Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Uniform {Culinary School}

No.  I have not fallen off the face of the earth.  
Yes.  I'm still around.

For the past month and a half I have been enjoying my wonderful break from school, as well as from the blogging world.  

It was a joyous 7 weeks, filled with trying new recipes, enjoying the company of family and friends, and reflecting on the past few months in general.

My break will be over in 3 days and once again, I will be starting a new semester in culinary school.

This time around, I will be taking Intro to Culinary Skills (lecture class) and Culinary Skills (lab & lecture).

I have spent the last week or so cultivating the items needed for these two classes.  Things such as knives, spatulas, and garnishing kits were on the list.  As well as aprons, kitchen towels, and the biggest one of all….the uniform.  

I had a heck of a time obtaining the pieces of this uniform in the last few days.  
Originally, I had purchased the entire set at the school, however, I was informed that there was a mom and pop store that sold similar school approved uniforms at cheaper prices.  Not only this, their uniforms were tailored made to fit a women's figure, unlike the school's uniforms, which were unisex ones.  I spent the next few days going back and forth from my school to this store trying on different pieces and sizes until I found the perfect one for me.  What an experience!  

I've decided to break down the contents of my uniform so you will have a better understanding of what I will be wearing in some of my future pictures:
Item #1: The Caps
Every chef picture that I have ever seen in my lifetime consisted of them wearing one of these two hats up above.  The first hat that you see is called a skull cap.  The second hat, which is the bottom one, is called the mushroom/floppy cap.  Both of these are used to keep hair out of sight and out of the food that chefs prepare.  Originally I was going to wear the bottom one, however, once I saw how it looked on me (Husband Man got a good laugh out of that one), I went back to purchase the skull cap.  Needless to say, the skull cap won!  
Item #2: Double Breasted White Chef's Jacket
The title of this article of clothing pretty much explains itself.  
They had two versions that I had to choose from, one with french knots as buttons and one with regular plastic buttons.  I chose the one with plastic buttons because I wanted to be able to get dressed as quickly as possible in the mornings.  Have you tried buttoning a jacket with french knots?  Not fun at all!  
Item #3:  Black and White Checkered (hounds-tooth design) Chef Pants
Originally I had purchased these pants at the school.  I was mortified when I first tried them on because they were basically 'man' pants.  They were made to fit the body of a man, not a woman.  I looked like a clown when I tried them on because they were huge around the lower part of my body, even when I found the right waist size.  I figured I would see if I could get them hemmed and tailored before classes were due to start.  

When I came home, I was informed through a friend of mine about the mom and pop store that catered to women sized uniforms.  I took a trip to that store and hallelujah, they actually had pants that made me feel like a woman!  I purchased two sets from them and ended up getting a refund on the school's pants.
Item #4:  All black shoes with slip resistant soles/bottoms
I purchased these at the mom and pop store too!  They had other forms and types that fit the school's requirements and looked more feminine, however, I have been a Sketcher girl for basically most of my life so it was game over for me when I spotted those.  They aren't as stylish as I would like them to be, however, knowing that they are Sketchers will make me smile every time I start chopping an onion.  
So there you have it, the complete outfit!  I hope my new chef instructor approves!  

Stay tuned for more posts and recipes & wish me luck as I start this new journey of learning inside the kitchen labs!  

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

First Semester Wrap-Up {Culinary School}

Hello everyone!!!

I have some good news………

I have officially completed my first semester in culinary school!  

That's right.  It is 100% complete! And boy has it been a learning experience!  

Ever since I started this journey back in August, I have had numerous questions about the classes I'm taking and what I've been learning.  

I figured since I have completed the classes, this week would be a great week to share what I have learned.  So…let's get started! 
Note:  Please do keep in mind that the culinary program I am attending is located within our local community college, therefore certain other classes (besides culinary) are required in obtaining this degree.  Please also keep in mind that due to financial reasons and other family obligations, I will only be taking two classes per semester (part time) versus four classes (full time).  

First Class:
Intro to Computers

I have to admit, when my academic advisor told me I had to take this class, I was mortified!  I took it 15 years ago when I was going for my bachelors degree and it did not transfer over to this program.  I begged and pleaded with my advisor to see if I was able to 'get out' of taking it, but she told me that it was highly advised that I complete it.  After finishing it, I now understand why.

