Journal of a Poor Culinary Student

Started by Ryven, March 23, 2011, 02:04:43 PM

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I'm not opposed to a wine sauce here and there. ^-^  The men would be the eye candy, yes. :P


Menu Management, Nutrition, and Uncertainty

I'm approaching the halfway point through this quarter, and so far, I find myself doing quite well.  Nutrition has turned out to be a bit odd, however.  This quarter it has been shifted into a lab more than a theory class.  As a class, we've had a pretty loose explanation of exactly what in the field of nutrition we are learning about.  Given the way the past couple of weeks have gone, I'm figuring the chef instructor is teaching from the point of view that we as chefs will need the information.  So far, we've covered vegetarian diets, gluten-free cooking, and alternative proteins.  My guess is that this knowledge will need to be used more in application rather than understanding about the amounts of nutrients, proteins, carbs, and fats that we need and how the body utilizes them.  After all, we are all (hopefully) going to go forward to use our teaching in an applied setting.  We should know the more intricate details of non-standard diets.  Now that I write this, it does make more sense to me.  I guess my only concern is the lack of theoretical material.  There is some, don't get me wrong, but I guess I'm just not used to this type of environment yet.

Menu management is more theoretical.  I've just turned in my mid-term paper which explains my restaurant concept, mission statement, executive statement, and all the specifics about the restaurant I will theoretically open if I had the means.  I am better understanding how the menu is really the foundation of a restaurant and how it runs.  Even the look of the menu has a great impact on the expectation of the food and service in a restaurant, which I guess I knew all along but never really thought about.  I've decided to just go with a bar and lounge type restaurant (minus the eye candy for this project).  My menu consists of tapas style Southern U.S. influenced cuisine.  Things like cajun shrimp sliders (an homage to a shrimp po' boy) and fried green tomato sandwich will appear on the menu.

My uncertainty comes in, (I can't recall if I've stated this before), when I think about post graduation.  I am not sure what will come when I find a job actually in a kitchen.  I have so many questions and concerns with this.  Will I actually be able to find a job or will it turn out like my first degree where I have a shiny piece of paper stating something that no one really takes into account?  When I do find a job, will I actually enjoy it?  Granted, I know that there will be times and even jobs that I will have to make do with until I find something I actually want to do.  I guess I just have a fear of the unknown.  I'm not a very aggressive person on the outside.  I'm not loud.  I don't share my thoughts very often until I've gotten to know someone better.  I'm a person to sort of test the waters and lay low until I understand the dynamic, find a comfort zone in a new place or a new relationship, but after that, I have direction and I make a move if I need to.  I have a silent strength which I think sometimes works against me because people can mistake it for apathy or lack of passion.  I'm trying to change that in myself, and I do see a difference in my personality in the past ten years.  My mind sometimes sabotages me though, and I have to learn to overlook those thoughts or deal with them in an appropriate way instead of just recycling them through and through until I just feel like crap and ask myself if I'm actually cut out for this or am I just wasting my time and money.  That is when the pressure is the worst.  I'll be in debt when I'm done even more than I was when I started.  I'm just hoping that I can get a job and make some money to get out of it.  I just want to see a light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel.


Ry! I bought a lot of wholemeal flour and rye flour for my bad bread baking habit, but my sisters demand sweet things instead of the barrage of bread goods I keep pushing onto them. Can I use Rye and/or Wholemeal flour for cupcakes? Or is it a bad idea and I should just not do it? Help me, mister muffin man!


I had to look up wholemeal flour and discovered it is the UK term for whole wheat flour which cleared a few things up for me.

Unless you're going to play off the flavor of rye, I would steer clear of making any kind of sweet treat with rye flour.  It has a very distinctive flavor which may or may not go well with added sweetness or other flavors that are thought to be more sweet such as chocolate.

Whole grain or wholemeal as you call it, is perfectly fine to use for sweet treats.  That being said, whole wheat flour should be mixed with another kind of flour if you're going to use it.  Using whole wheat flour alone will not create the texture you're going to want in cupcakes, and on that note, I wouldn't use whole wheat flour for a cupcake, per say.  A muffin (funny enough) would probably be more appropriate for the added texture and fiber.  Whole wheat blueberry muffins, for example, would be a sweet baked good that whole wheat flour would work well in.  Again, make sure you use some kind of other wheat flour (bread, high gluten, all purpose, pastry, etc) as well or you will end up with dense bricks as opposed to a lighter, fluffier textured baked good.


You're so wise! Thanks ever so much. <3


You're quite welcome, dear! ;D  Happy baking!

The Golden Touch

Easy Peppermint Fudge

    2 cups dark chocolate chips (Can also use milk chocolate if you prefer)
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk
    1 teaspoon peppermint extract
    1/4 cup crushed hard peppermint candy

In heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt chips with EAGLE BRAND®.
Remove from heat; stir in peppermint extract.
Spread evenly into waxed paper-lined 8-or 9-inch square pan. Sprinkle with peppermint candy.
Chill 2 hours or until firm. Turn fudge onto cutting board; peel off waxed paper and cut into squares. Store covered in refrigerator.

