Bienvenue au Français Classique!

Good news – I made it through my first day of Classical French Cuisine, and lived to tell you about it!  (Hopefully my use of Google Translate was correct!) 

First off, lets start with a classroom tour.  Like I mentioned before, this class is basically the pinnacle of the culinary curriculum – the most true-to-the-industry experience we will get as part of our education.  Because of that, we get to work in a super fancy schmancy kitchen…

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Did you know that Emeril Lagasse himself went to Johnson and Wales?  Class of 1978!  He actually still sits on the Board of Trustees for the school, and this kitchen was dedicated to him when they built the school in 2005.  It is by far the nicest kitchen in the entire school, and it’s fun to get to work with such specialized equipment.

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My pictures won’t possibly do justice to showing you just how BIG this culinary lab is – over twice the size of normal labs, maybe even 3x as big.  This is the back half of the room, with all of the prep tables, coolers, vegetable sink, cabinets, etc.

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Emeril hangs out inside the classroom too!

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The other side of the classroom has a gigantic cooking line down the middle (seen here on the left).  There are stovetops on both sides, so that we have a working front line and back line.  Along this right wall, servers from the Advanced Dining Room class come in an pick up their food.  Remember when that was me just a few short weeks ago? 

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And on the left side of the cooking line (the back line), another large area with workstations, cabinets, etc.  Behind the cooking area is the dish pit and supply area, which you can just barely see to the left. 

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The cooking lines themselves are nice and big with so much more equipment than we are used to – 12 burners on each side, two flattops, a deep fryer, and more!

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We also get to use these ridiculously expensive (and heavy) copper All-Clad pot and pans.  They are so beautiful, and I think they make the classroom look so nice all stacked up and pretty on top of the cooking line. 

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Now onto the food.  In this class we are each assigned a different recipe or duty each day, rather than working in teams.  This makes me really nervous because I don’t like being solely responsible for things (that sounds terrible, doesn’t it?).  I am much more comfortable working in a group and having partners to help me out and give me reassurance!  I guess this class will be a test of my confidence – probably a good thing.

I lucked out today though – my duty was “assist with soups” – so I ended up sort of working on a team after all.  I’m not sure why I’m so intimidated by this class.  Perhaps because of the reputation it has around campus.  Ladies and gents, meet Chef Tiess, my Chef for the next 9 days…

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He has crazy amounts of experience and has even been on Food Network.  He seems like a really good teacher, and definitely knows his stuff.  He also gets REALLY loud when he’s not happy – just hoping it never gets directed at me!

He started off with a few demos on prepping vegetables for plated service.  I have seriously never seen someone julienne an onion so fast…

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Next he did a few tournéd potatoes – these things are SO hard to do!  You basically have to cut a potato into an equal sided football – much harder than it sounds.  

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Did I mention he was doing it with his eyes closed!?!  I can’t even do these with my eyes open.  So insane.

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Radial cuts and roll cuts on carrots.  Now these I can do! 

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Breaking down beef tenderloin – glad it wasn’t my job!

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Back to my actual job, I “assisted” with the two soups today – cream of cauliflower and French onion!  We diced up onion, celery, and cauliflower, and sautéed it in ungodly amounts of butter in a pretty copper pan. 

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Once it was a little browned and softened, we transferred it to a stock pot…

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And filled it up with chicken stock.  Then we brought it to a simmer until the cauliflower was fork-tender.

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While I waited for the cauliflower soup to simmer, I helped out with the French onion soup.  I sliced up a boat load of cheese to top the bowls with – a mixture of provolone, swiss, and gruyere.  I may or may not have snuck a few samples of each.

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Back on the cooking range, my soup had simmered and I was running out of time before dining room service.  I quickly rushed to the Vitamix to get our soup pureed and finished before the appetizer orders came in!  (Note to self:  MUST get a Vitamix!). 

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Final soup was finished with an entire quart of heavy cream, and subsequently tasted delicious (although because of the chicken stock and cream, I didn’t actually eat any!).  I did taste one small spoonful to make sure my seasoning was okay.

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While dining room service was being plated, I helped other students catch up on dishe
s, so I didn’t get any pictures of the other food or final plates.  :(  After we had served all our guests, the rest of the food was portioned out in tiny samples, so that each student in our class as well as the dining room class could eat lunch. 

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Other students are always approaching me with “vegetable” dishes as a lunch option, which is actually really nice of them.  I always thank them and decline though – check out the shine on those veggies!  You wouldn’t believe how much butter we go through…

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I was thrilled to see THIS at the end of the table though!  The first (undressed) salad I have seen in a long time!  Usually even the salads aren’t an option because they are either drenched in vinaigrette or topped with bacon.  Total score for me today!

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I filled up a bowl and dug around to find the balsamic vinegar in the cabinets.  It wasn’t much – just plain lettuce greens, but it was better than nothing, and at least enough to hold me over until I got home.

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The rest of tonight will be spent packing and getting ready to jump on an airplane at 6am tomorrow – I am so excited to be going home!  Me and my two best girls from college are having our semi-annual reunion this weekend to celebrate Lindsey’s birthday.  I haven’t seen Lindsey since I was home almost two months ago, and I haven’t seen MaryAnn since we ran a half-marathon together in Jacksonville back in February!  Counting the minutes until my plane touches down in Ohio…