for tastings, made two trays of vanilla and lime crème brulée, made more caramel and lime sauce, made more passionfruit emulsion, cut more passionfruit, organized the pastry freezer, made breads for croutons, defrosted some items for me, made chocolate soufflé mousse, and made passionfruit cream. He must have been in early and really moved all day long – that or he is just faster than me as he is used to doing this and probably doesn’t have to look up the recipes like I do. Although I did prep the bread and scoop the sorbet for him the day before.

I did some of the jobs he left me on my list – make and slice chocolate toffee, make milk chocolate slice, bring up fruit, make delice biscuit, make fananciers and cannelles, scoop pineapple sorbet for today, bake and tray petit fours, make bread rolls (tomato basil, sesame flax, mustard parmesan). In the midafternoon, the sous chef came to tell me the wedding tasting for tomorrow was cancelled. That’s when I realized there was also a tasting tonight. No one had told me about it. And I checked the notice board Monday and it wasn’t there, so it must have been a last minute thing. I just assumed the chef had made the chocolate mousse and apple berry mix for me a day early. Luckily, it was the same desserts for both tastings. So I quickly prepped the desserts and the bread rolls, the sorbets, and the petit fours for tonight’s tasting. No problem. 

I had some extra time so I prepped the breads for tomorrow and Saturday (we have ninety booked for Saturday) and scooped the sorbet for tomorrow. I wanted to do a prep job during service, as we only had nineteen booked and four chefs working. Also the sous chef was back, and in a fairly good mood, but I didn’t want him picking on me. He did point out a few things, even though I probably did more work on his station than him – I plated most of the appetizers, took care of the majority of veg and potatoes, and plated a lot of starters – while he checked out his phone. But I really didn’t have much to do, and certainly no small jobs. 
Hot Chocolate Mousse Soufflé dessert with vanilla ice cream.
M ay not look like much but very tasty and quite popular!
Service went well, I sold a lot of crème brulées but strangely no chocolate mousse soufflés. After I asked the chef to make more mousse for backup since we had been selling a lot. Oh well, now I am ahead!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Work Experience

Today was my second-last day off before I head home. Today I got some serious packing done – one week until I leave! Time has certainly flown by, it is incredibly difficult to believe I have been here for over four months, put in nearly one thousand hours of work, and only need to walk into work six more times here!!! Wow!

Today I will talk a little bit about work experience. I came on this internship fully expecting to work my butt off. I wanted to gain as much experience and knowledge as possible in a fairly short period of time. To become a better cook and really get to know the restaurant life in just 4.5 months. I was away from home, taking this placement as a very serious part of my education (it is a mandatory 600 hours), and therefore willing to put in long hours and not have many days off. Of course as a student, they would not keep me for all hours of the day, and have to give me my two days off a week, but there were still times I pulled twelve plus hour days and worked nine days in a row. It really doesn’t matter to me, I just count my hours, adding them up as I would my paychecks. Every extra hour in the kitchen was like the equivalent of one more cooking bible to my collection – I could chose to read through every page of it, or I could leave it on a shelf. What I take away from this experience is up to me.

Recently I had a few coworkers question me. One was surprised I tended to come in at 11:00a.m. and not leave until 11:00p.m. Another couldn’t believe I was in early when I was told I could come in later. Another questioned how I could just work all day without breaks. As I am not a smoker, I do not need frequent smoke breaks. I just take my water breaks and meal breaks and bathroom breaks as needed, and get straight back to work. I don’t see the point in dallying around when there are things to be done. It makes me look bad, especially if I am in charge of a section and don’t have everything ready on time. I would rather go in early and take my time, get ahead, ensure everything is done without rushing like crazy, and then if I do manage this, then I can take a break or take it easy and chat with coworkers. And hard work certainly pays off – don’t think it ever goes unnoticed, because it doesn’t!
Me on the run - busy at work. I think I accidentally took this photo while trying to quickly get a photo of a dish....whoops, I never was very good at selfies.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lollipop, Lollipop, Oh Lolly Lolly Lolly

This morning I was in work for 11:00 because no one told me what time to come. I was surprised to find the head chef hard at work in the pastry section when I walked in, and he glared at me. I said, “You didn’t tell me to come in at 12:00 today.” He pulled out his phone and said, “Yes, but it’s only 10:58.” He then went on to tell me he had to make two hundred individual-sized Bailey’s cheesecakes for the executive chef for some function, and that’s what he was working on when I walked in. He moved over to give me some space. I assumed he would have preferred I come in at 12:00 so he could use the entire pastry shop to work and finish before I got in, but no, apparently he was just getting started. He had the crust done, and was starting on the filling, and spent the entire day making the cheesecakes. I mean, it is a lot of work, but it doesn’t take the entire day to make them - and he wasn't really doing other jobs in between. So either he, or his ingredients, were taking up some space in pastry all day, but I managed around it.

