Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bantering

So one of the academic classes that we have to take here at the CIA is called Menu Development. It was probably my favorite class. We had to come up with a restaurant; theme, location, menu, schedule, the whole bamboozle. Chris and I chose to work alone because we are already with each other all the time and we figured it might be easier to work on the project at any point instead of assigning specific times to work on it. It was a blast. The whole project spanned over the entire three weeks. The first part was to create a business plan which would act as a business model to prospective investors. Within this we came up with a layout of the restaurant, an actual location of the restaurant, and we had to research the demographics of the area that we chose. We also researched the surrounding attractions, analyzed the competitors in our area, came up with the uniform for our employees, and made a schedule for them. The second section of the assignment was to consider the cost involved with the restaurant. We had to add up the cost of the space, the equipment, the staff, and the food. This part was actually pretty humorous. At this point I should mention that in our restaurant Chris would be the Executive Chef and I would be the General Manager, aka the "boss lady". During, this slice of the pie, Chris came up with the list of equipment HE needed in HIS kitchen. Well. I will have you know that there was a lot of questioning that took place. "So we really need a Pacojet?" "Anti-griddle? What the heck does that do Chris?" "There is no way we need a centrifuge" ...and the like. It was funny as Chris gave me the puppy dog eyes and surrendered his precious un-needed tools. I assured him that once we got up and running we would find money to spend on those things but for now I needed to reign him in. The fact of the matter is, we really threw ourselves into this proposal as if we were actually starting our real restaurant.

At this point I have a side story which encompasses the name of our establishment. Chris and I both completed out externship at a country club in North Carolina called Roaring Gap. We did not plan on going to the same site, but due to circumstances out of our control, we were lucky enough to spend the entire summer together. We usually worked different shifts or were cooking in different locations, but there was one rotation where we were both working the line at the Lake Grill. Now people were aware of our relationship, but I will say that Chris and I work very well together. I have mentioned previously that we are able to communicate non-verbally and that comes to our advantage in the work place. I can hand something to him, and he'll know what to do with it. Or I can say just two words to him, and he will know exactly what I mean. Our minds race at the same speed and often meet each other in the chase. I have never before had this non-verbal communication with anyone else I have worked with before, but I would say that if I was going to hire two people, it would be a great benefit if they had that. Our superior however, didn't seem to think so. He worked on the line as well, and he one day told us that he could not stand our "bantering" any longer and that we were not allowed to speak at all to each other. This was a challenge, because during this specific time, the amount of members at the club was scarce and business was rather slow. After much consideration, Chris and I thought that the name of our place should be Banter. 


The final responsibility of this Menu's homework was to actually create a menu. We spent countless hours trying to formulate our ideas into the menu. See the concept of our restaurant is unlike anything I have ever seen before. We want the customer to create their own meal. We have come up with a few main ingredients and several sub ingredients that the guest can put together. I guess I like to relate it to a choose your own adventure book. Because any guest can create a meal that they want, and the Chef's will create a unique experience for each guest. The waitstaff would have to be high interactive because they would have to help the customers to understand the menu and come up with what they really want. It'll be a few years before we are able to execute our idea, but it was really fun to go through the whole process and be able to dream.
video

The Hunt

So today is the big test in wines. It's an open book final but it's a bit like an easter egg hunt. Your mom tells you how many eggs the Easter bunny put out there, you pull on your rain boots, you trudge out into the dewey grass, and together with your siblings you find 39 eggs instead of forty. But the time is up and it's too late now, you know it must be out there but you are so exhausted that you cannot find which wine is popular in Southern Australia. So...a week later you start to smell something rotten under your porch. And you just know it is that damn egg.    
<--Easter 2012

Today marks exactly twelve weeks until graduation. My plans before I started here at the CIA, were to go on to the bachelor's program, but it is a woman's prerogative to change her mind, so I did. This brings us back to high school, senior year. All of the students around me were freaking out because they did not know which school they wanted to go to. Then they were debating over which major they were going to pick. How could anyone know exactly what they wanted to do for the rest of their life right there at age 18? Well I thought I had it all figured out. Shoot, I love food, and once I stepped into Roth hall at the Culinary Institute of America, I was sold.
<--Roth Hall

Now, the world is huge. There are so many jobs that you can make out of a Culinary degree. I didn't go to medical school, where I start as a candy stripper in a hospital and then in forty years I'm still at a hospital I'm just a doctor. In twelve weeks I will walk out of here with a culinary degree and there are so many choices that I have to choose from. I started out wanting to be a banquets chef, now I don't even know if I want to be a chef at all. I want to work with the people, the guest, and let me tell you, most chefs will tell you the exact opposite of that. So maybe I'll go into the front of the house, or become a restaurant critic, or I'll run a bed and breakfast. How cool would it be if  I could meet with the bride and groom and work with them to come up with menus for their big day. Because do you know how happy it makes me to see people happy? And do you know that on family feud, fifty one out of one hundred people said that their wedding day is the happiest day of their life. But who knows. I'm just thinking out loud. Soon I'll be out there hunting for jobs, and someone is bound to ask me why I'm looking under the porch. 


