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Diary: November 27, 2002

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Tuesday, November 27

Before we have taken previous holiday breaks from school, we have completely scrubbed down the kitchen before our departure. This week was no exception, and now that the 200 pies for charity are completely baked, packaged, and bundled, there was no excuse for not focusing on the project. I had planned to take tomorrow off for the holiday, so I felt a special obligation to work hard on cleaning things up. When we broke into lunch teams, I asked Chris F. (my teammate) if I could spend most of my time in the pastry kitchen cleaning up. He said that'd be fine, so I took care of our salad and our dessert and then started organizing, wiping and scrubbing. I managed to clean and organize the supply shelves and got roughly half the Kitchen-Aid mixers scrubbed down before going back to help Chris finish the last bits of lunch.

We had oysters with a fennel topping as our first course. I scrubbed them down and worked with Chris on the filling. As we were finishing putting them together, I wondered aloud who decided to eat an oyster for the first time. It doesn't look like anything to put in your mouth. The batch we were using was particularly nasty, with barnacles all over and tons of mud and a few worms besides. Ick. The oysters themselves tasted fine. Lobster is another example...who decided to cook and eat one of those things the first time it was done? It doesn't look like anything I'd mentally identify as food.

After we ate, we worked on our usual cleanup and then switched over to the more intensive tasks. I broke down the meat slicer for my part of the dirty work; I hadn't realized that the slicer was only used for shaving the fennel when I volunteered for the job, so I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't too nasty. (Meat usually gets pasted down along the edge of the blade, and it's a bitch to clean the thing. I used to work in a grocery deli-bakery back in college and I detested cleaning the meat slicers most of all tasks there.)

After lunch, I delivered my oral report on Colorado Kitchen, and then Chef Peter let us go a few minutes early. I immediately hit the road to come see my family for a much-needed Thanksgiving break.

From the car, I called Chef Scott at Ortanique and spoke with him about the externship. He said he had looked over his schedule and could give me a combination of days and nights, with mostly nights. (I had asked for this since I wanted to be able to be home at night occasionally.) We talked a little about pay and some more about what I will be doing there. He said he starts his externs on pastry plating to begin with, and he works them through garde-manger and eventually saute stations if they do well. He will also give me opportunities to learn about banquet work, plenty of chances to practice my knife skills with prep work, and peeks into the other jobs in the kitchen. I'd already mostly decided to go with Ortanique, and so I went ahead and told Chef Scott I'd be happy to join his crew in December. We arranged to work out the specifics of hours and sign paperwork next week.

I then called Chef Gillian at Colorado Kitchen and declined her offer of an externship. She did not sound surprised, just a little sad. I'm a little sad, too, to be honest. I really like her kitchen. But they don't do as many things...the menu is not as long, the kitchen doesn't have space for much of anything, and the level of cooking (attention to plating, etc) is lower. I know Chef Gillian would work hard for me, but externing there would probably open less doors for me than Ortanique.

I'm relieved to have the whole externship situation settled. And now I have a nice long break...my last until graduation in June...to mentally prepare for the serious shifts ahead.

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Congratulations on the externship, and happy Thanksgiving.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have always wondered that same question... i.e. "who ate this first", but the first thing I think of is crabs and then wonder about artichokes. I mean, who went through all that work the first time?

Congrats on the externship!

As I was driving back from my Thanksgiving feast today, I was looking forward to reading this post and wondered, "Does Malawry plan on returning to a vegetarian lifestyle after school (or after externing or after she establishes herself as a food writer... i.e. ever)?" (Hey - Bakersfield is a very boring place!)

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I am almost jealous to hear you say you have no more breaks until graduation. I am currently on thanksgiving break, and I am going back to school on Monday. Then we only have a short couple of weeks until winter break Dec. 19. We return from that on Jan. 2 I think, and have spring break March 2-9 or so. Then I think we are back on until the end of May which is the end of the traditional year. It is kind of a pain having so many breaks. They planned well this time around, with this break beginning at the end of our last class of the trimester, but when winter break starts, we are cut off in the middle of a class and have to finish it upon the return. I believe a lot of the other breaks are like that too. It may be a little hard to understand my explanation, but trust me, I would much rather just have a break at the end of each tri.

Congrats on tying up the ends of your externship plan. Good luck!

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BigMac, I do not think I will revert to vegetarianism upon my graduation. I need to understand what meat and fowl are like, if I am to have a good overall understanding of food. Besides, I have come to somewhat enjoy those foods. I will not be cooking them at home, but I want to keep working with them in restaurants and occasionally eat them.

Suzanne, I will not be starting at Ortanique until December 18. I have many, many commitments to fulfill between now and then.

KateW, believe me, I'd rather have some breaks and have to stop classwork periodically. We did have several breaks: 4th July, Labor Day, and now Thanksgiving. The people who are in Phase 1 while I am externing will enjoy a few breaks as well, for Memorial Day for example. Working in a restaurant kitchen is not particularly forgiving breakwise, since when most people break they eat out a lot more. Enjoy the time away from school, use it to eat in some new restaurants and curl up with good cookbooks and experiment in the kitchen. It's what I did with my break, which has been wonderfully relaxing.

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Hey Malwary,

I have been reading your posts since day one!!!!! I am sorry I didn't reply but actually wanted to reply when you finished.

There will be a post forth comimg....

Good stuff!!!!!

Thanking you in advance......


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