Fish and seafood week started with a bang — literally. Early in the morning we all turned to see that a bag of coffee grounds exploded all over a classmate who was trying to open it. Good thing he woke us up, we were about to tangle with some pinchy sea creatures and if you aren’t alert, you can easily lose a finger. I saw that lobster episode of Glutton for Punishment!
I will spare you the rest of the grisly photos. Some places just throw lobsters or crabs into boiling water and if they have to process a lot of them at once, the temperature lowers and the crustaceans suffer longer. I had a discussion with Chef Tony about being glad to just get it over with, because if I had a choice between boiling to death or getting stabbed in the head once and keeling over, I’d definitely pick the second one, although my preference is neither. Bing bang boom, done.
There is some seafood that I do like, especially the halibut at Go Fish on Granville Island. The first time I saw a whole halibut, though, was on Iron Chef America, and thought it was as disgusting-looking as it was giant! Aside from the cute little ones at pet stores, I think that most fish (especially flat fish) are hideous, and kept laughing while reading the seafood chapter in our textbook. The paragraph for monkfish began with “this extraordinarily ugly fish…” and only showed a picture of its tail. It is supposedly so unattractive that it gets sold without the rest of the body. Was George Lucas at a market when looking for inspiration for Jabba the Hutt?
Every time we cook something in class, if I’m not absolutely in love with it, I think of what I would have done differently with the ingredients if given the choice. For fish/seafood week, I basically spent a week of learning about it and then thinking about what I would change for the dishes if I actually liked seafood, or had to re-design it for a menu.
The next day was referred to as Restaurant Day. Former culinary students who are now taking pastry gave us tips and warned us about how intimidating it could be. I wasn’t really worried too much about it, and was more on the excited side of things. Some people in our class have restaurant experience, which definitely gave them an edge, but I felt that really, at this point we had been making things for six and a half weeks and should be capable of sending stuff out if the chefs yell for it. You can train a monkey to work in a kitchen. It doesn’t mean that the food comes out well, though, but there are a lot of places that send out shit dishes, and have humans with zero training working on the line. We all speak a language, so there’s an advantage for our species.
Menu development was really fun. I like having the opportunity to get creative and have some fun, and it turned out well for a group of 3 having to do the work of 4. Next time my goal is to help come up with ways for whatever team I’m on to have a lot of fun with texture and colour, yet find ways to simplify things, so we can save time and have some whizbang plating. I’m already stockpiling ideas for garnishes and sauces in my head. I’m happy that the fish batter turned out pillowy and soft, yet crispy, because there was no recipe to refer to and I pretty much winged the recipe, basing it on a few scientific theories. Being a nerd has several advantages.
This week was a real struggle. We were working with foods that I personally avoid, so there was a steep learning curve for me, and I probably frustrated the shit out of my stove partner. She is super sweet, friendly, well-traveled, amazing and an organizational master (something that I am still fighting to instill within myself), but unfortunately, if I wasn’t breathing down her neck and checking in (which can be super annoying, so I don’t want to!), the things that I was paranoid about going wrong, actually did go wrong! There is always so much going on that it’s hard to remember things or keep on top of timing and directions. We’re all here to learn, though (especially from mistakes), and she has saved my butt multiple times, so I did thank her hugely for that, and am definitely looking forward to seeing everyone in the class grow into kick-ass culinarians, myself included. We’re all making so much progress!
I was glad to see the end of this week, because at least there would be no more fish stock for a little while, and also because Friday morning started out roughly: I locked my house (and locker) keys in my house and Chef Tony had to try and bust into my locker, to no avail. I said it would be all right as long as I could cobble together a uniform for the day (thankfully had my knifes in my bag, and Ashley kindly lent most of the pieces of a uniform) and call my landlord to grab spare keys later.
“You’re 0 for 2?” he asked, genuinely concerned.
“Yes chef, I wanted to look stupid today!” I answered. Felt pretty bad for bothering him, because mornings are always busy!
He knows that I enjoy learning about hardcore female role models, and gave me a jersey to wear, with the name Anne Milne embroidered on it. The buttons were black, so I thought that she was a former instructor or guest teacher at the school. He later told me that she was Canada’s first female executive chef at a hotel. Sweet!! As soon as I was able to get home, I looked up her accomplishments and work.
Next week, I’m going to The Irish Heather and The Waterfront to see what their work environments are like. Hopefully I’ll do well and not have any clumsy incidents!