Adventures in Culinary School

So I’ve been a very neglectful blogger, and have completely stopped telling you all that’s been happening in culinary school!  Many apologies, and I promise, there is much to share.  In fact, I think that being a culinary student is one of the really cool things that makes my blog a little different, so I promise that from here on out you’ll be hearing about all the wild and crazy things I’ve been doing and making (oxtails, anyone?)…

But we have to back up – A LOT.  So about a month ago I was in a class called Purchasing and Product Identification.  In this class (which will be fully recapped later in the week), we worked the Storeroom of the school – basically a gigantic pantry and refrigerator for the entire school’s food supply.  But besides stocking all the classes with food, the other objective of the class was to learn how to identify different foods by sight, since in a culinary kitchen many things are unlabeled in plain plastic bags, and knowing that you have the correct ingredients is important!

So one day in class we played a little product ID game with about 50 items.  There were all sorts of different grains, lentils, dried beans, nuts, seeds, etc. that we had to name, sort of in a spelling bee game format.  I thought I owned this game, since most of my class had never even heard of things like quinoa and bulgur, and I eat those things every week.  To be honest, the table of foods that we had to identify looked a lot like my pantry at home!  I made it all the way down to the final round of about 5 people and ended up getting one wrong – stupid cracked wheat, which I mistook for bulgur (same thing, just a tiny bit bigger).  As it turned out, one of my best friends in class, Mylan was the winner!

And when our teacher presented the prizes to the top two people, they were shocked to see that they had won…mushroom stumps?  They were weirded out, but I was totally bummed.  A real live mushroom stump of shiitakes?  A soil bag of oyster mushrooms?  I love weird stuff like that!  Lucky for me, Mylan was totally grossed out by the mushrooms and generously gave me her winnings – awesome!

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Originally I had this plastic bag of oyster mushrooms, but the other girl who won the stump of shiitakes realized that living in the dorms, she had nowhere to cook them (and shiitakes reaaally need to be cooked).  So we traded, and I took home this lovely stump of fresh mushrooms!

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(Boooo, old camera pictures!)

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The mushrooms were awesome, and Casey and I enjoyed them for days and days!  Pictured below was a delicious shiitake barley & thyme dish we made – so yummy and fresh.

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I love mushrooms, and having my own stump was a blast.  The dogs were scared of it though – they barked at it and backed away from the counter – funny :)  After a few weeks, it was done putting out mushrooms and starting throwing white spores all over my patio table, so it was time to say goodbye to my beloved stump. 

Don’t you hate when really cool things happen at really awkward times?  The same day that I got the mushroom stump, I was headed down the steps to my car when I noticed that the lower level hallway had something going on.  I made my way over to the Baking & Pastry hall, where I saw a few of my classmates, so I thought I’d check it out.  There he was, the Cake Boss himself – Buddy Valasco!

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So cool, right?  Ummm please notice the giant freaking stump of fungus in my hands… Sigh.  A little awkward.  Buddy was a good sport, and didn’t seem too freaked out by the ‘shrooms – it is culinary school after all.  He was much smaller than I expected in person, and hung around the school and hallways for a few days.  He was in town for a cake convention where he built an entire life-size NASCAR out of cake!  (Go back to the first photo in this post – see that giant stack of boxes behind me?  ALL FROSTING! )

Mushroom stumps and cake celebrities – every day is a truly a new adventure in culinary school, and it’s exciting to go each day and not know what’s in store.  I promise to keep you up to date from here on out, and to spend this week catching you up on the rest of my adventures!