I began with making a batch of creamy mint and lime white chocolate ganache. Then I moved on to my major, simple but time-consuming and fun job of the day – making lollipops. I made about three hundred and fifty of them for petit fours. All the while I was singing, ‘lollipop, lollipop, oh lolly lolly lolly….’ They could tell I was in a much better mood today. Then on to my basic jobs – petit fours, making some fruit flowers, assembling delices, breads (tomato basil, apple walnut, garlic and herb), cutting brulée, organizing sorbet, etc. And I watched as every single person who walked into the pastry shop, took a handful of the crumb crust for the cheesecakes and eat it. At this rate, chef would have to make another batch. He got me to taste the cheesecake mix, and I thought it was good, but on the advice of another chef, added another half bottle of Bailey’s or so.
Lollipops
I didn’t have too much to prep for today; we only had thirty-six diners in. Tomorrow both I and the other pastry chef are off, so a different chef will be on pastry, so I made a list for him and prepped the sorbet and breads just so he would have less to do. I was planning to give the entire pastry area a good cleaning as well, as the sous chef is back tomorrow and he is really strict on that sort of thing, so everyone was going crazy cleaning and labelling today. But the head chef was using the pastry area, so I had to wait until after service to clean up, causing me to get out of work pretty late.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cranky Day

This morning I wasn’t in my usual cheery mood going into work today. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say I am not a happy camper when my sleep gets interrupted. That in combination with a rainy day and a headache, don’t make me very happy. I made a batch of chocolate mousse straight away because it was a popular seller lately and I wanted to have backup – only to discover we didn’t have enough cocoa powder. I made it anyway. Then I sorted out the sorbets – I needed to pipe some for the two wedding tastings today. The head chef sent the breakfast chef to scoop my sorbets for tonight for me before he left, which was nice. I sorted out the other things for my wedding tastings one for two people and one for six people – bread rolls, petit fours, and the desserts – three pavlovas, three brownies, and one Bailey’s cheesecake. 
Madeleines - the trickiest wedding petit fours to pull off. So temperamental in baking times.
Next I trayed the petit fours and weighed out bread, tried to make passionfruit rolls but then had to remake the jelly, cut up fruit for fruit flowers, prepped the wedding desserts, made bread rolls (tomato basil, fennel, maple oat), etc. 

I got ready for service – we were expecting 67 diners with the two tasting first, and a table of ten, a table of six, a five, and some fours, threes, and twos. Service didn’t go so smoothly. The chef on the pass was not happy, making the other chefs not happy, causing the waitress on the pass to be fed up trying to communicate with us while trying to train a new server. When the chef is mad, I find him hard to understand. SO I wasn’t entirely sure what he was saying to me. He said something to the starter cook about me helping him – he wasn’t mad at me, but I think was getting at he should be able to handle it on his own and I should focus on pastry? I’m not really sure. At the end of the night, all my pastry orders were done quickly and stunningly, even the table of ten by myself. It wasn’t all bad though, I got a few compliments tonight. First the starter chef (who is the old pastry chef) complimented my chocolate mousse and soufflés, saying they were perfect. Then I opened up my crème brulée drawer and he said, “Wait.” I thought he was going to tell me I did something wrong again, but instead he said they were cooked perfectly and cut very nicely as well. I also had several pastry questions about orders from servers toward the end of the night, and each time I was addressed as ‘Chef’. It’s weird to be called chef when you aren’t even done culinary school, but I like it!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Over A Hundred Desserts By Myself

Today I got into work and got my chocolate mousse on right away. Then I was told to bake and slice some bread for the lunchtime function. I also made three trays of passionfruit jelly. While all that was on the go, I weighed out my bread dough and began traying up the petit fours, knowing the function would run late and then I would be a bit pressed for time to get everything done. I am very glad I did that. Next I balled a bunch of ice cream and sorbet in preparation for the desserts for the function. Then I prepared lime foam, lime confit, and caramel spirals, but couldn’t finish them since the kitchen was being used for the function, and I needed the stove and blender. 

After checking on orders I was debating what, if anything, I could do as a small job before I got very busy with dessert orders. Then I got my pre-order for the kids’ table, which had adult desserts on it (not impressed) so I prepped that. Then I had to help plate the mains and flash the veg. The head chef was getting mad at the chef de partie for taking too long. Once mains were out, I finished prepping my desserts and put the crumbles in the oven. I served the kids’ desserts. Then I served the adults’ desserts once the mains were clear. I had my plates all lined up and managed to have just enough crumbles and just enough raspberry sorbet scooped. I had 19 crumbles, one cold crumble, one kids’ crumble, 8 crème brulée, two kids’ crème brulée, three kids' ice cream, one kids' ice cream and sorbet, one kids fruit salad, four adult ice creams and sorbets, and two vanilla ice creams. Not very difficult items to plate, but a lot to keep straight, The kids’ desserts were away first, so I got those out of the way in the back kitchen. Then a server came back and requested another sorbet and another crumble, saying these kids were all bratty and all had iPhones and whatnot and all the adults were very drunk despite it being midafternoon. Then I torched the brulées and began removing piping hot ramekins of crumble from the oven and onto plates. Then I had to top the brulées with sorbet, the crumbles with ice cream, and the bowls with ice cream and set them on the pass. 

Here is what gets my goat. I helped plate starters and mains when I had my own prep work to do. Then once they are gone, the chefs take off for a smoke. I am left alone to plate 44 desserts. It’s not that I cannot handle it, and I am impressed they leave so much trust in me to get that done without even sticking around to watch, but they could have asked if I wanted a hand. Finally, once I was nearly finished, the chef de partie asked if I was alright, then put some plates on the pass for me. But everything was plated by then. At least the three servers seemed very impressed with me and appreciative of me catering to all the requests. 
One of the cakes from one the functions today. Looks like a chocoholic's dream!
Of course once I got all the desserts out, it was already past my usual breadmaking time. I had to get a move on, and none of my petit fours were baked yet either. I got straight to it, rolling out bread (tomato basil, onion, and walnut spice), baking petit fours, cleaning up, etc. And as if I didn’t have enough to do myself, someone else asked me to do something for them, and one of the bar workers was ready to put me to work when he saw me standing idle for thirty seconds as I waited for one of the servers to get something for me from the bar. Of course now everyone in the restaurant was somewhat behind and the ovens were in use, so I had to wait and then use the other oven, putting my bread and petit fours further behind. 

