Friday, March 30, 2007

June 2004

Since this is in the past, I'll publish a month at a time to make it easier (for you and me)

June 1, 2004

Master and Commander No more; maybe of fava beans!

Well today was my first day of free labor. Well at my other job that I hold I "command" a crew of up to 7-8 people to do my bidding. It was kind of strange to be the low man on the totem pole and know absolutely nothing.

Kinda learned where eveything is, stuff for cold app, hot apps, veggie and all that. Prepped some chives, strawberries. Learned the difference betweek Daikon sprouts and Arugula sprouts. Cut some bread for croutons. An oh I peeled lots and lots of fava beans.

I read how many chefs only order from the best purveyors. So I guess someone has to prep all that stuff if it does not come out of a can.

Then I learned a lot of the students are going arrive to do their internship ill prepared. So hopefully this will get me to be a leg up on those people.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

June 2, 2004

Stuff I learned today:

1. Debeard mussels

2. Stuffed some piquillo peppers with brandade.

3. Learned what brandade is.

4. Made 100 toasted bagels topped with pesto, sauted fennel bulb, and supposed to be thinly smoke salmon and garnished with a little chervil.

5. Folded some pot stickers.

Man slicing that salmon so that it is transparent, whew that's a pretty tough task for a newbie. Believe me it was not the knife either. The sous chef showed me how to do it with my knife. Then after I got frustrated the chef let me use a sashimi knife and then another flexible slicer. Still my cuts were like 1/8 inch thick, insted of 1/24th. Oh well, I will just have to practice my knife skills at home.

Then I folded (attempted) to fold some pot stickers. I always read the the dishwasher probably knows more than you (me-newbie). Well our dishwasher showed all of us how to fold the potsticker. That was one of the most frustrating things I have done yet. So I gues I will have to buy some now and practice a home.

Dim sum anyone? Take care

June 9, 2004

What I learned:

I learned that old people like me need to be in better shape to stay in this game (and who are not sick and dehydrated). My frickin' shoulder was tired after whisking like 12 eggs.

I used to do San Shou. A form of Chinese kickboxing similar to Muay Thai. Damn I am tired. So tomorrow I will update my journal with more details.

June 10, 2004

Things I learned today at the restaurant:

1. This I kind of knew. I made a marinade used traditionally for bulgogi (Korean BBQ) but it was going to be used to marinate Kobe Beef instead

2. Blanche Fries: I am so used to the term blanche, to boil something in water like veggies, bacon. I knew you were supposed to cook fries twice. I guess almost everything is cooked close to completion and finished off when the customer arrives.

3. Roasted some plum tomatoes.

4. To use the steel after most cutting jobs.

5. A tomato is a fruit, but I guess to paraphrase: because someone did not want to pay taxes on it because all vegetables are taxed. And that genetically it is a fruit, but the US Supreme Court ruled that everyday use is as a vegetable even though it is a fruit, so one has to pay taxes on it. Or something like that...

6. How to make our Caesar salads and green salads

7. The proper whisking technique so my shoulder does not get tired. (Have not mastered this one yet)

8. Used a food mill to make mashed potatoes

9. Breaded some croquets

10. Learned some of the side dishes (pea sprouts, arugula)

11. Learned an appetizer (mussels and clams in a white wine sauce)

12. Always use hand towels to grab any pot or pan.

13. I am going to have to do more shoulder exercises to get in shape!

Tell you about the wineries we went to today later!

June 13, 2004

Lodi Winery Visit:

For those of you unfamiliar with the Lodi region of CA, it is as far North as Napa/Sonoma and if you go east from there its about an hour away.

If you get a chance visit the Jewell Winery:

They are only about two years old. They do not grow their own grapes, but buy the best grapes in bulk and make their own wine.

Unlike Napa/Sonoma where you have to pay for most tasting its free. We got to try at ALL the wines, it was 11 overall. They are missing the port and the Barbera from the website.

