Monday, February 28, 2011

Block 10: Week 2 - Desserts

Dessert station was kinda fun. We made pavlova with berries, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate marquise with caramel espresso ice cream, and lemon souffle pudding.

We also get to make a special each day. My special was the apple pear thing, though for school, I called it a tart, even though it wasn't made in a tart shell. I made individual ones for service, but I ended up with a lot of ingredients leftover, so I made an extra big one for the class. Though it turns out that chef liked the big one better because he thought there was too much crust on the individual ones. But I liked the small ones because the crust is my favourite part. I served it with cinnamon ice cream, which was delicious.

Service was pretty easy, especially after the week on entrees. The desserts are all made in the morning, so when someone orders, it's basically just plating, which doesn't take much time at all. We had a couple of parties come in this week - one had chocolate marquise and the other had the sticky toffee pudding, and both parties went smoothly.

There was quite a bit of frustration this week too. One guy in my group is so hard to work with. The food he makes is SO terrible. He made apple crumble as his special, but he didn't even put butter or sugar into the crumble. He also made two batches of the chocolate marquise this week, both of which were not sellable. Also, since I'm the leader, I don't switch stations on Tuesday with the rest of the group. So my first day on dessert station, I didn't really have all the information that my group did, but the two people I trust in my group were helping at a function and weren't there to show me what they had learned the day before.

Training the new group was also a frustrating day. The people in the group I train are ok, but they don't really work together as a group at all. They are also a bit lazy. So I spent most of my day working with them, trying to get them up to speed on all things entree, and any free time I had, I had to try to pop over to the dessert station to find out as much as I could. We went out for some drinks after school and I think it's the last time we're going to Malones. A couple of us also went and saw Gnomeo and Juliet.

Friday, A and I went to 131 for G's birthday. I haven't been there much this year, so it was a bit awkward going there. But it got much more awkward when they essentially asked us to leave because they had another reservation coming in. One of G's friends took exception to this and went on a rampage, demanding that they pay our bill. I hate confrontation to begin with, and this one was worse because I'm kind of friends with the owner. It wasn't really a pleasant ending to the evening.

On Wednesday, after a reflective lunch at Subway, I had my interview for Hawksworth, the new restaurant I mentioned last week. The chef de cuisine is relatively young and seems pretty awesome. The interview went ok, but I'm not sure I sold myself very well. He's supposed to get back to me next week after contacting my references. Nervous.

Next week - appetizers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dinner at West

Yesterday, I had my first day off since Christmas holidays. It was an amazing day - dim sum in the morning, some shopping at Costco, bought a Le Creuset dutch oven, and ended the day with dinner at West. Co and Nic bought us a gift certificate for Christmas, so we were all set to go. And it was probably the best dinner we've ever had. Thanks girls!

It wasn't a super busy night in the restaurant, so when we arrived, we asked if there were any tables where we could see the kitchen, and that's where we sat. It was great. I spent the night eating great food and watching the kitchen work. It was pretty cool because the chef David Gunawan was actually cooking. The kitchen was really quiet and clean and I loved seeing everyone in action.

We decided to splurge a little and we ordered the tasting menu. It was a five-course dinner, as well as an amuse bouche and petit fours. I had the February tasting menu and A had the Chef's tasting menu, and of course, we shared, so we got to taste tons. I included the menus below. A also had the wine pairings, which were excellent.

Also, our server was asking us about the kitchen and A mentioned that I work at Raincity Grill. I guess cooks get special treatment because she brought us each a plate of the appetizer special, which was a quail ballantine stuffed with sweetbreads and mushrooms and served with the most delicious foie gras I've ever had. It was an amazing meal.