Today, my cannelles didn’t turn out right. The tops were burnt, they were sunk, and the insides were hollow. It’s ironic because yesterday I was making the mix, as I had used the last bit and knew I would be busy today. The other pastry chef came along and told me I was doing it wrong, that the cannelles would turn out hollow if I did it that way. I said that’s funny because this is how I did it the past three times and they turned out fine. He proceeded to a lengthy explanation of why I was wrong, and could tell I was looking somewhat annoyed because then he said, I’m not trying to annoy you, and I said, I know but this is how I thought it was done all along why didn’t you tell me before? And now look whose method didn’t work out…. Now I was debating what to do. Can we do without cannelles, I know we have enough of the other petit fours, but cannelles are a daily thing. I didn’t want to show the chef because he was already in a bad mood and the mold was burnt and the pastry cook had told me they are expensive that’s why you can’t use the wrong method.’ I took the cannelles out and washed the mold, which came clean very easily. Then I showed them to chef and told him they hadn’t worked out today. Thankfully he wasn’t mad, just asked to see the mix. From looking at the cannelles, he determined there wasn’t enough egg for structure. I was impressed he could tell that just by looking as I had even tasted one, and I know quite a bit about pastry, and I was ready to chuck the mix out and start again. He told me to add two eggs and blend it up again. I thanked him, and they turned out perfectly. They were just done a lot later than usual. 

Then I still had to scoop the sorbet, cut another tray of brulée, and cut up pineapple for back-up fruit flowers. We had 67 diners in tonight – with two big tables, a table of 29, a table of 12, and a few groups of girls getaways. Luckily the first table was the 29 and it wasn’t until 6:30p.m. The good thing about big tables is they get a reduced menu and I get preorders. The head chef was prepping all the apps and a bunch of the starters in advance as well. When the first order came in I had to run downstairs to sort out the kids meals and cook them. Then I helped as more starter orders came in, and helped out with some veg as well. I messed up once when one of the goat cheese starts was supposed to be gluten-free, I remembered to leave off the melba toast and put two crotins, but I forgot the fried goat cheese ball was breaded and accidentally put that on, as I hadn’t really hear chef mumble. This contaminates the entire plate, but surprisingly he wasn’t really upset at me.

I went on to do my dessert orders – a lot of hot chocolate mousse soufflés, banana tarte tatins, and crème brulées. I prepped all the pre-orders in advance, but still got some orders on top of that and again got no help. Oh well ,there is something about sending out over a hundred plated desserts by yourself in one day that makes you feel very proud of yourself and feel like you really accomplished something today. And that you ran around and sweat buckets, but that’s an entire different story. As the executive chef said to me one day, “You don’t often get a pat on the back in this industry.” And it is true, none of the chefs said good job to me today, or you’re doing great. But at the end of the day, I always hear things through the grapevine from the friendly servers. They tell me the chefs talk about me a lot, and how they really like me, will be sad to see me go, I’m a really hard worker, etc. Maybe they’ll tell me that before I leave, but for now, at least I hear it through the servers.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Going Bananas

I was told to come in for noon again today. I actually hate being told to come into work later – sounds ironic – but I would rather get in early and know I can achieve everything and not feel rushed or stressed, and the first hour not everyone else is in yet so I get more done. But I feel like the head chef has ordered me to come in later, and I don’t want to disobey him. I managed to wait until 11:30 or so, then wandered in, trying to be unseen. It didn’t work.

I set up, then chef told me to scoop ice cream for the surprise function for forty people we had today. I got that done, then made up thirty-two crème brulées for our function tomorrow. Next he asked me to do him a favor and fill some molds with stuffing for the mains. Once done that I moved on to my big task of the day – making a huge batch of banana tarte tatin. The dishes were already lined with caramel, so I just had to slice up about ten hands of bananas, press them into the dishes, and top them with puff pastry circles and bake them. I was halfway through the bananas when I got the preorders for the luncheon – twenty-seven apple and berry crumbles, nine selections of ice cream and sorbet and one selection of sorbet. I put the crumble topping on the crumbles, then went to put them in the oven. The head chef had me help plate the main courses. Then I set up my dishes for desserts, and sent them off. Then back to the bananas.
Speaking of bananas......I remember this delicious banana waffle from my trip to the city :)
Yesterday one of the prep cooks who is responsible for putting away orders made two trips delivering me a bunch of bananas, and I began singing the theme song from the old television show, ‘Bananas In Pajamas’. She thought I was absolutely nuts, or rather, bananas, and then got upset with me for getting the song stuck in her head. Today she came in saying she decided to look up the show after all, since the song was still in her head and I was still singing. Some of the others there actually knew of the show and didn’t think I was bananas at all, though they did not realize the show was popular outside of their country as well. 

At that point it was nearly 3:00p.m. and I realized I had to get the bread done now; the puff pastry would have to wait. This is why I wanted to come in early – my only saving grace was the fact there were only seventeen diners in tonight, meaning less bread to make, less sorbet to scoop, and less petit fours to tray, and the first diners were not in until 7:00p.m. I baked the petit fours, made up my bread rolls (tomato basil, cinnamon raisin, cheddar chive), trayed more petit fours, cut out puff pastry, baked bread, scooped sorbet, baked the banana tarts, then did a good clean up. I had wanted to accomplish more today, but I had to prepare for service as it would be only me and the other intern covering apps, starters, potato, veg, and desserts, with the head chef on the pass.

