Sorry that it's been a while since my last update. Time here really does seem to fly by. My classmates and I completed our Traditional European Cuisine class last Wednesday. Unlike previous classes, the day of our exam was assigned to us individually. I'm not sure whether I was lucky or unlucky to be chosen for day 7 which was the first day of testing. After a mere 4 days of practicing braising and stewing techniques, I was assigned 2 dishes at random by the chef to prepare to his liking and serve to him within a 30 minute window. I had 3 hours to prepare stewed pork and clams (Portuguese style) as well as braised short ribs. While 3 hours sounds like a generous amount of time, those 180 minutes slipped through my fingers before I was even able to blink.

On a daily basis, our class of 18 became accustomed to preparing around 14 braised and stewed dishes ranging from beef stew to Greek beans with potatoes. The number of dishes alone was a little stressful, but combine that with the fact that we only had 10 eyes on the stove and 3 ovens with which to work, and it's easy to see how our lab instantly turned into a mad house. As I mentioned in my last entry, our class was responsible for plating dishes for the culinary dining room. So after the chaos of food preparation died down, we went into plating mode where several of us lined the steam tables ready to learn the art of plating. Additionally, each day in lab one student was designated as the Chef of the Day and another as his/her Sous Chef. The Chef of the Day was responsible for ensuring that all dishes were prepared on time and in accordance with national sanitation standards. The Chef of the Day directed all plating and organized the functions of the kitchen. The Sous Chef acted as a second set of hands for the Chef of the Day and was responsible for garnishing the dishes as they went out the door. Our assembly line looked something like this each day:

And here's a small sampling of the dishes we sent out. These pictures were taken on the first day of plating so they improved after this, but you get the idea.

Pork au Lait atop braised potatoes with red cabbage

Braised lamb over spatzle with red cabbage

White veal stew with red cabbage and asparagus

Each lab group had the opportunity to make pasta for a day from scratch, and on my group's pasta day we made spatzle (which I had never made before). It has to be beaten very quickly by hand for around 5 minutes to tighten and smooth the gluten strands. Since I don't mind getting messy in the kitchen, I quickly stepped up and volunteered to do the mixing.

Now our class has moved on to a class that pulls each of us out of our element. I've mentioned the culinary dining rooms several times now, and for the last 3 labs, we've been lucky enough to dine in them. Now the tables are turned and we are serving in one of them. In Essentials of the Dining Room, we learn the basics of the front of the house in a restaurant as well as the basics of fine dining. And at 5:45 each day, practice begins when we are required to serve tables. It's a very different kind of classroom than I've ever seen before. Yes, the picture below is my classroom. Each day I report here for lecture. Crazy, right?

The "classroom" even has a bar area where one person from our class acts as bartender each day. He or she prepares all of the non-alcoholic drinks for cold beverage service.

With entirely new subject material, comes a new uniform. We have all shed our chef whites and traded them in for white button-ups, black pants, and black service aprons. With my smile, you would never know how uncomfortable these uniforms are. The pants are high-waisted, pleated, unisex black pants that could not be more unflattering on the girls. I'm ready to put on my coat and checkered pants again.

Yesterday was our first day of service, and unfortunately I did not receive a table so I didn't have the opportunity to practice. Today was my first day ever waiting on a table. So of course, I would have to wait on a table with one chef and two senior TAs. Every other student seated in the dining room was a freshman student, and I had the chef. As if I wasn't nervous enough, right? Our dining service consisted of water, bread and butter, cold beverage (some of which we have to present and pour tableside), soup and salad, entree, and coffee. We will begin adding other courses as the next week and a half goes on, but that was plenty for me to start with. My table almost went off without a hitch. I made one mistake in clearing the table, but the chef still gave me a thumbs up and told me, "job well done" at the end of the meal, so I was happy. I just hope I can keep it up!


Could there BE any more delicious food?!

I'm sure it's not news to most of you that I love the TV show "Friends" so the title of this entry is a little play on Chandler's character. In all seriousness, though, the food just keeps getting better and better.

We had our first day of production in Traditional European Cuisine on Thursday, and my group was assigned basic braised chicken legs along with risotto. Some of you have asked for recipes, and it's difficult to post them because what we work from can hardly be called recipes. For example, the "recipe" we were given for our chicken dish was as follows:

  • Oil
  • Chicken Legs

Sear. Remove.


  • Mirepoix
  • Garlic
  • Herbs
  • Salt and Pepper


Add fat (if necessary). Singer.


  • White Wine
  • Appropriate Liquid

Build braising liquid.


Reduce if necessary. Strain. Adjust Seasoning.


As you can see we are given no quantities, times or temperatures, so the resulting dish is dependent upon the student(s) working on it. The chefs want us to learn culinary techniques so that they become second nature. They say that we shouldn't be referring to recipes every other minute, and we should only measure in specific instances. I must say that I was quite proud of how our first European dish turned out. Our chicken was perfectly seared, and the viscosity and flavors of our sauce paired very nicely with the the chicken. Here's our dish as we were preparing it for the oven to finish it off.

