We had our first exams… we had the written exam where we were tested on vocabulary, technique and overall knowledge of what we have learned so far. When I left the classroom I felt like I kicked butt! Then on the drive home, I kept thinking, “oh no! I think I got that wrong…” I won’t drag this out, on Friday I found out I got a 99%! – can’t beat that, I mean I can, but I’m so proud of myself, it reiterated that I am right where I need to be – culinary school.
Friday night, was a different story. We had our practical exam in the kitchen. Starting out already feeling stressed (I was running late to school, and arrived with one minute to spare) and nervous, I knew this was going to be a challenge. I calmed myself down, and walked into the kitchen with as much confidence as I could muster. We had a menu of a few items that needed to be executed in 3 hours. As the night progressed I was watching the clock and was performing well. Then Chef J announced “36 minutes left” and then all things spiraled out of hand (I wish I was exaggerating). First, my perfectly cut carrots – or so I thought, fell on the floor as I was plating them – I had to show off my newly acquired knife skills; julienne, brunoise (1/8in cube) and small dice (1/4in cube). Thank goodness Chef J told me to just pick them up and finish plating them (he wasn’t eating them). Try to picture me in a my uniform on my hands and knees frantically trying to find and pick up 30 pieces of cut carrots – it was a sight to be seen.
Then the nightmare of my culinary dream started. HOLLANDAISE SAUCE. I screwed it up twice. First, I accidentally made scrambled eggs. Then the second time, it broke as I was trying to combine the yolks and clarified butter, meaning that the components separated and would not whisk back together to form a smooth sauce (kind of like oil and vinegar). She makes it look easy in this youtube video but her “trick” to re-emulsify the sauce once it breaks only works if it just barely breaks. By this time, I was out of clarified butter and the time – 3 hours flew by. I still pushed through, I clarified more butter, and I completed the hollandaise sauce on the third try, taking a hit on my score because it was now 9:26pm. 16 minutes passed the 3 hour mark.
Chef J came around and graded my efforts. My perfectly-cut carrots were too skinny but consistent. My other food was bland, something I’ve never struggled with as of yet but I suppose the pressure I built up in my head really got to me. Nothing was done to my best ability, and so I left tired and defeated. I definitely learned a lesson – stay calm and confident. Next time, I’ll be ready. One down, five more stand between me and graduation.
Over the weekend, I was determined to win over hollandaise sauce, so I went to the store, bought a dozen of eggs, butter, and a lemon. I came home and whipped it up, successfully the first try! Hopefully this means the “three-times a charm” theme I had going has come to an end.
The concept of learning from your mistakes is definitely true. In hindsight, if I did it perfectly the first time, what would I have accomplished? This cooking technique is now stuck with me if I like it or not.