Of course the first diners were late, giving me some time to make a prep list for tomorrow and go over lists. I had to plate a lot of starters tonight, which I am not used to doing but did alright. Desserts went smoothly as always, everyone ordered one, except the last table of two took a break after their main course and ordered a good half hour after everyone else. It is annoying to just be waiting on two people, not able to do anything else, but I was still home early.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Blast Chiller Broken

            Today I got in early because I had about four jobs I needed to get done straight away. I immediately got my pavlovas mixed up, and my brulée mix cooking. Then I put them in the oven together to bake. Next I got my dark chocolate mousse on the go and began to prepare for the wedding tasting for four people tonight. I got the chocolate brownies, the petit fours, the bread rolls, and began slicing fruit to decorate the pavlovas, saving some of the fruit for a fruit tray I had to put together today. Next I realized I had to sort out the sorbets for the tastings too. See, we have different sorbet flavors at weddings than we order in, as they are combination flavors. For example, the two sorbets for the tasting today were mango passionfruit and mixed berry. Well, we order in mango sorbet, passionfruit sorbet, blueberry sorbet, raspberry sorbet, strawberry sorbet, and blackcurrent sorbet, but the flavors do not come together. SO we have to mix them ourselves and pipe them into tall thin shot glasses. We try to keep some of each flavor on hand, but obviously they get used. We had only one mango and passionfruit and no mixed berry, so I had to mix up both and pipe them (I hate piping freezing cold sorbet).

            With that finished, I moved on to my daily tasks – petit fours, scooping sorbet, making breads (tomato basil, bacon, and mixed nut). Around this time we got a call about a last minute function in the restaurant tomorrow at lunch for forty people. Great, we already have one for fifty on Saturday, now another. So I had to prepare apple and berry crumbles for that, but luckily since it was such short notice we are not offering crème brulée as a dessert option so I didn’t need to worry about baking those. I did notice that the bar (where we usually get our crumble mix) had virtually none left, so I helped one of the bar workers make a huge batch of that. Then I got roped in to doing an order in the bar when he was upstairs and no one else was around. Oh, how I miss working the line in the bar (well, not really).
One of my breads of the day I saved for a coworker - she loves hers slathered with butter
Next I had a bit of time before service so I decided to make the caramel base for a big batch of banana tarts which I would finish assembling and baking tomorrow. I quickly got that into ramekins, finished preparing for the tasting, and set up for a service of fifty people tonight.

            Service went relatively smoothly, except when one of the servers came in with one of the madeleines saying it wasn’t cooked in the center. They asked me and I showed them the recipe I used and told them how long I cooked them, which was exactly the same as last time and that had worked out fine. I had even tried one myself and it seemed fine. Immediately the head chef went to cook a few more, at a higher temperature but for less time. They looked even lighter than mine and were in the oven less time, but he declared them cooked and sent them out. I have no idea what happened to mine, as I did them the exact same way as every wedding I have done, but it didn’t turn out to be a huge deal.

            At the end of the night I went downstairs and noticed the blast chiller did not seem to be working. It wasn’t cold at all. It seemed to be on and plugged in, and the kitchen porter couldn’t figure it out either. I knew it hadn’t been off long, since it wasn’t warm and items had been placed in recently, meaning it had been working then, but it didn’t seem to be now, and I couldn’t just leave everything in there like that to spoil. Unfortunately, it was completely full as well. Everyone else was gone, so I wrapped, vacpacked, labelled, and put away everything in the proper spots and left a note. The blast chiller has stopped working before, and they had to get someone in to fix it. I had to put away three batches of mashed potatoes, one potato casserole, a whole bin of boxty, 69 burgers, 33 chicken supremes, 20 chicken breasts, nine duck legs, two sauces, and a pan of parsnip chips. So I thought I was getting out early tonight, but that took some time so turns out not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Walking Into A Mess

As I’ve mentioned before, I hate having two days off and walking in having no idea what my section will be like. First thing’s first, I glanced at the prep list left for me. From the looks of things, there wasn’t much for me to do, but I didn’t necessarily believe it. Next I glanced into my two refrigerators – the one in the pastry prep kitchen and the one in the service kitchen. I understand that no one else is going to put everything in the exact same spot I would – I have my own OCD organization to my kitchen – but there are general spots. Not much was in the correct spot, and even in the wrong kitchen, so I had to go searching.

I wanted to begin working on something, but wasn’t sure what to do and couldn’t even get my basic daily jobs done (scaling bread, scooping sorbet, traying petit fours) because I had no idea how many diners we were expecting tonight and none of the other chefs were in yet. So I read all the function sheets and notice bulletins to prepare for this week, and made my lists  - three wedding tastings and a large function were upcoming. I also made croutons, which I knew needed to be done.

Next I attempted to sort out my section. Here are some of the things I had to fix: labels – wrong dates or missing labels, cheese tray – not properly wrapped, some cheese dried out, too much blue cheese cut, mislabeled cheese, wrapped brie stored improperly and prepared incorrectly, sauces – improperly stored, crème brulée – incorrectly cut and stored in the wrong container and not wrapped, fruit – too many fruit flowers prepared, put in wrong location, too much fruit cut, fruit not properly rotated, passionfruit roll – completely ruined, sweets cut the wrong size, items stored in wrong fridge, items not ordered, etc.
This may be difficult to see - but they are the caramel spirals for the delice dessert. Usually they have to be made to order because it is too hot in the kitchen to store them and they collapse. Tonight I was practicing making them, and am becoming quite good at them. 
In between fixing things, I went on to scoop sorbet, tray and bake petit fours, make bread – which was quite difficult once I discovered we had no yeast and none had been ordered (tomato basil, cranberry almond, cheese onion), make financier mix, make delice chocolate, make caramel, make white chocolate and lime ganache. Then I knew I would have a lot to do tomorrow so I also prepped vanilla and lime crème brulée and chocolate mousse to make first thing tomorrow. 

