Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Liz learns the true meaning of school lunch

Things got off to a somewhat slow start here at the SCI. After hours of basic writing, converting quarts to gallons, and decimals to fractions, I began to wonder if the second graders in the local elementary school were learning at a faster pace and could I join them for some mental stimulation. There's only so many ways you can say "keep hot food hot and cold food cold" before you want to gauge your eyes out from boredom. Fortunately, our classes here are only three weeks long, so by next Monday, I'll be in a kitchen. I've been using the extra time to read some classics, bake at home, and visit the pool, so I guess I can't complain too much. I did have one especially fun adventure last week, however. The school asked for some volunteers to help a guest chef from Valrhona Chocolates prepare for his demo, so I signed up for a few days thinking it would be fun. Why it didn't occur to the school that students in the intro class might not be qualified for this task is beyond me. Having never been in any of our kitchens, I was just as clueless as the chef when it came to finding equipment and ingredients, and often felt like I was more annoying than anything else. I was only slightly less clueless than my classmate, who was not only ignorant of where anything was, but also what anything was. After prepping, I was ready to go home when Chef Derek asked if I would stay for the demo, which of course I did. Little did I know that this demo was not for my fellow students, but for the top pastry chefs across the valley--my future potential employers. Only slightly petrified out of my skin, I stood at the demo table fetching this, washing that, mixing this and that together, and praying very very fast and hard that he would not ask me to fetch or mix something I had never heard of. Fortunately, I somehow made it through twelve hours without breaking any dishes, ruining any product, or otherwise embarassing myself. Chef Derek Poirer was very patient, and taught me a lot while I was there, like how emulsifying your ganache properly gives it better gloss and a cleaner getaway. I saw Derek later this week in a video competing in the World Pastry Cup--wow. It's a small world. So while this was perhaps one of the more stressful events in my life, I learned a lot, I networked a little, and I went home with a whole lotta expensive foreign chocolates. Very cool.
Another recent highlight of the week was dining at the school's restaurant, L'ecole. The meal was on the house, and the dishes were handed out at random, giving the students a chance to prepare all the menu items. I got lucky and received the stuffed rabbit saddle with foie gras and a lentil timbale, served with a dijon taragon sauce. Rabbit was new for me. Definitely edible, but perhaps not my first choice of meats. Foie gras, fattened goose liver, was definitely new for me. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit once I forgot what it was I was eating. The rest of the courses were delighful: a tuna "amuse-bouche" (pre-appetizer), a tomato appetizer, lemon sorbet intermezzo, classic creme brulee for dessert, and truffles, madelines, and candied orange peel to finish. This experience has given a whole new meaning to the term "school lunch," and I think maybe granite school district should kick it up a notch.
Well, I was considering posting my essay "my favorite food" (just another version of the "what I did this summer" writing assignment), but given the length of this discourse, I think it might be kinder not to. Bon appetite, everyone!

1 comment:

Ruth said...

liz!!! that food sounds almost as amazing as you!