Ahh, culinary school. I miss going to culinary school. Exciting and intimidating at the same time. Wearing crisp white chef jacket, that stupid cap, and apron... Posing in front of the mirror, feeling like a masterchef. Anticipating a fun cooking and/or baking lesson ahead in the commercial kitchen set-up... And wondering how we're gonna survive without injuring ourselves with the super sharp knifes and machineries, or being screamed at by the Chef instrutors... Sigh... memories.
I mentioned before in my previous post that I quitted from my boring desk-bound job last year to embark into an exciting journey of the culinary world. Well, after 4 years of of doing the same admin task over and over again (most of the time being distracted with many thoughts of food), I guessed it's better for me to quit before I went mental. I felt a little pinch though... because my salary wasn't too bad. But I tried to convince myself that it wouldn't hurt to try. If it didn't go well, I could just go back to doing admin job again. Haha!!
I did some research on culinary schools that offer short professional baking courses, and after much thought I decided to apply for a certificate programme at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy.
And so my 2 months of studying Certificate in Pastry and Bakery began!
These were the cool stuffs that we're given on the first day of school: 2 sets of chef jacket uniform, apron, cap, towel, the tool kits, a handbook and a diary! Yes you can keep all of these after you're done with the programme.
The course comprises of theory lessons in the classroom for a month and practical lessons in the kitchen for another month. In theory lessons we're taught about the importance of maintaining a safe working environment in the kitchen, safety food handling, the different type of ingredients used in baking, the science of baking and etc. Yeah it sounded kinda boring... But I surprised myself for not feeling bored at all throughout the whole month of theory lessons! That's what passion do to you. Turn you into an ultimate geek.
The real excitement began when the practical lesson started. But the rules in the kitchen were quite strict. We had to give our undivided attention during lessons and were warned to take it seriously. No fooling around. Or else we would be at risk of being scream at. Or worse still, get kicked out from the kitchen! I remember laughing out loud during one of the lessons, and I was given a deathly stare by my chef. Chefs are very scary people!
Firstly we're introduced to the different kinds of tools, equipments and machines that are normally used in commercial kitchens. The meat slicer frightened me the most. The chef told us many accounts of accidents that happened in the kitchen before, especially the ones that involved the meat slicer, and all I wanted to do was close my ears and went LALALALALALA~!!!
The first hands-on that we learned was the knife skill basics, and the four different cuts (refer to the photo above): Medium Dice (the cubes), Batonnet (the fat sticks), Julienne (the thin sticks) and brunoise (the super-mini cubes, that somehow reminds you of Bruno Mars). Actually there're a total of 9 cuts under the knife skill basics. But since this was a certificate programme, we're only taught on these four cuts. Thank God. Do you know how many times I felt like screaming while practicing on these four cuts only?
To test our knife skills further, we're told to cut different types of fruits and create our own fruit buffet. As you can see from the photo above, my team tried some funky pattern cuts. My chef snickered when we presented our plate.
Next! It's cooking time! You have no idea how happy I was to start cooking in a commercial kitchen! Cooking pancake at home is, without a doubt, a very simple task to do. But when it came to cooking in such a big kitchen, I suddenly felt quite lost. Haha! When we're commanded to prepare the Mise en place for the pancakes, my classmates and I were scurrying around like lost chickens looking for the right tools/equipments/ingredients to bring to our respective table. It must be a very funny sight to our chef, because she was having a field day laughing at the way we work.
After every practical lesson ended, we had to clean the kitchen by ourselves. That was my least favourite part of school. Especially when the drainage got stuck, it really dragged us down. And all areas had to be spick and span before we're allowed to be dismissed. Bleargh.
Yums. Now I feel like having a pancake.
There're times when we had to work in teams or individually. Honestly, I preferred to work alone most of the time. There're always the few stubborn ones who refused to be receptive to their team mates' ideas and decisions, and expected things to go their own ways. I couldn't count the number of heated arguments that erupted in the kitchen. And as we're in the kitchen, the arguments could be quite intense sometimes. I mean, there're knives everywhere. Anybody could have lost their temper and use it as a weapon.. hehe. Fortunately, all arguments ended quite well, even though the problems were not settled and both arguing parties decided not to talk to each other ever again.
Anyway, on a brighter note, there's also a lesson on dessert plating. And my proudest moment was when my chef complimented on my plating design (below) and showed my masterpiece to the whole class!
Next, our practical on whisking and piping skills: We learned to whisk the egg whites manually (until both of my hands were about to fall off) and also piping of cake batter in swirling/circular/straight motion.
The ones that we did individually were the Challah bread and the French apple tart. All the recipes given were marvellous!
Not to forget, our traditional Chinese and Malay kuehs/confections were also part of the module in the certificate programme.
The preparation of pre-mix, frozen and bake-off products module:
Yes, believe it or not, all the desserts from the photo above were pre-mix and bake-off products. Our chef taught us to decorate the pre-mix sponges/cakes/mousses so beautifully that they turned out to look like they were made from scratch. Awesome huh!
Last but not least, my ultimate favourite! Chocolate truffles!!:
Unfortunately we didn't have the privilege to do hands-on on chocolate tempering. The hands-on tempering module is only for the Diploma students. But we did learn some theories on how to temper the chocolate correctly. For this module, our chef did the tempering for us and we learned to form the tempered chocolate ganache into truffle balls by using the ball mould, and once the balls hardened, we coated them with snow powder/cocoa powder/more ganache. And we got to eat all this. They're crazy delicious!
At the end of all the lessons, we had to take final exams in order to be awarded with the certificate. For my class, we're tested on our knife skills (the four cuts), whisking and piping skills and the pre-mix module. The knife skills test was the most challenging. But our chefs were quite lenient with his marking, so all of my classmates and I passed!!