2nd Degree    

August 26 1998
Chef Smythe Cracks Up
and cracks us up...

The task of the day:

Hot and Cold Buffet

Today was our first of two buffets for the week.

* * *

Our group produced:

  • A Cheese Tray
  • Green Pea Mousse in Pickled Carrot Cups
  • Smoked Seafood Terrine
  • Whiskey Marinated Scallops and Shrimp
  • Smoked Pork Chops with Pillaf
  • Grilled Vegetable Salsa
  • Red Pepper and Thyme Relish
  • Garlic and Shallot Tortellini

* * *

Most of this actually came off pretty well. We were reasonably organized, and had set up most of the production in the days before. We plated the items in time for the buffet, which was to be done by 6:00. The Green and Orange Death Cups actually both looked and tasted fine. We got several compliments on them. The Tortellini were really good. They were 100% homemade, including making the cheese for the filling. Gee, maybe we should have ground our own wheat, too!

The mousse set up quite nicely, and had good flavor. The meese that we are making this week have a gelatin reinforcement. I've never made that type before, so this is interesting. It's not very hard, and there are only a few minor steps you need to be careful about.

Our seafood terrine had way too much garnish in it, and has a result was very difficult to slice thin. Chef said that we were serving "Beavis and Butthead" sized portions. Can't really disagree with him there. Next time, I'm leaving out the salmon entirely.

Plating was a bit difficult because we had lots of very flat or chopped items. Still, we did what we could, and they looked fine. I don't think I would choose myself some of these combinations, but you work with what you are given.

* * *

We also started production for Friday's buffet. This included cleaning and marinating the fois gras, smoking a duck, preparing pastry dough, and rehydrating some large couscous. I did the fois, because I've cleaned it before, and because I like working with it. Chef ordered two entire lobes, which is about $150 worth. I'm going to make another dish with the leftovers. I asked Chef about some chanterelles I found in the reach-in, and he said I could use them, too. Whee!

We got out of the kitchen at around 8:30, which is when the class is supposed to end. The same cannot be said for all other groups. They failed in several of their production goals for the buffet, and also failed to finish work in the kitchen until after 9. Our group stayed and helped clean up the kitchen a bit.

The Japanese groups aren't working out very well. Their lack of kitchen experience makes them both annoying to others, dangerous to work around, and a terror to the Chef. During a saute demo today, one of them burned the chef. Another one just about set his own hair on fire because he was standing too close while I was deglazing a pan with whiskey. Today when I first came into the kitchen, the group next to ours had grown horizontally onto every one of our stove burners. They never clean as they work, and are using every bowl in the kitchen. These wind up in the pot sink, still crusted with goo. I think that our group has washed about 75% of the entire day's dishes on most days. In the reach-in fridge, we've found raw chicken stored on top of herbs, and a wash of blood and brine in the bottom that nobody thought to clean up after spilling.

It's not just me that has noticed this. Tonight at the bar, the Chef finally lost his cool about the whole thing. He said there are about 5 people in this class who are up to the level of work needed. This is, after all, the third course in a series, so there shouldn't be a real need to go over basics like saute. Inexperience, coupled with the language barrier, makes all of this a real chore.

I mentioned to the Chef that in the other course I've had with these people, the Chef divided them up, one per group. He said, "I'd never do that to you, you've got too much experience, and you'd never learn anything." That's cool. This week is much less frustrating than last. We all mostly just shake our heads and clean some more bowls.

* * *

Suffered a burn today. My teammate was standing with a hotel pan in her bare hands. We needed it, and it didn't need washing, so as I told her that, I grabbed the other end, which was red hot. Owch. I got one pretty nice blister out of it, and a renewed caution with regards to trusting inexperienced teammates (including myself!).

past home future


Copyright 1998 Tom Dowdy
Comments? dowdy@poubelle.com