I really like the style. All the reds were smooth, not too many tannins. Even though most were young they were very distinct the Petit Syrah smell STRONGLY of blueberries and the Merlot had some definite pepper to it.

The best thing all the wines are 9.99 or less, except the Barbera which was 19.99. And with 12 bottles or more a 25% discount. So we bought 12 bottles for gifts and ourselves for about $100.

I know you can buy Charles Shaw for $1.99 and the Syrah made the last cut at the international wine competition in NY, but my pallate does not like that wine.

June 14, 2004

First day of class.

I am glad that it does not look like there are any really young students in my class. Its a pretty small class only 10, I think. There is even a married couple in the class. The younger guys all seem to have experience somewhere.

I on the otherhand was the trivia master (so I hope I did not look like a big nerd). ie. I was the only one who knew who Careme', Escoffier, James Beard were and the name of Alice Waters restaurant. I even knew that Jeremiah Tower was an apprentice there (100 extra bonus points :)

I do not think that there are other people interested in French cooking as much as I am. We shall see. So we did a little history and cleaned up the herb garden.

THEN I had to drive 30 miles to cover the luch shift for a couple of hours then drive back to my other place of work until 7:45 pm and now I gotta do homework.

Whew! with my day starting at 5:45am, its been kinda long.

Till next time!

June 15, 2004

Today we started by working on the garden. I never thought this would be something I would do while in school, but I guess we have to get fresh herbs from somewhere!

So we learned about 150 basic ingredients terms inpreparation for the product ID section. Then we started the ServSafe section. Dry stuff, but a necessary component. Common sense for the most part. Our teacher said he would give us $5 if we could beat his score of 98%, so we shall see.

Then we sampled a French menu the older students cooked. Rabbbit, escargot, vegestable soup. It was OK, but who am I to complain? If I was at a restaurant I would not have been happy, but I know they are learning too. Besides they used canned escargot?!

At the restaurant:

1. Made my first pastry ever: Apricot tart with a honey glaze and them made apricot custard.

2. Actually made chicken stock for the first time.

3. The chef and I washed all the dishes because the a.m. dishwasher called in sick.

That's it for today!

June 16, 2004

Another dry day of ServSafe. We had fun though. The class which is down one already seems to be gelling well. The one guy who dropped really did not fit in. He honestly said when the Chef asked him why he was there, "I have no idea.!?!" He did not even taste any of the food yesterday. Oh well, good luck to him. I hope he finds himself.

Anyway who eats walrus on the continental US? It was mentioned that undercooked walrus meat can give you trichinella. Eskimos?!

So today we ate a beef stew, cream of cauliflower and shrimp and scallops over hollandaise. The beef and soup was undersalted, a little salt added. Hmm so much better. The scallops were cooked perfectly.

Have you read "Soul of a Chef?" It is really good. I want to be like Chef Thomas Keller, maybe in 15 years. Its not too far away I could sell my first born for an apprenticeship. We'll see what the wife says.

Did I mention these 15 hour days suck?

June 27, 2004

First Menu

We have an assignment due Thursday to create a menu for out imaginary restaurant. The final goal of the project is to determine cost and price out the menu. Most of the recipes are from "Professional Cooking" by Gisslen since they are already costed out, but I have used some reciped from the French Laundry, Farallon, the CIA and Cafe Boulud. I would like to do more, but finding the prices for some items is difficult.