Computers have changed since the late 90's and taking this class proved this point.  

We learned the ins and outs of Microsoft Office 2013, which included Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Power Point, as well as how to navigate this 'new age' college computer system.  I had 15 quizzes, 2 to 3 classroom activities for each chapter we went over, 3 major tests, and 3 final exams.  

Someone actually asked me why I had to take this class, since I'm in culinary arts.  They were puzzled as they asked me, "I thought you worked with food, not computers?"  I found myself asking this same question throughout the entire 3 months.  

The answer finally dawned on me one day as I worked on an Excel spreadsheet.  They placed this class into the culinary arts curriculum because 'prospective' chefs may want to eventually own their restaurant or cafe'.  Without the basic knowledge of programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel, managing your own restaurant will be difficult.  

Word can be used to draft and create business letters, flyers, business cards, etc…
Excel can be used to figure out the restaurant's budget and payroll.
Power Point can be useful in employee training programs and the like.  

It all made sense.  I passed the class with a 92 and gained the knowledge that I needed to navigate my way through the basics of Microsoft Office.  Don't ask me to take it again though…lol…because this mama is finished with it.  

Second Class:
Food Safety & Sanitation
This class was the best one out of the two of them, but also the hardest one.  I may have thought it was the best one because it was my first official culinary class, so I was very excited to come to it every week.

If you ever wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes (sanitation wise) in every restaurant or cafe', this is the course you need to take.  From the causes and prevention of foodborne illnesses to the flow of food behind the scenes, this course covered it all.  
During the first few weeks, I felt like a medical student because we had to identify and learn the symptoms of all the different types of foodborne illnesses.  Needless to say, after I completed those chapters, I started thinking back to all those times when I thought I had the stomach flu.  I must have asked myself a dozen times, "was it really the stomach flu??"  
We also learned the correct minimal internal temperatures that food items need to reach before serving/eating.
Me…making my "freaking out" face while
sitting in my mini-van before I had to take two exams in a row
We learned how to properly receive and store food when owning a restaurant, as well as what kinds of materials would suffice when constructing your restaurant.

Between learning the illnesses, the temperatures, and everything else in between…my brain was fried every week.  We had 15 chapter quizzes, 3 major tests, 3 major class/culinary projects, 2 class activities, and our final was testing for national certification (if you chose to).  

I passed the class with a 92 and I am still waiting to see how I did with the certification.  

The one thing that amazes me so far about this class is how true to life it really is.  The rules that you follow at home while preparing your own food, are the same rules you learn in this class, except on a broader scale.  This may be one of the reasons why I received an A in the course, because as a home cook, I knew most of the rules already.  

For example: 
Always, always, always wash your hands before preparing any meal; If raw meat or poultry smells foul, then discard it; Canned food that has a bulge in it should be thrown out due to the growth of bacteria and the possibility of botulism.  

There were also new things that I learned as well:
-Be careful when using can openers to open cans.  Opening them may cause little shreds of aluminum to spill into the food, which can cause internal organ complications due to the shreds rubbing against your organs. 
-If you see any type of frozen food in the grocery store that has ice crystals on them, put it back and reject it.  The ice crystals are a sign that the product may have been defrosted prior to placing on the shelves.
-If you see fresh fish that have sunken eyes, do not purchase.  This is a sign of possible parasite infestation or time temperature abuse.

I could go on and on and on, however, I think you get the point ;)

Everything I learned in this class can be implemented into a home cook's everyday repertoire on a smaller scale.  I may actually start a series on that :)  What a concept!  

Over all, I am happy that my first semester started out the way it did.  I did hit some bumps along the way, this post and this post were written during that time.  

However, I came out shining like a new penny in the end!  I am glad I decided to stick with it.  I'm glad I wasn't among the ones who decided to give up (and trust me, there were quite a few people during the semester who ended up dropping out of both classes for one reason or another).

I have a month and a half off until my next semester and I am planning on enjoying my little break.  
The next two classes I signed up for will actually take me into the kitchen labs and into the world of taste testing and dish plating.  I will work alongside fellow classmates in the labs while being instructed by professional chefs.  I really hope I'm ready for this! 

Pray for me!!!

Till then……

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