I cleaned up and set up. For some reason we had six people in the kitchen with only thirty-six diners booked, so I knew I would only need to focus on pastry and not helping out with apps, starters, or veg. So I had a few small prep jobs I could do during slow points in service. I managed to slice delice chocolate, assemnble more delices, roll more passionfruit rolls, slice fruit, assemble a tray of fruit flowers, cut two full blocks of cheese, and make a bunch of caramel spirals. It seemed like no pastry orders were coming in at all – the first one must have come in after 8:00p.m., when service began at 6:00p.m. After that they were fairly slow, until they finally became steady near the end of service, and I actually ended earlier than usual. Plus got a lot of prep done in the evening!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Days Off

Again, a day off. We get two days off a week – usually they are two days in a row, so regardless of what the days are, it feels like a bit of a weekend. But sometimes they are not two consecutive days. Some of the chefs almost always get the same two days off every week, and others get different days each week. Lately I have been getting Monday and Tuesday off every week, quieter days, which is fine by me. It really all depends on what is going on at the estate, how busy we are, and how many staff we have though. Sometimes days off get shuffles around a lot, and sometimes some of the chefs only get one day off a week. We have to make sure we have enough staff on who know how to cover the many different sections we have. Technically, no one is supposed to work seven consecutive days, but sometimes it does happen that days off get spread apart. I myself have worked nine days in a row, as one week I had Monday and Tuesday off, and the next week I was not off again until Friday and Saturday (you have to pay to get the actual weekend off). But I have also been off Friday and Saturday, worked Sunday, and off again Monday and Tuesday. You just take the breaks when you can get them.

Here are a few examples. When our bar starter chef left, we had to ‘borrow’ one of the chefs from upstairs to work in the bar until the new chef started. This changed around everyone’s hours in both the bar and the restaurant. Recently we had two chefs from the restaurant leave, one expectantly, so we have been short on staff there and working long hours. That’s why I have been upstairs so much lately. On top of that, the sous chef got two weeks of vacation, so now we are really short on staff in the restaurant and some of the chefs are only getting one day off per week. As a student intern, they are required to give me my two days off a week. I feel bad for the chefs who have gone five weeks in a row with only one day off, and offered to come in on a day off, but apparently they have gotten flack for that in the past, so I must take my two days. They tell me I am technically working more hours than I should be already – that my days should be more like eight hour days, but I really don’t mind it. I am here for the experience and the hours.

I think pretty much every kitchen bends the rules for time off and working hours and whatnot, but that’s just a reality of kitchens. It may be law, or written in an employee handbook, and technically we could file complaints, but no one ever does because that’s just how kitchen life works and we expect it. I mean, I knew what I was signing up for getting a culinary degree,, and I don’t regret it. It takes a certain type of person to be a chef – not everyone can work the long hours and consecutive days, and holidays, and weekends, and late nights, etc. It takes some serious dedication. I don’t really get the breaks I am entitles to, but that is partially my fault. I choose not to take frequent breaks. They know I don’t smoke, but if I asked to step out for five minutes, I could. I just don’t feel the need to. Don’t know if that makes me a workaholic or just nuts, but I love what I do and you don’t survive this industry without passion.
You mean, there is a world outside the kitchen???

Monday, September 14, 2015

Restaurant Pastry Mise En Place

Today I had a day off again, after a very busy week alone on the pastry section in the restaurant. So today I will share some of my responsibilities on this section. I have a few things I must do every day – which is scoop out enough bowls of sorbet (I choose a different flavor everyday) for tonight’s diners and keep them in the pastry service freezer. I have to bake one tray of fananciers and one tray of cannelles for the petit fours, then I have to put them on a big tray with the other petit fours – enough for two per person. So I cut up the marshmallow, nougat, and ganache into squares and place them along with homemade lollipops into little paper wrappers on the tray. Then there are the bread rolls, which I make in large batches – minimum of two per head, and three different flavors. I also have to make the special cranberry bread for the starter section. Other daily tasks include the usual cleaning, labelling, and organizing, setting up station for service and cleaning down afterwards, ordering ingredients, and occasionally making up fruit platters for the spa as requested.

There are six different desserts that can be ordered, along with basics such as ice cream, sorbet, and fruit salad; and once in a while there are wedding tastings, like yesterday's, to prep the bread, petit fours, sorbets, and several desserts for. The six main desserts are Banana tarte tatin, Vanilla and lime crème brulée, Mojito of lime confit, Hot chocolate mousse soufflé, Dark chocolate and passionfruit delice, and Cheese plate. Each one has many different components to prep for and all the mise en place must be ready, enough prepped for service in the evening. I know how many diners will be in, but I never know how many of each dessert will be ordered. Is it possible all forty diners could order the banana tarte? Yes. Is it likely? Not at all. So I make estimates, and am usually fairly correct, but it changes from day to day – one day I sold a lot of crème brulées, the next day, only two. Here is a list of misen en palce I must have done/ready every day.
Banana Tarte Tatins made in large batches
Banana Tart Tatin: banana tartes baked, caramel sauce made, coconut ice cream ready.
Vanilla and Lime Crème Brulée: brulée baked and cut, fruit flowers cut and assembled, exotic fruit pearls made, passionfruit cut, mint leaves picked, brown sugar for bruléeing.
Mojito of Lime Confit: lime confit made, mint and lime white chocolate ganache in piping bags, dark rum crumble made and blitzed, lemon sorbet ready, mint sugar made, lime foam made, crisp mint made, chocolate slice made and cut.
Hot Chocolate Mousse Soufflé: mousse mixture in piping bags, vanilla ice cream ready.
Dark Chocolate and Passionfruit Delice: passionfruit emulsion made, biscuit baked and sliced, chocolate mousse made, chocolate toffee made and sliced, caramel made, passionfruit roll and cream made and assembled, delice assembled.
Cheese Plate: golden raisin chutney, pickled celery, plum compote, croutons sliced and baked, blue cheese parfait made and sliced, spice bread made and toasted, cheddar and gubbeen cheese sliced, goat cheese torte made and baked, brie cut and wrapped.

