Testing, Testing - Is This Thing On?

Cooking School Daze exam, part 1


After almost six months of learning all aspects of cooking and baking, it is time for us to see if anything actually sunk in. We were nervous wrecks for the last few weeks. There were so many techniques and possible course combinations, we didn’t know what to expect. According to May, the first week of testing consisted of getting the ingredients for three courses. Acting like private chefs, we had to know what to cook when in order for everything to be presented like a real meal: with a 10-15 minute break between course servings. 

We all showed up at the appointed time of 6:30 p.m. Every student was standing by his or her station, knives at the ready as May handed out the single sheets of paper. We had to present everything to her by 9 p.m. No exceptions. 
We all showed up at the appointed time of 6:30 p.m. Every student was standing by his or her station, knives at the ready as May handed out the single sheets of paper. We had to present everything to her by 9 p.m. No exceptions. 

This is exactly what was on the sheet:

Mushroom Veloute

1 tablespoon clarified butter
½ onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon vermouth
1 sprig thyme
¼ cup cream

Green Salad with French Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced shallot
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 big handful mixed salad greens

Macerate the shallot in the vinegar for 5 minutes. Stir in mustard, then olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add greens, toss and serve.

Braised Chicken with Tomatoes, Tarragon and Leeks

½ Chicken
1 large or 2 small tomatoes or ½ cup canned
1 tablespoon tarragon leaves
1 medium leek
½ ounce butter
½ cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock

That was the whole thing. Obviously, we needed to start with the chicken, since making everything else could be done while the chicken was cooking. Everyone grabbed the whole chickens. We actually had to share them, being that the recipe only called for a half. But not only was May looking for how well the dish came out, but if we knew how to cut up a chicken the proper way. I was lucky enough to get to chop the chicken in half. I was SO glad it’s something I do very often. I cut off the wings and the legs, sliced down the back, took the backbone off, split the breasts and was done. I even went a step further and cut the larger breast portions in two, to make sure it all looked even. 

All through this process, May browsed around checking on what we were doing. I browned the chicken, then cooked the leeks in some leftover fat from the skin, deglazed the pan, and added the rest of the ingredients except for the tarragon, which I would put in later. In the convection oven it went at 325 degrees to cook for about an hour or so.

Next it was time for me to gather all the salad ingredients. Some of the students started on the soup, but I wanted to make sure the salad and dressing were prepared, so all I had to do was toss everything together while May was sampling the soup. If I had to gather all the ingredients after serving May the soup, there wouldn’t have been enough time since the shallots had to marinate for a few minutes. So, I chose this way.

The Mushroom Veloute was a challenge for everyone, so we learned afterwards. See, May gave us a clue in her pre-test instructions. She made us aware of where all the equipment was and even said, “And the blenders are down here on the shelf.”

Well, there was a Cuisinart food processor in the area where the supplies were laid out. So, we all used that instead of a blender to puree the soup. WRONG! It seems the blender makes a lovely, thick puree. The Cuisinart? Not so much. We strained the pieces out and the soup was watery for all of us. Serves us right for being lemmings, huh?

Luckily for most of us, that was all that we got wrong. I found out I needed to brown my chicken just a little longer. Cathy needed a bit more salt in something. Someone else’s white meat was overdone because they didn’t take it out first to let the dark meat cook a bit longer (another technique trick they were testing for). I’m happy to say that everyone passed. We celebrated with drinks afterwards and talked about next week’s adventure. That will be the real challenge for us as there are no recipes. May just tells us what to make and we have to make it. Oh goody, I can’t wait.

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  • I too am a Culinary student. I hate those kind of test.It so nice to talk to other culinary students from other schools. I am 50 years old. I started CS in May 2010. I don't get to take a full load because I have to pay for everything out of my pocket. Our school does not participate in student loans and we make too much for a pell grant. I am disabled which makes those long days in the kitchen so physically hard. I have a GPA of 3.83 on a 4.o scale. I take great pride in my grades bc when I was in High school(1979) all I ever made were c's,d's and f's.. I've been given a second chance at learning and it is what I am passionate about so I don't want to mess it up. I am a Christian. I have a husband that is a bi-vocational Baptist preacher. My daughter got married 10 Days before I started CS in May 2010. I had to take last summer semester off because of surgury. I am doing my apprenticeship starting this semester along with other courses. I am a member of the ACF. Tell me about you..

    Mar 31, 2012 at 3:53 AM

  • Snooth User: Rona Lewis
    359096 115

    Wow Kathy, you been through quite a lot! I give you props for being so focused on your goals!! I'm a fitness and lifestyle coach and cookbook author. I'm also a motivational speaker. This chef class adventure gives me even more credibility and education to help people live healthier lives. I work with both private and corporate clients here in Los Angeles. i wish you the best of luck with your schooling. Enjoy the process!

    Mar 31, 2012 at 10:58 AM

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