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chatting on a Rainy Day

This morning I woke up to rain. Gloomy, soggy, rain. Luckily today was a self study day which meant that I did not have class.
 Christopher, on the other hand, did have class early today so it was a pretty peaceful morning. Although my boyfriend Chris is an introvert, he always has a lot to say when it's just us. People always meet him and wonder how I can spend hours in a car with him. But honestly it is hard to get the guy to be quiet. We often bicker which can be quite fun, but it's most often playful. I can recall one car ride when we were in North Carolina this summer. We ventured to Boone, which is a lovely college town that is pretty hippy-esc. We ate at this place called the Black Cat Burrito which is to this day my favorite Mexican restaurant. Anyway, on the way back to Roaring Gap, we got into conversation, the sun set, and we were winding up this very tall mountain. When I say tall I mean, TALL. So it was dark, we were deep in conversation, and well, we talked all the way to Tennessee. 
We have had many great conversations that stem from being stuck in a car with each other for a long period of time. The other day Chris asked me why woman started shaving their legs. I did some research and found that it all started with the underarms in the early 1900's. Women began wearing short sleeves and the advertising companies started hanging billboards with pictures of women showing their clean shaven armpits. Then the hemlines started going up, and women figured it looked pretty tacky to have hair showing through your stockings. So they started shaving and it all rolled downhill from there. The advertising companies have a lot more power than we think they do. But that's a story for another day.
Today Chris asked me why people spend so much money on clothes if they only wear one outfit everyday. He pointed out that people eat three times a day and spend more money on fashion then good eats. I always end up kicking myself because I will find that my closet is all one color or that I just continuously rotate my four life is good shirts and throw on a pair of jeans. But I end up at the store looking for something to wear that is new and exciting. Christopher will throw me a scolding look wen he finds me in the shoe section of TJMaxx with a new life is good t-shirt. I just find it comical. What is the deal with fashion anyways? I would much rather spend one hundred dollars on a great meal than on one outfit. But then again, when Chris decided to take a once in a lifetime adventure and eat with his friend at Eleven Madison Park for 200 smack-a-roonies, I had to bow out. I may have even said, do you know how much I could buy with two hundred dollars? So, he let me know that if he went to EMP and spent that 200 dollars, he would seal an envelope including the same amount and label it "the dress" so I let him go!
Although we love chatting, he and I both agree that the silences between us are wonderful as well. It's nice to be able to sit juxtapose my best friend and read a book. Although we have little time for reading, with all of the studying we have to do, the silences we share are never awkward. We often can read each other just by body language, which is why we work well together in the kitchen; we don't have to speak. And that's actually how our relationship came to be, but we'll save that story for a rainy day :)
^In Roaring Gap, NC on a rainy day, after slipping and sliding on the golf course 



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

an introduction

Good Evening Readers!
This is my first blog post and I am new to this whole blogging thing.
The reason that I decided to start a blog was actually because I was writing similar posts on facebook about my most recent class: Wines Studies. Now for in order for you to understand this class, you should know that the Culinary Institute of America is an insane school. Not only do you learn something new everyday (which I love) but each class is only three weeks long. In this three week block,  you could learn to debone twenty pounds of chicken, or roll out ten pounds of fresh pasta, or even write out five million notecards that weigh together 2.5 pounds in order to cram all of that  "brand new information"  in your THREE pound brain. It is quite a challenge.
 This wines class is said to be the most difficult class at the CIA. The reason I think wines requires so much effort is because as a cook, I am quick to think on my feet, to react, to perform, to excel in the heat of the kitchen. But not so much when I am sitting in a classroom for hours, trying to determine whether this Pinot Grigio has a nose of mint, hazelnut, or wool. If there is one thing I have learned about wines, it's that you can smell anything in the entire world in a wine. I'm being serious. Cat pee, sharpie, dirt, dead rodent, a n y t h i n g. It is actually crazy. But back to business. It is difficult when everyday, prior to this class,  my peers and I rely on performance grades, and now we have three test grades where we are expected to memorize the entire world of wine. For those of you who are not so familiar with food and recipes this may be hard to understand, but when you are cooking- you can feel the ingredients, you smell the aroma of that rich tomato sauce, you are tasting the recipe with each element you add into that pot. And when you are finished, well you could easily repeat those motions because of your muscle memory, your intimacy with those ingredients. Not once in this class have a felt a semillon grape, traveled to a vineyard, felt the chalky soil, seen the disgorgement process, tasted a million champagnes before they were blended together to form the perfect Tete du Cuvee. So how are we supposed to buckle down and memorize everything within 21 days? Well you live, breathe, taste (and spit), and dream wine for those five hundred and four hours. Have you ever seen those bing commercials, where they relate every single thing to something that has nothing to do with the subject at hand? Well that's how it is with real life, except that everything relates to wine, and you find the need to say it out loud, because if you don't you are afraid that it will drift away and you will never be able to call it back when it appears on the exam.   So far I have made it through the bulk of the class, including two tests- my grades keep improving which is encouraging. But all in all this past weekend I think I studied around 16 hours. The final for this class is Thursday and it is luckily open book, which means 790 pages to tag and thumb through for the duration of this test.
<-here is a picture of my new wall decor, which is made up by 177 sticky notes that are filled with the regions of wine in France and Italy. 
I hope this gives you a little taste of what life is like in the real world here for an average girl.