So some desserts have many more components than others, but some components take longer to do than others. The bottom line is, all must be ready. It is fairly quick and easy to whip up a batch of chocolate mousse for the soufflé every day, but banana tartes takes quite a while to make and are done less often. Things such as chocolate slice, passionfruit emulsion, and lime confit are five minute jobs, but take time when you have a lot to do. Simple tasks such as picking meat, slicing fruit, slicing cheese, and cutting croutons can be done during service, especially during the start or on quieter days. 

In addition I have to make sure all my tools are ready – doilies, blow torch, caramel pin, ice cream scoop, spatulas, spoons, trays, etc. I also have to make the petit fours when I run out, so usually about once a week I make a big tray of marshmallow, nogi, and ganache, all of which are long and tricky tasks.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Wedding Tasting

Today I actually did go in later – chef’s orders. I couldn’t stay away too long though, although I didn’t have a whole lot to do since I prepped so much the past few days and only thirty-six were booked tonight, I did have a wedding tasting to prep for. I began with setting up my station, then getting what I needed for the tasting – three chocolate brownies, three Bailey’s cheesecakes, mango passionfruit sorbet, champagne sorbet, some petit fours, some madeleine mix, and a bunch of bread rolls. The tasting was for six people – the bride, groom, plus both sets of parents. 

Next I made spice bread croutons, cut a tray of crème brulée, baked and trayed the petit fours, made blue cheese parfait, assembled a tray of fruit flowers, did my bread rolls (tomato basil, parmesan thyme, and raisin walnut), made crispy basil garnish, and cut passionfruit. I didn’t really make much today, no need to, just topped up what I needed. Then I cleaned up, set up, and made sure my wedding tasting desserts were ready – the cheesecake requires a swirl of whipped cream and a chocolate stick, and both require chocolate sauce on the plates. I did the chocolate sauce and cream in advance, because I thought this is what the pastry cook had told me, and there was a big controversy with chocolate sauce going missing at some other tasting….(luckily I was off that day). Anyway, when the time for the tasting came, all was going well except apparently two of the steaks for the mains were both cooked medium, when they had requested medium, medium well, and well done. They then asked to taste just another piece of beef cooked medium well, but the chef said no, that wasn’t what they had requested to taste. All this caused the desserts to be delayed quite a lot, and when the time finally came, the pastry cook said I had to redo the chocolate sauce and the whipped cream, and basically I had done everything wrong. Thanks for telling me this in the first place, I never did a wedding where they served the cheesecake, and when we serve brownies that is not how we serve the ice cream with it. “Doesn’t matter,” he says, “This is how we do it here.” Shouldn’t the wedding tasting be exactly like the wedding???
Wedding tasting petit fours
Other than that service went relatively smoothly – the final number was forty-eight and all tables of two except for two. It was really quiet, and then I would get five orders at once. I hate nights like that. Aside from this, I found myself standing around a bit during service, because I really had nothing to do or prep. I relabelled everything on the pastry section, but that didn’t take too long. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Very Busy Day In The Restaurant

Today we were expecting eighty-one diners, probably the most I have ever done. The thing that was different about tonight was that is wasn't mostly groups of two, it was a group of ten, nine, eleven, eight, seven, three, three, four, two, two, six, or something like that (not in that order). I had gotten a lot of prep done yesterday to prepare for today, but figured more backup wouldn’t hurt, and could always lay over into Sunday (busy again) and Monday and Tuesday (when I suspected I would be off again).

I got in bright and early and got my two major jobs done and out of the way while the kitchen was still fairly quiet – another big batch of chocolate mousse and a batch of white chocolate mint and lime ganache. While making those (it took me longer as the juice press is still missing – I even asked the head chef this time and he couldn’t find it either) I also made quadruple batches of lime confit and lime foam. Then I moved on to passionfruit jelly and passionfruit emulsion for back up. I baked and trayed up the petit fours. As I was doing this (actually, right when I was finished) the pastry cook came up and told me I had cut them too small. The other day he told me they were way too big, so I scaled them down. Now he says they are TOO small. I asked him to show me the correct size. He said the other day he told me to cut them small because he hadn’t made more and didn’t want me to run out. Today he said I could cut the marshmallows really big since I had a whole new tray of them. No, that’s not how it works, kitchens strive for consistency. Same size every time. Not bigger or smaller depending on how lazy you are. Just like I don’t use a little lime foam instead of a lot because you didn’t make more.  I weighed out the bread recipes. I scooped out fifty sorbets. I baked some goat’s cheese tortes. I ensured I had things prepped for the wedding tasting tomorrow. I made the delice caramel. I stole some crêpe scraps from the starter cook (whoops, not a prep job!).
You know there are a lot of diners in when you prep this many petit fours.....we don't even have any trays bigger than this. It JUST fits them all.