Purée of Green Pea Soup with Mint Cream
Salad of Belgian Endive, Scallops, and Walnuts
Potato and Leek Soup with Sorrel
Asparagus and Lobster Salad

Escalope of Salmon and Sorrel
Roasted Monkfish Wrapped in Proscuitto
Crispy Sea Bass with Spices and Coriander Jus


Herb Roasted Squab with Mousse of Foie Gras
Lamb Medallions with Thyme and Garlic Cream with Zucchini Sauté Provençale
Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna, and Bordelaise Sauce
Duck Confit and Salad of Mixed Cabbage and Apples
Roast Loin of Pork with Sage and Apples
Sautéed Veal Sweetbreads and Shiitake Mushrooms

Vegetable Ravioli in Lemon Grass Broth
Eggplants Bayaldi with Sautéed Mushrooms

Chocolate XS Cake
Truffled Crème Brulee
Walnut Soup
Vanilla Soufflé’
(Pleasse order 20 minutes in advance)
Chilled Melon and Mint Soup

Three Courses 25, Four Courses 35, Five Courses 45
Tax and gratuity not included. Private dining rooms available. Kindly note that an 18% service charge will be added to parties of eight or more. At Sensations Restaurant we request that all cellular phones be turned off during your visit.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Rander's Food Ratings

19 to 20 = Exceptional. I would fly to eat here and have no trouble spending a day's pay to dine here.
17 to 18 = Excellent. Driving two hours to eat here, would be time well spent.
15 to 16 = Very Good. I would miss a Chicago Bears game to eat here.
13 to 14 = Good. I would recommend eating here.
10 to 12 = Average. I would or would not eat here again. It would depend on my company.
6 to 9 = Poor. I would not eat here for free.
1 to 5 = Very Poor. I would not eat here if you paid me.

I will usually give two ratings. One for a score versus similar type restaurants, for example writing a review for Il Forno and then comparing Il Fono vs Biba as well as an overall dining experience.

I think this gives a better picture. For example Squeeze Inn vs all burger joints I would give an 16/20, but overall a 13/20 vs the overall landscape of restaurants.

Wine: I will usually comment on wine, but I think good wine can make a good meal a very good meal. It cannot though, make mediocre meal better.

Ambiance: I will comment on this, but not score it. There are some gems that are just holes in the wall, but serve good food.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

July 2004

Thursday, July 01, 2004

At school we took a field trip to an organic farm. It was pretty interesting. One thing I learned is that there is a new way of planting tomatoes. First dig a hole and plop the tomato plant down, let it grow about about a foot or so. Then uproot it and horizontally replant with only about 6 inches above ground. One needs to trim the branches of the part that is buried underneath. So the first 12 inches become a whole new root system so the plant is more stable and produces more fruit.
Also I learned you only need to buy one tomato plant for every four you need. Plant the "mother" plant and then strip with an angle cut and replant 3 branches. Each branch will become an entirely new plant.

I had a Barabietola de Chioggia which are basically sweet orange an white beets. They had a beet and sweet cantaloupe taste to them. They were so yummy.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

My new knife.

The Mac Knife MBK-95. The Professional Series 9.5 in knife. I figured I did not need to spend an excessive amount of money since I am just a beginner. I wanted to test drive the Shun 10" but none of the places I went to had it, only the 8".

I test drove the Henckels Four Star and Professional and the Wustof 10" knives. They were all too heavy for me. I like the Mac its heavier than a Global, but about half the weight of the Henckels or Wustofs.

WOW, it is SHARP. I thought my Shun was sharp! Best of all if you live in the Sacramento Area and go up to the warehouse, Harold will give you 20% off IF you are a culinary student. (Well he at least did for me, I did not even ask.)

THOMAS KELLER "SIGNATURE" KNIVESKnives are the most important tools in the professional and home kitchen. Thomas Keller has chosen MAC to produce his signature knives stamped from a custom blended, high carbon, Molybdenum alloy that is rust proof and stain resistant. The blades are tempered to an extremely hard 58°-60° Rockwell C to maintain their sharpness longer than any other knife.Manufactured in Seki, Japan, the knives feature razor sharp edges and thin blades for precise control and effortless cutting.These exceptional knives are specially made for Thomas Keller with beautiful white Corian handles and permanently etched with his signature.

July 13, 2004
One week to go...