Amuse Bouche - chrysanthemum consomme with shiitake mushrooms and seaweed

First - squid tempura with nori, quinoa, rice, radish, salsa verde

Second - qualicum bay scallops, oats, licorice, roasted cauliflower in tempura, scallop foam

Third - tagliatelle with mushrooms, sea urchin, mussels, ling cod, wasabi tobiko

Fourth - smoked sablefish, sunchoke puree, beech mushrooms, clams, maple glazed bacon, black malt

Palate Cleanser - cranberry sorbet and grapefruit

Dessert - whole wheat chocolate cake, tamarind cream, hibiscus ice cream

Petit Fours - coconut and passion fruit truffle, orange and almond frangipane


Amuse Bouche - chrysanthemum consomme with shiitake mushrooms and seaweed

First - albacore tuna marinated in squid ink, saffron risotto, tuna confit croquette, potato, chorizo, smoked paprika, squid ink smear

Second - five-spice braised pork belly, beluga lentils, cherry, peewee poached egg, lapcheung vinaigrette

Third - peking duck risotto, abalone mushroom

Fourth - beef tenderloin, pomme puree, sous vide short rib, wilted spinach, caramelized red onion, cognac and peppercorn jus

Palate Cleanser - cranberry sorbet and grapefruit

Dessert - apple spice cake, cinnamon creme anglaise, apple jelly, earl grey ice cream

Petit Fours - coconut and passion fruit truffle, orange and almond frangipane

Friday, February 18, 2011

Block 10: Week 1 - Entrees

Block 10 is a whole new ballgame. Our new chef is pretty serious - no more joking around. If you do something stupid, he will call you out in a second. He's a little scary. He's also not afraid to yell when someone is doing something particularly stupid. But he's a good chef. He knows what he's doing, and I like that he doesn't treat us like babies anymore. Basically, we are free to do as we like as long as everything is ready for service and the food is good.

We are cooking lunch in JJ's this block. Each week we are on a different station - appetizers, entrees, vegetables, and dessert. We are divided up into groups like the first few blocks of school. I was somewhat dreading this because while I like everyone in my class, I find it hard to work with some people every day for a whole month. And I had pretty mixed feelings when I found out who was in my group. The best person is my baking partner. Obviously we get along well enough and I have no problems working with him. There's a girl that I'm friends with outside of school, but we have never worked together at school. She's pretty competent, but not very confident. The other two group members are the challenging ones. One is from India and doesn't speak English all that well, and the other is probably the worst cook in the class. He is also extremely slow, which was ok in previous blocks where we didn't have any service, but becomes a huge impediment now that we are in an a la carte kitchen.

The new twist on the groups this month is that one person is designated the leader of the group. This person stays back one day when the rest of the group switches stations and trains the incoming group. Not surprising, I was chosen as one of the leaders. I probably would have taken a bit of a leadership role naturally, but with the title given to me, my group definitely treats me as more of a leader, relying on me for information and help. It's good for me to be in this position, as I definitely want to be a chef at some point in the future, and it's also good for me to learn to work with people who I find difficult. I was told that the two weak students were specifically put in my group so that I could help them along.

This week, we were on entrees station. So we were on the line (and on the camera, for anyone who's been to JJ's before) cooking the meat and fish and pasta. Our station makes a flank steak sandwich on focaccia with horseradish sauce and onion rings, lamb leg and lamb loin, a daily fish special, chicken pot pie, gnocchi with truffle cream sauce and artichoke and portobello mushroom bolognese, and veal ragu with pappardelle. Each day, we make one or two of those items, and then we switch the next day.

I had a lot of fun cooking on the line. It gets pretty hot up there, and chef is watching everything we do, which is nerve wracking, but it's finally more like a real kitchen. Some days, chef thought service didn't go very smoothly, but thinking about it later, I realized that even though we have a group of five people, we are almost really working with just three.

Fun after school activities - bowling with N and W, and lunch at Noodle Box. Going to Relish tonight for Ash's birthday.

Today I applied for a job at a new restaurant that hasn't even opened yet, but it's with an amazing chef and it would be an incredible opportunity. I don't think I'm really good enough to work there, so I'm pretty scared. We'll see what happens.

Next week - dessert station.