My class has been spoiled the last several weeks by wonderful dining room service and 3-course French dinners. Now, only half of the class is invited to dinner each night, and the other half must stay behind in the kitchen to plate our dishes for the dining room (since we now provide food for the dining rooms) and begin the clean-up process. I can't really complain though because we are still fed a delicious dinner. It's just that we have to eat it while standing or sitting around our production tables in between cleaning tasks. And I don't know why it is, but serving dinner from these metal warming trays just makes the food seem a lot less appetizing. Point and case - the dish that you see above was eventually converted into the dish with the orange-ish sauce third from the end of the table. It still tasted great though.

Over the weekend, I chose to attend yet another class outside of the school's curriculum. My advisor and chef from Introduction to Baking and Pastry taught a 6-hour class on Artisan Bread Baking at Home. The class was in a beautful home in Smithfield, RI, and the owners had a wood fire brick oven which we used to make some wonderful wood-fired pizzas and 7-grain breads.

We started off with the pizzas. After making the dough, we each assembled and fired some pizzas. I didn't make the one pictured below but it was by far my favorite. The crust was fired with a layer of fig preserves topped with crumbled gorgonzola. As soon as it was pulled from the oven, the woman topped it with some lightly dressed arugula, prosciutto and parmesan. It was scrumptious!

I had never baked in a brick oven before so it was interesting to learn the techniques behind it. Since the heat comes from the fire and embers, we carefully monitored the temperature until it dropped low enough for us to bake our bread loaves. Just as we did in my baking class, we loaded our shaped dough onto a couche for the final proof and then onto a loader. The resulting bread was delicious! I will certainly be practicing this one in a home oven.

Some of our loaves before the oven:

All of our loaves after the oven:

And lastly, here's a picture of me with my academic advisor and instructor for this class, Richard Miscovich. As many of the other students in this class commented, "He really knows his bread," and that is an understatement. I'm just about ready to switch to Baking and Pastry after taking this class.


Two down. Three to go!

It's hard to believe that I've already completed two of my lab classes here at Johnson and Wales. Lab classes seem to fly by, and I only have three more before Thanksgiving break!

Since my last post, my class made has gallons upon gallons of stock, I spent a weekend in Tampa, and I survived my first hot lab practical exam. It seems as though Stocks, Sauces and Soups flew by, but yet I learned so much. We covered the six traditional French mother sauces (Bechamel, Veloute, Hollandaise, Tomato, Espagnole, and Demi-Glace), and I can now produce any of them without a recipe. I can now recognize and taste the differences between a well-prepared flavorful stock and a weak stock. And my knife skills are.....well, they could use a little improvement, but they're getting there and I've got the blisters to prove it. And after passing the practical exam, I know that I can make most soups without even glancing at a recipe. Learning to rely on my instincts rather than reading a recipe has certainly been an adjustment, but it's also a lot of fun to throw in a handful of an ingredient and taste to see how it flavors the final dish. Just as it was in baking and pastry, we were once again assigned lab groups, and my group members worked very well together this time. Here's a group photo that was taken while we were working on a roux for our mushroom veloute.

My practical exam for Stocks, Sauces and Soups was Monday and Tuesday which adds up to 12 hours of testing if you're wondering. Each student in my class was individually assigned two sauces, one soup and certain knife cuts to produce without notes or recipes. We weren't allowed to talk to anyone, and even the Chef was reluctant to answer any of our questions, and he deducted points if we had to ask questions. I lucked out in my soup assignment when the chef asked me to prepare a chicken vegetable. Very few if any of us were assigned a soup we had studied in class, and even though we hadn't prepared chicken vegetable in class, it required very few techniques which made it easy to prepare. I watched as my classmates prepared chowders, bisques, and creamy tomato soups as I prepared my thin chicken soup. I was relieved to say the least! For my sauces, I was asked to prepare a chicken veloute (basically a chicken stock thickened with a roux) and a hollandaise which is shown below:

The chef asked each of us to prepare certain cuts which he graded for correct size and consistency. Below are my potatoes (parmentier), leeks (brunoise), onions (brunoise) and carrots (brunoise, macedoine, and julienne). Again, they're not perfect, but I'm working on them.

And here I am with my friend Nia and Chef Jaffe after completing the class.

Yesterday was my first day of Introduction to European Cuisine. Exciting, right? Sadly we were in lecture all day yesterday (over 4 hours) and didn't get to produce anything, but we were given a thorough run-down of all that we will cover and I cannot wait! We will learn the ins and outs of braising and stewing and how these techniques differ between countries. A sub-focus of the class will be traditional European rice dishes such as rice pilaf and risotto as well as homemade pasta and pasta shaping. Today we will be making braised chicken legs and pork stew. Dinner should be delicious!

Also, for those of you who aren't on facebook, I have added a Photo Album section in the top right corner of the blog. This link will take you to more pictures of my culinary school journey.