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Diary: December 4, 2002

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Thursday, November 28

Friday, November 29

No class; Thanksgiving break

Tuesday, December 3

It’s hard to believe we only have two weeks left of class. By this point, we already know one anothers’ quirks rather well, and we tease one another in between feeding each other and asking each others’ advice.

One person who I have written about very little is probably the most notorious of my classmates. Jonathan told me last week that if I wrote that he is an asshole in my diary, he’d be okay with it as long as I gave him space for a blurb on the back cover when I turn my diary into a book. “Irreverent” seems like the best single descriptor for Jonathan. Chef Peter has been wearing him down since very early on in the course, and now Jonathan actually says “Yes, Chef” with minimal prompting rather than arguing about the subject at hand. We always titter when he says this, and Chef Peter gets a somewhat rascally grin upon hearing the words. Jonathan is quite creative in the kitchen (his enthusiasm on market basket mornings is especially impressive), and when he is passionate about a food-related subject it’s hard not to get caught up in his emotions. His reports on Pont L’eveque cheese and Larousse Gastronomique inspired me to sample the cheese on a recent vacation, and to put the book at the top of my holiday wish list. He started his externship at Elysium some time ago, and I always look forward to his reports from the field.

I also like talking to Marta. She’s a refugee from the tech world and a former member of the Navy; she and her tech geek husband live in a gorgeous rowhouse on Capitol Hill. I like trading notes with her about Polish vs. Ashkenazic Jewish foods and traditions. She faithfully carts her Food Lover’s Companion to and from the demo classroom each morning, and is the first to look at the Repertoire de la Cuisine book when we talk about classic dishes. Like me, she sits in the front row; unlike me, she reports early every morning and helps Chef Peter set up his mise en place and checks in the produce order. I respect her work on AIDS issues; she has done the DC AIDS bike ride and is an active volunteer with a local organization that feeds people with AIDS (see the “pies” entry for more info).

Wednesday, December 4

This Sunday is L’academie’s big annual holiday event. The volunteer assistants from the recreational classes are invited, along with other friends of L’academie, and my class caters the event. There are also two “holiday greats” dinners coming up shortly. We started on the food prep today, with cutting mirepoix for veal stock and prepping filling for egg rolls and folding spanakopita. At this point we’ve done these things enough that they have lost any glamour they may have had in the past.

For that matter, I feel sorry for any prospective students that visit the school. We’ve had many guests over the past six months; there is often a visitor assigned to my table for lunch, and I really enjoy working them over and making them feel welcome. We had a guest today, a guy who is an attorney interested in shifting careers towards food. He seemed cool and all, but we all had such a bad attitude today that I’m afraid we may not have given him the best impression. Guests earlier in the program definitely enjoy better experiences in terms of student responsiveness, although it totally depends who the students are how the guest will perceive the school. (When I visited for lunch, the students at my table were nice but relatively unresponsive. Obviously, this did not stop me from enrolling.)

Today’s guest did ask me an interesting question, one I have not been asked so far. “What do you dislike about the program?” I found myself agreeing with Zoe that we don’t learn much about ingredients compared to how much we learn about technique, but I don’t necessarily think that is a problem. I know a lot about ingredients and very little about technique, which is probably why. I talked about the disconnect from seasonality and the whole confused French vs. non-French culinary education and culinary dogma, which are issues I have addressed here in my diary. I explained that I have a sense of humor about these issues, but if I didn’t they’d probably bother me a lot more. I’ve been down on the notebook in the past, but now I find myself liking the project more and feeling more glad I have a detailed set of files and single, organized repository of what I’ve learned at school. I think the recipes bear similarities to busy work, but I don’t mind the task of organizing them…just the task of writing them myself.

The only thing that kept us cheerful today was the prospect of a snow day tomorrow. There’s snow in the forecast starting at midnight tonight, and if it’s likely to cause traffic issues in the morning then classes will almost certainly be canceled. This does mean that we will have to stay late Friday to finish all the stuff we didn’t get done Thursday, but it would be worth it…and so wonderful to have an unexpected day at home. I find out around 5:30am whether or not I will be reporting to class tomorrow.

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Malawry, in general are you satisfied with what you have learned so far? Has it been worth the investment of both your time and your money? I would understand if you don't want to answer or feel that it is too early to say.

Thank you for all these wonderful entries that I eagerly await each Wednesday and Sunday. Will you keep on posting while externing?

Anne E. McBride

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Oh yes, please Rochelle. Do post about the externship.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Thanks for the narrative on your cooking school experiences. I'm thoroughly enjoying your weekly posts.

Would you be so kind as to talk about your knives? How did you choose the brand and types? Most restaurant supply houses carry Dexter Russell, but I never see this brand mentioned among the "yuppie foodies".

Thanks, and happy holidays!


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Swissmiss, I am generally satisfied with what I have learned so far, but I haven't yet been able to compare it to what I will need to know in the "real world" of food and cooking. That's really a better question to ask me while I extern.

As for what happens to this diary while I extern, stay tuned.

Masssheltie, I didn't choose my school knives. They're Chef Revival knives, and they're issued to each L'academie culinary career training program student. I wrote about the knife kit in the entry titled "The first three days." As time has gone by I have become less enamored of my knife set. I enjoy the feeling of familiarity I have with the knives, but I noticed recently that the very tip of my chef's knife has snapped off, and the knives don't keep an edge nearly as well as my home knife set. At home, I use Wusthof Classic knives, a set that my partner and I were given as a wedding gift. We registered for these particular knives because I liked the handfeel of Wusthof Classic best of the knives I tried out. I am considering buying myself a chef's knife to put in my knife kit and take to work and school with me.

Many of the tools real professional cooks use when cooking are not talked about in the yuppie foodie media. Some of the equipment we use at school is super-cheap, like the aluminum saute pans, while other items like the Robot Coupe food processors and the Vita-Prep mixer are too expensive for most home cooks. Most of the kitchens I have visited have similar combinations of tools.

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Please, please keep up with this journal after you start the externship. I don't know what I would do with out it! :smile:

I attended a career night at the California School of Culinary Arts the other night, something I never would have thought of without your entries. It was much different than I pictured - I was expecting something like what you have described at L'Acadamie (i.e. a few kitchens, a classroom or two, some offices), but CSCA is a three story building with 18 full size restaurant kitchens and over 1300 students! Wow!

Edited by BigMac (log)
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