Double Duty.

I feel SO out of the loop!  This has been one of the craziest weeks that I can remember since we moved here.  Good thing I had planned for a few fun, informative posts for you guys, and it seems like you liked them!  Moving forward, I’m actually hoping to do a lot more posting like that from now on.

Backing up, let me explain my absence.  Tuesday night I had a horrible school project to finish, and didn’t end up getting into bed until almost 1am.  When my alarm went off just 4 short hours later, I was draaaaaagging to get myself to school on time.  I did my usual morning race around – making oatmeal, getting all the pieces of my uniform together, finishing homework, etc.  But Wednesday was a double duty today!

Remember how much I loved my International Cuisine class?  Since I loved working with Chef Pearson so much, I volunteered to help out in the back of the house cooking for a Johnson & Wales Distinguished Visiting Professor dinner – a fancy schmancy dinner for donors and high profile community members.  Since I am in Advanced Dining Room class right now, which means I am wearing my lovely dining room service uniform, I had to PACK all the things I would need to change gears and work in the kitchen all night long.

I spent my day living out of a tote bag!  We had another busy, non-eventful day serving in the dining room (counting the days…), and then I had about 30 minutes to change my clothes and eat something before the work continued all night long.

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In my morning haste I had NO time to pull together a packed lunch or anything creative.  Casey to the rescue!  He packed up a tub of dried fruit, nuts, and an amazing dense granola bar for me so that I wouldn’t starve at school.

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I don’t want to make anyone’s head explode or anything, but he has actually discovered what might be the world’s greatest quick and easy recipe – five minute MICROWAVED granola bars!  (Recipe to come – I don’t want to post it until it is perfected!). 

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After a brief break, I changed into my cooking gear and headed into the events center to start working for the big event!  Chef Pearson knows I am a vegetarian, and joked that he was going to have my work on the most horrifying and offensive thing in the entire kitchen – foie gras, gulp.

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I’m not even getting into my personal feelings on foie gras on the blog, but can I tell you how ironic and hilarious I thought it was that the other side of this package said CAGE FREE?  Seriously!

I was really nervous to work with this because it is so expensive.  I cut it into 50 half-inch slices that were then frozen and seared to order for the salad plates.

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While I was up to my elbows in goose liver, others were cleaning up racks of lamb for entrees…

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On the other side of the table, I chopped and de-stemmed herbs for what felt like eternity – SO many herbs!  Even though a lot of it was just simple prep work, it was really fun to help out with this special event.  A lot of staff and teaching assistants were there too, along with a few of my favorite classmates and friends.  We all had a good time hanging out and cooking with the radio on – I hope I find a job that is this much fun when I graduate!

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My herbs were put into a giant food processor and turned into a garlic-herb marinate for the lamb racks…

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I had nothing to do with cooking or prepping these, but aren’t they so cool?  I had never seen them before – candy-striped beets!

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Next up, Beth and I got the lovely task of straining a HUGE 15 gallon stock pot of soup through a fine mesh strainer.  She joked that we needed volleyball knee pads for the job – it was pretty labor intensive.  From this…

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To this – lots of strained tomato skins.  This was a SMOKED tomato soup, and it had the most amazing smoky flavor from both the tomatoes and a special smoked sea salt.  Being vegetarian, I don’t really eat smoked food anymore, and I forgot how good it smells…

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Time flew past while we prepped and cooked, and suddenly it was GO time and guests were arriving.  I set up an assembly line with a few of the teaching assistants, and rolled my heart out making shrimp, spinach, and feta spanakopitas…

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They came out REALLY well, and were served five on a plate topped with a yogurt and mint sauce (also made by yours truly!).  I forgot to get a picture of the final show plate – sorry!

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Other apps – duck confit and boursin cheese fritters with a sweet and spicy chili sauce.  Back in the kitchen, no one knew the formal name for these so we all just referred to them as duck balls.  :)

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Once the apps moved out we moved right into salad mode.  This was my first time helping plate for big events, and man is it stressful!  Go go go!

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First course – Israeli couscous salad topped with a micro greens salad, along with a parmesan chip and the seared foie gras.  I love pretty plate presentations!

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Second course – smoked tomato soup with jumbo lump crab meat, served in this great presentation with corn husks and chives. 

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Finally, the third course – white truffle mashed potatoes with asparagus, sautéed golden and candy-cane beets and lamb lollypops. 

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Last but not least – dessert!  I really wish I had gotten to try one of these, but there were no extras.  Inside that gooey blob of chocolate deliciousness was some sort of BANANA cream cake, mmmmm…

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I wish I had gotten more pictures of the kitchen insanity that was plating and preparing all that food at the last minute, but in the heat of the job, pulling out my camera seemed a little inefficient. :/  It was a great experience though, and I hope I get to do more of these in order to add to my resume and get more hands on kitchen work. 

I left my house at 6am for class that day, and rolled into my garage a few minutes after 9pm.  Since I was actually home earlier than expected, rather than collapse like I wanted to, I took advantage of a few extra hours and ended up SCOURING my kitchen from top to bottom.  Why?  We were hosting a DINNER PARTY the next day, and I had soooo much to do to get ready!  It was the busiest day I’ve had in a long time, but really fun and totally worth it.

Up next – dinner party details!