Phase Two Memories: Market Basket

One thing that is hard to work on in culinary school is creativity. We are there to learn classic techniques and recipes and not really how to expand with our own culinary creations. Once we got into Phase Two there was a little room to work with our creativity, but with kind guidelines and restrictions, of course.
Every Friday we participated in Market Basket. Our teams would be given three ingredients, one for each course, and one day to create three dishes. Some of the ingredients included pears, salmon, monkfish, chocolate and mushrooms. The ingredients were usually something that we had worked with during the week so that we were somewhat familiar with it. While we were free to do whatever we wanted, we were highly encouraged to only attempt things that we have done before. The most successful dishes were often the ones that took a new spin on a classic French technique.
Thursday afternoons we were given the ingredients and free reign of the commissary. We had time to brainstorm with our team and order any items that we might need. As soon as it turned 8am on Friday morning we could get to work. We would have four hours to see if the recipes work, attempt plating and get ready for service.
Once the time came for service we would go back into the classroom where our judges were waiting: Chef Francois, Chef Patrice and a guest “celebrity” judge. This was the most nerve-wracking and exciting part. We had some really great judges come in for this exercise including L’Academie Alums and a chef from the White House. The teams were selected to go in random order. The first and second courses were served first and then we took a break before dessert. While each judge tasted the dishes we would wait patiently (and usually with sweaty palms and fast beating heart) for the judges reactions. Sometimes they were good…sometimes they were not so good. The most memorable reactions had to have been when food was spit out, food couldn’t even get on to the fork and food couldn’t be eaten because it was too hot. The last one actually was a very good thing.
This was a really great exercise to prepare us for the honesty that is the kitchen. It also let someone else (professionals) taste our food and get a sense of where our seasoning levels were at. In school, seasoning is everything. We’re taught to heavily season our food. This was something I’m still not adjusted to, but have gotten much better at. It’s amazing to see one dish and have three different reactions: perfectly seasoned, not enough and too much.
Here are some pictures from the first Market Basket using our secret ingredients chocolate…
There was never really a “winner” but the judges were invited to tell us their favorite dishes. I kind of like hearing brutal honesty, even if it sucks sometimes, so this helped me develop a thicker skin when it comes to someone criticizing my food. I remember in Phase One thinking that I was going to be a nervous wreck over Market Baskets, but at the end, I think it’s one of the things I am going to miss the most from Phase Two.

Taste of DC

Better late than never, right?
Taste of DC was a few weeks ago and I went down with a few of my friends from culinary school. The day was beautiful, the drinks were refreshing, the company was amazing and the food was pretty decent. I say this because I went focused on the food but nothing really stood out for me. I think I went in thinking that I might find some potential externship sites, but there were really no restaurants of that caliber. (And that is totally fine!) The food that was presented was pretty good, but I also think the event was a little expensive. However, considering that DC is a tourist city and it was on Columbus Day, it made sense. You can’t blame them there because we were all suckered into the $30 tickets.
My favorite food was the Vegan Nachos from Bread and Brew. I will tell you that these were the best nachos I’ve ever had in my life. They were served on a little eco-friendly frisbee and I devoured every last bit. I’ll leave you with some pictures from the event. Did anyone else go? What did you think?

This little piggy went to…

L’Academie.

We met another pig today. This one was way younger smaller. Sorry vegans/vegetarians.

P.S. That’s Chef Brian. He graduated from L’Academie and has been teaching there for three years. He’s a pretty great teacher, but one thing that I really like about him is that he is also a great writer. He writes for Bethesda Magazine and other DC publications, so look him up if you’re into food writing!

Kitchen Tour

I finally started taking pictures! Without going too crazy (and looking like a complete creeper…remember, I’m also trying to make friends here) I snagged some pictures of our kitchens today.
Like I told you before, we start our mornings in lecture. We do this in the James Beard Classroom.

Every morning, recipes are written out for us to copy into our notebooks.

The rest of the day is spent in the Paladin Room.

Maybe next time I’ll remember to snag some pictures with all of us in action. Don’t you wish you had this kind of kitchen at home?! I’m seriously in heaven all day long…even if it’s 110 degree heaven.