Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Found out this morning that I did not make the culinary competition team. I had a blast and actually learned quite a bit doing it so no worries; I'll know more about what to expect when I try out again next year.

The chef in charge of the program is the instructor for a class I had this afternoon, and he talked to me about it some. He said they were actually very impressed with what I cooked, and I surprised them with it.  They weren't expecting a dish like that, especially from a first-year student with no real training yet.  He told me that I was 4th in line to be picked (there were only 3 spots open), so I missed it by one. So I guess if one of the people drops from the team then I could be flagged as a replacement.

Was kinda cool to hear that I managed to surprise (in a good way) all the chef judges.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


The Hot Food Team Tryout was pretty cool. I was fairly nervous going in since I’ve only been a culinary student for all of 2 weeks now and had never done anything remotely similar to this before. But I didn’t let those kind of thoughts bog me down. When my allotted start time came, I went to my station, took a deep breath to clear my head, and got to work.

The first thing we had to do was show our knife skills. We had to julienne 2oz of potatoes, create 2 tourne potatoes, and peel and segment an orange (with a knife so the pieces looked fancy). The juliennes aren’t super difficult, but cutting them all the same and to the required size is harder than it sounds. They have to be cut to ⅛ x ⅛ x 2 inch pieces; roughly the size of a small wooden matchstick. Mine ended up a little bigger than that, but I tried to keep them as consistent as possible so they’d all at least look the same.

(None of the below pics are mine, I didn't have a camera with me. I gleaned these pics from the web)

Julienne Potatoes

I’ve never peeled and segmented an orange with a knife before starting school, but turns out I’m pretty good at it. Takes a steady hand so you don’t cut too deeply into the orange when peeling it, and even steadier when slicing out the segments. You have to slice down between the thin membranes of the individual pieces to get a good looking piece, so it’s easy to frak it up if you’re not careful. Mine came out very nice though.

Segmenting an Orange

The big cutting skill is the tourne. You have to end up with a potato that’s 2 inches long, oval in shape (with flat ends), and has 7 distinct sides to it. Picture a barrel shape and you’ll have a better idea of the final figure. It takes a bit of finesse to get it right and the finished product is a fancy looking little potato slice. I’ve been practicing them all week and managed to turn out 2 that looked good enough for government work, so I was happy.


Once the knife skills portion was done I moved onto the cooking phase. We got to pick what we made beforehand from either an appetizer, entrĂ©e, or a dessert. I was the only person who picked a dessert, and it was something I sort of threw together from a mix of 3 other recipes I had. It doesn’t have an official name but it was a blend of baked apples slices, roasted sweet potatoes, candied walnuts, a balsamic vinegar glaze (technically a gastrique), and a fried sage leaf as a decoration to top it off. We had to make 2 plates, one they could examine and another they could taste. It all came together nicely (except for the glaze, which was a little too thick) and I put it on the judges table for them to critique.

They seemed to be intrigued by it and the majority of their comments were positive. They liked its flavor profile and said it had a good combination of texture to it. While they thought it might be a little small portionwise to be a full-fledged dessert, it would work great as a palette cleanser before a super sweet dessert course, or be a great accompaniment to something like lamb chops. Overall they seemed happy with it, and that made all the work I’d put into it worth it. And I had fun doing it.

11 of us tried out for 3 spots on the team and we’ll find out next week sometime who made the cut. It’d be super cool if I make the team and can start getting myself ready to do this on a more serious scale. If I don’t make it then that’s cool too; I’ll focus on my classes and honing my skills and try again next year. Either way, I had great fun doing this and am very glad I stuck my neck out there and did it.