This week we are pricing out our menus and doing conversions. Nothing exciting. The usual 1.5lb = ? grams, so on and so forth.

The Baking class starts in a couple of weeks and I cannot wait to get in the kitchen.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
I swear some of the students are idiots here. I was reading a report about a restaurant that someone interviewed the sous chef and kept writing "Sue Chef." I was like Chef Sue?

"What are you cooking?"
"Some potato stuff and meat stuff."
I was thinking he'll never be a Sue chef.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Gawd, we are STILL doing culinary calculations! I knew I should have skipped school today, but oh well. C'est la vie.

What is wrong with the baking class? I know this is not the CIA or Wales and Johnson, but you would think that after five weeks of making muffins they could get it right for once. The last four weeks the muffins were hard, but had a little flavor to them. So I went to the cafe figuring the last week the muffins should be good. I bought one, it even soft and warm still. "Finally" I thought "a good muffin." So I bite into it, BLEH! I am pretty sure they forgot to add sugar. Baking is next, and I have made a vow to perfect muffins by the first week even if I have to do them at home.

I am bringing in the big guns, "CIA: the Professional Chef," "Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg" and the "King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion." All will be memorized and conversions optimized. We shall not fail!
Monday, July 26, 2004
So today is the first day of baking. What did we do MORE CONVERSIONS. I was seriously about to walk out of class. I am soooooooooo glad my class is relatively intelligent. The chef told us the last class took 3 days to understand the formula:

weight of ingredient_______________ X 100 = % of ingredient
weight of flour.

THREE DAYS?!?!?!?!? They need to have their heads examined.
So it seems that we are the guinea pig class. They are trying a sort of new curriculum on us. So instead of making muffins, cookies, etc for the cafe every morning we are going to do have a lot more variety and less repetition. So hopefully this goes well. We got our knife kit today too. Yuck I really do not like the Messenmeister knives we got. I am glad I already have a chef's knife. So we shall see how the rest of the week goes.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004


FINALLY. We are in the kitchen. So our first assignment was to make chocolate chip cookies. Hmm, for some reason they turned out a little too crumbly. I am not sure if it is that European butter blend (50% butter/50% margarine) crap or too much butter. I double checked out conversions and it was correct. They were nice and gooey though, the way I like them.
The other group did peanut butter cookies and theirs' turned out better, C'est la vie. A little competition is good for the soul. Both of our batches turned out better than the last bakery's class on the first day. I was stoked.

Then we started some French bread. My chef had to leave for an hour so they will finish baking after we leave. Tomorrow we shall see how things go. Overall a good day though.

It's kinda funny.Wherever there is school there always is some kind of drama. One of the guys in my class was hitting on one of the girls in the Baking and Patisserie class specialty. I guess the other rather unattractive girl likes him too. She call the first girl a slut. The baker's have 10 inch chef knives too, hopefully during the cat fight no blood will be shed.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Man I am sooooooo tired. How tired? This is what happened this morning. We had to make brownies so I started to make the chocolate. I weighed out 1 lb 11 oz of butter blend and 18 oz of chocolate chips. I cut up the butter and added the chips to a metal bowl and proceeded melt it over a double boiler.

The other group was melting theirs too, I looked over and it seemed like there was a lot more butter in theirs. We triple checked our calculations so I was sure that we had enough and measure out correctly.

So I finished melting ours and showed it to the chef. He said "Wow, that is beautiful." The other group's was watery. So he was all like THIS is how it should be. The other group gave me playful hits and teasing, because he made them do it over again. So they do it over AGAIN and get the same result.

Now they were really giving me the evil eye. I just shrugged my shoulders . So we all tried to figure it out.

So the chef said, "what's that" And on the table was my 1 lb of butter! Doh! I only added 11oz of butter.

But the chef liked it so much, he turned it into a real ganache.

So we still have not figured out why the chocolate is so runny. I posted on Hopefully, they can solve our problem.