I had finished stuff for the day, my bread was rising and almost ready to bake, and I was moving on to making milk chocolate biscuits and getting the fruit platters for the spa ready for tomorrow (as one was added for 10:00a.m. and I wouldn’t be in yet at that time) when the pastry cook came in and said, “Oh shit. How much bread did you make? That won’t be enough. We count on two per head. I’ve told you this before. I can’t keep an eye on everything you are doing.” No, you told me full three full batches unless forty diners or less, then half batches are suffice. And the two times I ate there I only ever got offered one bread roll. With six other courses, who needs two? So he made me whip up another batch even though they wouldn’t have time to rise, I was in the middle of three jobs, and I really needed to start cleaning down and get set up for service. I quickly did this. At the very end of the night, when everyone else was gone and I was finishing my cleaning, I saw a server chuck over forty of my bread rolls into the garbage. INTO THE GARBAGE. This is definitely one of those ‘I told you so’ moments. I think I know how much I need to prep, even if I am only the intern. Did I run out of anything tonight? No. Really, the garbage? I feel like they could do something with them, I know bread is best the day it is baked, but even put it in bags and offer it free at the front desk to guests. Or would that cause them to spend less money dining on the estate? I don’t know.

Around the same time, the cook came to inform me there were thirty-one girls’ getaway diners, who dine on special packages, meaning they have reduced menus and I would need a lot of crème brulées and soufflés. Well, it’s a little late now to be asking me if I need more crème brulée made, luckily I didn’t. Also apparently all girls’ getaways get sorbets, not soups, and he told me the fifty I had prepped (which I thought was more than enough) wouldn’t be enough and I should do twenty more. 70 sorbets with only 81 diners. Really? Some get soup, some get neither. At the end of the night, there were at least twenty-five of those left too. I did save two jobs for the beginning of service when it is slow – I always try to save at least one easy, compact, mind-numbing job so I am not just standing around – picking mint for the brulée and mojito garnish and separating doilies for dessert plates. 

Service went smoothly for such big numbers. I am used to dessert orders of two or four, which are easy, even if you get a few in a row, they are staggered enough it is simple to pull off. Even an order of ten isn’t so bad. But an order of ten followed by an order of eight. And all the girls’ getaways do pre-orders, so I have several dockets staring me in the face, and I have to wait until they are called. I would just rather receive the docket when the order is away, I don’t like having them in advance as they confuse me. Plus sometimes they change their mind anyway. It’s not so bad with big orders because you are bound to have at least one tarte or soufflé, both of which take seven minutes to bake and in the meantime you can prep the brulées and mojitos and delices. But making nine other desserts in seven minutes takes longer (and requires more space) then prepping one or two other desserts in seven minutes. Sure I can easily make a brulée and a mojito while the tarte cooks, but can I do four cheese platters, three mojitos, two brulées, and a delice? Needless to say, I did have some help (except for the eight-top, as everyone had deserted me by then), but I also helped plate a bunch of these starter orders when they came in. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Getting Lots Done

This morning I couldn’t sleep so I got up early and got to work – ready to get a lot of prep done. I was in fine shape for today, only needing to top up a few things for the twenty-six diners booked; but tomorrow we were expecting anywhere around one hundred people, and Sunday would be busy too, complete with a wedding tasting to worry about as well. I wanted to get a lot done today so I wouldn't have to worry about it tomorrow and could just top things up as needed. I began with my two major jobs – making a big batch of vanilla and lime crème brulée and chocolate mousse. It would have gone faster if I hadn’t spent so long looking for the juice press, which I did not find in the end and had to use my hand to juice the limes. But the new cook was nice enough to help me with the mixing part, a two-person job, and I got those in the oven and moved on to the mousse. During this, I put all my food orders on the board for the weekend, something I am not used to worrying about since I am not usually in charge of a section. It’s somewhat stressful – what if I forgot something or run out of something? Speaking of stressful, I had a mini moment of panic mid-morning when I realized my fridge was not running – it was plugged in and pressing the on button did nothing. I asked a chef de partie, as the head chef was not around, and he couldn’t solve it either. Then the head chef walked in and was all ready to get a knife and fuse out, until he realized the fridge had been set to ‘zero’ and only turns on if set at a number. It must have been bumped. Luckily I noticed quickly and the fridge was not off for long. 

Next I got my petit fours done, cut up a tray of brulée, assembled some delice desserts, rolled some delicate passionfruit rolls, cut up delice biscuit, cut up delice chocolate rectangles, scooped my sorbet, and made up my bread rolls for today (tomato basil, triple cheese, and fennel) when I finally managed to convince someone to bring the big bag of flour upstairs for me. By this time I felt I had accomplished a lot today, but seeing as the first diners were only in at 6:30p.m., and only two until 7:00p.m., I tidied up and assembled the fruit flowers. I needed some for service today, but I could assemble them to order if I absolutely needed to. I gave my pastry kitchen a good scrubbing, then set up in the service kitchen. 

