Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All Over But the Shouting

Sorry for the light blogging last week, Thursday was our Spring Classic Cuisine Dinner. It's the final big dinner event of the year, and for us Second Years, of our culinary school careers. It was a huge roller coaster for me. We were supposed to prep on Wednesday, and finish on Thursday. I was in on Monday prepping, to make sure my ice cream was done in time, and was there every day through event day -- on top of closing Sunday night at the bar and opening on Tuesday. I was on my feet almost the entire time, and by Thursday night, my entire lower body was in pain, and I was exhausted, both emotionally and physically, and feeling a mixture of elation and frustration.

I was elated because the dish was a success. I had several "Dumb luck" moments where I stumbled upon components of the dish that went over better than I expected. The Bend Distillery Hazelnut Espresso vodka that I used for the flambe' was delicious. In keeping with the 100-mile menu concept, I'd picked Bend mostly on what I knew of their other products. The same with the honey used in the honey caramel sauce -- Glory Bee Honey is HQ'ed in Eugene, but they get honey from all over the place. I asked for a local honey, and they sold me some made from the nectar of the meadow foam flower, gathered near Junction City. It was incredible -- it had this rich, full aroma that reminded me of good cavendish pipe tobacco. I got the toasting of the hazelnuts just right, and the overall presentation was spot on. Everyone loved the show when I flambe'ed it, and I also got good feedback about how it tasted.

I was frustrated because throughout the days leading up to the even, I was constantly unable to please one of my chef instructors. Some of the time it was little mistakes on my part that he had a valid reason to criticize, and those made me mad at myself. But there was also a lot of criticism of things that I felt I was doing right -- questioning my choice of recipes, when the recipes in question had gone over so well in our dry runs -- from the fact that my honey caramel sauce didn't have caramelized sugar added to the honey, to the temperature the recipe called for me to cook the honey to, to my choice f liquors for the flambe'. He even made a snarky comment about my ice cream melting (when it was not). To top in all off, some of my classmates decided to confront him, at our final debriefing, about a separate issue (one in which I was not involved), and what should have been the best night of my school career ended up being miserable and awkward.

But oh, well. Two more weeks of class and then finals, and I'm done.