Its a slightly modified recipe I found on I preferred the dark chocolate, since it gives me less headaches. The one teaspoon of peppermint extract can be lowered or increased depending on your preferences. Its very easy to do. >3

"Yesterday was the easy day."
Ideas (Open) /What Floats My Boat\ Absences


Omanomanoma!  I would be the only one to eat it, sadly.  Roommate does not like chocolate and mint together.

On another note, here are a few things I am looking forward to cooking in the next few weeks in American Regional Cuisine:

Fried Green Tomatoes with Blue Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Red Beans and Rice
Baked Cheese Grits
Wisconsin Cheddar and Beer Soup
Shrimp Tacos with Green Chile Sauce
Marinated Grilled Quail on Spinach Salad
Lamb Shoulder with Cilantro pesto and Jalapeno preserves
Sauteed Duck Breast with Port Wine Reduction
Strawberry Shortcake with Cornmeal Biscuit,
Pear and Hazelnut Salad with Oregon Blue Cheese
Strawberry Brulee
Pineapple Fritters with Maui Mango Sauce


Better Late than Never Update and Dismissal of Uncertainty

It has definitely been a while since I updated this.  A lot has happened since I last posted when I was about to start American Regional Cuisine.  I finished that class with an A and went into Classical Cuisine which was more of an appreciation class than an actual class meant to teach technique and skill.  All of the dishes we made used techniques we had already learned, but they were recipes that were classic to Western  and some of Eastern Europe.  We studied the British Isles, Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, and Scandinavia.  We also could use no powered equipment in the class which meant we had to grind our pepper by hand using only our cutting board and our knife.  It was truly an experience, but it was the most entertaining class I've had yet.  Having only 6 students total including myself also made it more enjoyable as well.

Near the middle to end of my Classical class, things at work took a turn downward.  The restaurant chain I work for was a franchise until corporate bought them out in mid-March.  Whatever enjoyment I had at work began to spiral down the drain quickly.  Not only were a bunch of policies that made little sense put into place, but already unrealistic expectations were made even more unrealistic with corporate rule.  On top of all of that confusion, our general manager got transferred to another store, so amidst the confusion of understanding all of the new procedures and policies, we had to get used to a new GM.  It quickly went from knowing what was needed to be done and how to do it to the procedure and specifications changing every. Single. Day.  It seemed that no one could give a straight answer as to how something was done.  It became completely frustrating to do my job and then be continually told that I'm not doing it the 'correct' way even though I am following the new corporate procedure for doing the tasks I'm supposed to do.  I'm even told by the new GM that I'm doing a good job because I'm following her specifications which she has shown me from the corporate specification resource, but other managers are telling me that I'm doing it wrong.

This continued up until a few weeks ago when I had finally gotten frustrated with all the BS and began to look for a new job.  It was so bad that when I finally found a job and put in my 2 weeks notice, I was the fifth person in a month to do so.  No one is happy there, and I know managers who are even looking for new jobs because of the BS that is happening on a daily basis.  This brings me to my next point.

My new job will be working in the kitchen of a university dining hall.  This happens to be the same university that I received my bachelor's degree from, so I am very comfortable with the place.  On top of that, it's in the field that I want to work in, so it will warrant me experience which will likely count for my culinary field experience for my associate's degree.  I no longer feel a great deal of uncertainty with my upcoming graduation.  I only have about 4 quarters left, possibly less which means a year at most.  I can't wait to be finished with school.  It's not that I don't enjoy it, but having to split my time between a job and school is draining both mentally and physically.  I would like to be able to concentrate on one which will be my job after I graduate, and I want to use some of my off time to read, study, and explore some of the things I don't learn at school.  I find myself just unable to find time or motivation to put in extra learning when I am at max capacity right now.  Not much longer though.  :-)

I will leave everyone with a question though which has made me curious.  What do you think makes a chef?  Is it the piece of paper one receives from school  or is it something more?  I have my own feelings on the matter, but I want to know what everyone else thinks.


Did you mean for people to put their answer to your question here or was that a rhetorical question?

BTW I am so glad that you have a new job and that you are doing well in your studies, I knew you would. Congrats and I can't wait until the time comes when Chef Raven will be the title you have. Hugs
May light guide you through your turmoil and may darkness never cross your path.

White Light be upon you if that is your wish


By all means, leave any answer you have here. :-)


What do you think makes a chef?  Is it the piece of paper one receives from school  or is it something more?

In my opinion a chef has to have a few qualities that others do no possess. First a chef is a person with the highest regard for the ingredients he/she uses. What I mean by that is that they use top quality products and let the diner experience exactly what that product is suppose to taste like. That's is not to say that they do not manipulate the ingredient to make something more of it but the ingredients are allowed to shine through and make a statement. They can do this because they have been trained and because they have a very good palate themselves. Second I think a love of food and cooking is a must in order to be a great chef. I have met cooks who do the job because it is a source of income and I have met chefs who do the job because it is really something they love and are passionate about. There is a big difference. Third I believe to be a really wonderful chef they never stop learning. They are always improving and expanding their culinary skills which in today's world keeps them in high demand.