Today was slightly different in that the head chef was going to be on apps/starters/potato/veg, and the chef de partie was on the pass because there was a new cook in doing mains, though he isn’t fully trained yet. I’m not used to working with the head chef on starters, but I helped him out in plating dishes, especially when five tables of two came in at once. He assumed I basically knew everything on starters, and I managed to pull this off. Service was slow at first, as always, and although the chef didn’t seem to mind standing and chatting with me, I always feel I could and should be getting something done – even if it’s not pressing, I can get that far ahead. So I took some bread from the freezer, quickly thawed it by putting it on top of the oven, and thinly sliced it. When I need more croutons for the cheese platters, I can bake them as they are ready to go. I finished this just in time for when we got busy.
Croutons for the cheese platters
I feel I am set for the weekend. I have plenty of banana tartes made up, enough chocolate mousse for the soufflés, plenty of crème brulées and fruit flowers and garnishes, many delices assembled and backup of everything to make them, a lot of garnishes for the cheeses done, so I just have to worry about topping up, making a few things for the mojito dessert, and making the fresh breads, petit fours, and scooping sorbet. Which always takes longer the more diners we have. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pastries For A Function Too

Today I got into work for 11:00.a.m. The head chef had told me to come in for noon today, but I knew I had a meeting with the executive chef midday that may take an hour, so I came in at my usual time anyway, I mean I was awake nonetheless. He got ‘mad’ at me, but I was straight to work and had lots to do and still didn’t get everything done that I could have/wanted to today.

We had a function to cook for with around thirty people, who were supposed to be in for twelve but were much later and that put the head chef in a bad mood straight away. He had me bake and slice the bread for the function, then I went straight to work making white chocolate and lime ganache. While this was on the go and I was back and forth between kitchens, I scooped out tonight’s sorbet (strawberry), weighed out the ingredients for the breads (tomato basil, pine nut, and mustard), and prepped the petit fours. I was waiting for the pre-order for the function to come in so I would know how many of each dessert to prep. Finally it came in as eleven apple and berry crumbles, two crème brulées and four selections of ice cream. Turns out I didn’t need to make the big batch of crème brulées yesterday after all, but the leftovers go on as a special in the bar. I scooped out the vanilla ice cream balls for the crumbles, the raspberry sorbet balls for the brulées, and the vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream balls for the selections of ice cream, then topped the fruit mixtures with crumble topping. 
Petit fours like I tray up everyday - in the back the blueberry fanancier and cannelle are baked fresh daily.
In the front there is a marshmallow (flavor changes all the time) and a lollipop.
I was wrapping brie for the cheese platter when the group actually arrived, and the order changed slightly – one more crumble and one of the ice cream selections turned out to be a sorbet selection instead. I finished my task since I was hands-deep in it, then prepped this new order, thankful I hadn’t yet froze the remainder of the apple berry mix. Next thing I know, they were telling me the desserts were away. Thanks, no one even informed me the starters or mains had gone out, and I assumed I was just prepping the desserts, not plating them since I was told to get them ready and leave them in the kitchen. So I quickly put the crumbles in the oven to heat, and prepped the rest of the desserts, then sent them out, then got on to my other prep work.

By this time it was nearly time for me to make the bread rolls, as I had to start slightly early to ensure they would be done and proofing by 4:00p.m., which is when I was meeting with the executive chef to talk about internship stuff. He had picked the date and time not me, and although it wasn’t the handiest, I understand he is very busy and it wasn’t totally inconvenient for me. I cleaned up and asked the other pastry cook to take care of my bread in case I wasn’t back in time, but he basically dismissed me as in “You better be back on time.” Chef took me to a private room in the lodge and told me all about his culinary journey, education, philosophies, etc., but that’s another story for another time.

The meeting lasted around forty-five minutes, and I got back just in time to put my breads in the oven. Then I made chocolate biscuit and cannelle mix quickly, cleaned up, and checked what I needed for orders. Then I set up for service, and at the beginning of service when it was slower, I sliced up fruit for assembling fruit flowers tomorrow. I used to kind of stand idle during that time, unsure of what to do or not realizing I could use that as bonus prep time. Service went well, we did around fifty diners tonight, and one group of seven. By the time that dessert order came around, everyone had left me. I finished orders, cleaned up, and by that point I had put in another twelve hour plus day.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Picking Up On Pastry

I am always a bit nervous going into work after two days off, especially when I am basically in charge of a section. Because I never know what kind of shape it will be left in, if there is a lot to do, or if it is organized the way I like it. I had spent a considerable amount of time last week cleaning and organizing, so I hoped it wasn’t messed up again. I also know yesterday was busy and short-staffed so there could be a lot to do today. I found the list left for me, which thankfully didn’t have too many jobs. I also knew the cook who had been covering pastry for me doesn’t tend to come in until about an hour later, so if I had any questions I couldn’t ask him until then.

I began with weighing out my four bread doughs, a necessity for every morning, and putting bowls in the freezer for scooping sorbet later and choosing my flavor of the day – pineapple. Then I decided to get straight to the first few jobs on my list – making a quadruple batch of chocolate mousse (my favorite) and making lime confit. Next came making a different type of chocolate mousse, which the other cook had to demonstrate for me, prepping the petit fours, scooping the sorbet, vacpacing and freezing stuff, cooking goat’s cheese tourte, etc. Next, I was getting ready to clean out my fridge (it got pretty disorganized in the past three days) and start my breads soon, when the cook informed me I needed to make three liters of crème brulée mix for twenty-five crème brulées for a function tomorrow, as well as prep fifteen apple and berry crumbles (luckily the mix for this was already made up). I think the function is being held at lunchtime, not during our service time, but it is more restaurant-type food than bar food, and this is two examples of desserts served at weddings. So I prepped those then began my breads – tomato basil, apple fennel, bacon cheddar, and cranberry knots for the starter section (which two cooks showed me different ways to form them, both saying their way was better).
Apple berry crumbles like the ones ready for tomorrow
Once my breads were done I did some cleaning and organizing and also had to assemble some delices for tonight’s service and set up the station. It was not so stressful tonight even with nearly fifty diners because we had another cook come in for service to help, so I could basically concentrate on pastry and even got some more cheese cut and all my labelling and cleaning done