From the lack of recent posts it may appear I have fallen into food induced coma.
I’m still here and two weeks into the advanced term of the diploma. Since my last post I survived and passed the intermediate practical and theory exams and spent the Easter break doing various work experience placements with a catering company, a restaurant, at Olive Magazine and assisting at cookery workshops.
So what did I learn?
Three days in a restaurant helped me understand its lure despite long hours, for little pay. I worked in an establishment that is a bakery and lunchtime cafe during the day and a restaurant at night, so I gained an insight into all three. The best of British seasonal produce was served and I was trusted enough to be thrust a load of ingredients and told to get on with making soup for the evening service. Not something I expected, so it was a thrill to see if go out to paying customers. The buzz during service is certainly alluring and were I doing this 10 years ago it may be a direction I’d pursue. Some further restaurant stints may be on the cards.
Professional catering is definitely an area I am interested in and has been a consideration for a while. It appeals to my events management background and need for variety and projects. In the longer term, is something I could set up from home.
Recipe testing, going on photoshoot or assisting in the office were three things I could have found myself doing as I walked into the BBC Media Centre for a day working at Olive Magazine. As it turned out I was working on the later, and interesting and informative as it was, the experience reminded me of where I have come from and why I chose to do the diploma: I no longer wanted to work in an office environment. While I really appreciated my day there I do not think it is something I wish to return to … yet.
My last work experience stint was assisting David Bailey, formerly Head Chef at Saf, and now owner of the very successful Wholefood Heaven with his raw food workshops. David is an amazing chef who went from committed carnivore to vegetarian following health issues. He now runs Wholefood Heaven with his wife and won Best Main Dish at The British Street Food Awards with their Buddha Bowls. I found the day really inspiring, it was so interesting to learn about raw food techniques, though it is not a diet I would follow. Helping others to learn new techniques, improve their cooking and diet or just have fun with food is really rewarding so teaching is another area I’m interested in exploring further.
All in all, the experiences were great, though I’m still not sure what happens at the end of June, a scary 8 weeks away!!!
So back at Leiths, things have stepped up a notch. Foundation term could be described as home cooking, intermediate as gastropub and advanced as fine dining. Marking is getting tougher and precision is the word of the moment, if you’re serving concasse of tomato make sure all pieces are identical in size and shape and they are all the same way up!
We’ve been introduced to jus, gastriques, fancy vegetable garnishes and making our own puff pastry, (though I think it is easier than making flaky), and the highlight for me; consommés and clearing. I’ve done a rubbish job of taking photos and wish I had one of a strawberry suspended in clear lemon jelly. It was pretty cool.
Dishes have a greater number of components requiring consolidation of, or learning new skills and next week I’ll try to take photos of some of the dishes which include Roasted Pollock with sweetcorn puree and mushroom mousseline, roasting and jointing a duck and serving it with a gastrique, Pommes Anna and orange and watercress, and learning to make yeasted pastries. For now though I leave you with a picture of a suckling pig which struck quite a few students because it was so young and looked like “a sleeping baby”
In my opinion, whilst it may impress some at a dinner party, it’s worth letting the pig run around in the mud for a few more months for a better flavour!