I actually do not believe that a piece of paper has anything to do with whether someone is a chef or not. There are hundreds of people who attend culinary school and attain a piece of paper that says they are a chef yet their mind set betrays them. They neither have the passion or the love of food that makes a chef.

Well that is my opinion, thanks for letting me express it here.

May light guide you through your turmoil and may darkness never cross your path.

White Light be upon you if that is your wish


I tend to agree on most points, but you can't always have the highest quality ingredients.  Further, you wouldn't necessarily want the highest quality ingredients depending on what you are making.  Quality also has several different definitions.  If you're making banana bread, you wouldn't want fresh picked bananas from the tree.  You'd want them to ripen to the point that they nearly look like they've gone off.  There is a regard for ingredients, definitely, but I like to rather think that instead of always seeking out the highest quality, a chef knows how to discern what ingredients are needed and then be adaptable in case they cannot always find what they are looking for.

Everything else I pretty much agree with.  A paper doesn't make you a chef, but it will certainly help you obtain a job. :-)


I agree with that Ryven. I hadn't thought of it that way but I definitely agree with it.

The paper does help in getting the job but I wish that it didn't. However I am happy that you will attain one so that you will
get a fabulous job. I know you will too.

Hugs and thanks for sharing your journey with us.
May light guide you through your turmoil and may darkness never cross your path.

White Light be upon you if that is your wish


It helps, but it is not necessary.  There are several people who have been in the field for years who have never been to culinary school, and many of them know more than those who have been through school.  Experience plays a big part in just about every job, including cooking.


Something random:

I don't know how true it is, but I've heard that one must taste something 12 times before it is firmly implanted as a memory of taste.


Just stopping by to say missed you and hope to hear the latest, from your culinary journey, soon.

May light guide you through your turmoil and may darkness never cross your path.

White Light be upon you if that is your wish


The Beginning of the End

So, it has been a long, long time since I've even looked at this.  Much has happened since I last posted.  I suppose I should start where I left off and work my way back to today.

My job at the dining hall began with a rough transition.  It wasn't the job itself that had caused me any sort of discomfort but rather my own mental and physical wiring.  I seem to have a problem with anxiety which I have been able to get under control over the past few months.  I cannot say why, but the transition into this new field seemed to fill me full of anxiety.  Looking back at it now, I see there was really nothing for me to worry about, but its hard to tell yourself that when you have no idea of the cause.  I can only guess that my own drive to do well as well as the importance I put on my own future prospects was the cause.  There were times at work when I felt like I was outside of myself looking in.  I felt like my entire body was on edge and each movement I made was like pushing through mud.  My heart raced and my vision went red at times.  My breathing was labored, and I could do nothing to make it stop. 

Somehow, I made it through each day like that until something gave and the symptoms simply faded.  While it does appear I have an anxiety problem, it seems I also recover from such things rather quickly.  Being prepared and learning from experience have been the best tools to help me overcome most of my obstacles in life, including this.  That coupled with a few visits to my counselor have allowed me to pretty much take control again.  I now feel I am much more prepared for what is to come.

Now onto school which is what this is all really about.  During the fall of last year, I took Mediterranean and Asian Cuisine.  They were two separate courses both of which I did well at.  The following winter at the beginning of this year was my A la carte kitchen class which basically put me in the restaurant at school.  I got some good experience there in both front and back of house.  My current quarter which just ended for me is my last.  I had my business plan class where I had to put together my restaurant business plan, and I also had my contemporary cuisine class where I studied chefs such as Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm, Eric Ripert, Grant Achatz, Heston Blumenthal, an Joel Robuchon.  All of these chefs currently work in the industry and own restaurants.  Most of them have earned at least one Michelin star, and Heston Blumenthal's restaurant, The Fat Duck, has been voted best restaurant in the world three times.  The course took us through fusion cuisine, molecular gastronomy, and modern European cuisine.  All of the dishes involved new techniques, new combinations of ingredients, and a very clean and composed presentation style.  At the end of the quarter, we hosted a final dinner where we invited people who work in the industry locally.  They are prospective employers for us.  We chose 5 of the most technically challenging, beautifully presented, and flavorful dishes to make for them.  It went surprisingly smoothly for us.

Even though I have enjoyed my time at school, I am glad for it to be coming to an end.  I'm ready to leave being a student behind so I can finally begin a career.  I have job prospects that make me hopeful.  I have enjoyed the journey, and even though it's going to cost me quite a bit financially, I think it was worth it.

Below are some of the dishes I have made:

Marinated Beef Lettuce Wrap

Raspberry Napolean

Smoked Couscous Salad with Melon and Cherry Tomato Confit

Red Cabbage Gazpacho with Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream