This was definitely a night to remember. Tonight was to be my last event in which I would probably ever don the coat or toque of a chef or cook. Well, as I’m finding out now . . . that doesn’t seem to be the case. I ask, does this keep going? Is it my stupid passion?. Am I looking for something else? I have a feeling you’ll be reading much more since my schooling ends just before Christmas.
At the beginning of this quarter I regretted having to don the uniform ever again, but was basically forced for the purposes of this last class. This class was focused on event planning and execution. I had vowed to handle the business portion of the events; further allowing the real culinary gang (students) that actually have a long standing desire to work in a kitchen, the opportunity to learn and grow their craft . . . and hone their skills.
Since this class is focused on setting up and executing events, this final event was to be the crown jewel in which we can showcase many, if not all of the things we have learned since beginning this culinary school adventure. Today was being hailed as an event for the culinary competition team for our San Diego campus of the International Culinary School at The Art Institute. We were led to believe this event was for our “hot team”, as they were to be cooking for their families in order to show them what their competition would involve. We (our event class) were merely providing the party (event) for the hot team to cook. Turns out this was all a carefully fabricated horns waggle. Yeah, we were railroaded . . . flimflammed . . .
Turns out, we are putting on this event for ourselves . . . Shit!
We were informed by our persuasive Chef Instructor just 15 minutes before the pseudo-guests were to arrive. I think everyone of the culinary students participating got a big ear-to-ear grin on their face . . . except for me. I just happened to be the only student in this class that’s actually graduating this term, so my Senioritis was playing a big part of my unrest.
Well, now that we know the reason for setting up this table. I spent three hours polishing silver and glassware and setting this table to exacting specifications as outlined by our Chef Instructor. He explained every facet of how the service would go and be executed. He explained that we would be serving plates from the right and clearing from the left . . . (screeching halt sound). Did he just say serving from the right and clearing from the left . . . Isn’t proper French service the opposite way? I thought only glassware was to be serviced from the right. I attempted to clarify this on the internet and realized that this was a subject of much discussion that truly danced around the subject of what is right and what is wrong. Is the service from a guéridon or from plates already prepared. Is this Russian service or French? There are several factors involved when establishing how the service is to be executed and I really don’t care to research every method. One thing is for sure; our school has been putting out service from the left and clearing from the right. Tonight was completely opposite. “What gives Chef?”, I ask. Then the chef kindly reminded me that every situation may be different in the real world anyway, and flexibility in situations may be necessary. Other than him saying this, there really was no other reason for our reverse service except that he demanded that we comply with his requirements. “Roger that”, I said and proceeded to serve from the right that night . . . and it felt wrong every moment. But you know what? That same Chef Instructor pulled off that bull-shit for the event too. Finally figured him out. He’s a B. S.’er. . . I like that!
Another thing that has been brought up is the proper placement of forks, knives and spoons on the big table. I have taken many shots across the bow from folks complaining that the dessert fork and coffee spoon were to be placed atop the plate when setting the table properly. Turns out this evening’s event was to use plates available at the school that later proved to be too large for the table decorations and the plates to fit correctly, so we decided to place all of the silver to the side. Again, it’s situational and as a restaurant service, one must attempt to make everything as perfect as possible. AS POSSIBLE!!! Tonight, due to the situation, we had to deviate alot. Another factor was how much of the serviceware is available to us for this event. Remember, these classes and equipment are utilized by numerous classes, and for numerous occasions. Over the course of the last three weeks I have counted 120 forks, 40 dinner forks, 20 desert forks and 40 knives . . . once each, last three classes. Often times having to track them down from other locations in the school to make up an acceptable service place setting. Tonight was no exception. The main thing we focused on was the absolute perfection of each item placed on the table, measuring and calculating, Exact placement of each fork in front of each guest with the exact space between every component. That’s why this took me three hours. Even down to the cell-phone distance each chair arm was from the table. It was goofy crazy, but the result was spectacular. That was a badd ass table!
So now you’re probably wondering why all the hype. This turned out to be a night of service for the two classes that comprised this service. The “hot team” prepared the menu and guided the kitchen staff on execution and service. The remaining few (including me) were to set up the facility, move tables, chairs and fetch everything needed to make the event special. Once it was time for service all of the students helped on the assembly line and working the plates for service. Finally concluding on a very messy kitchen and tons of dishes. Yes we cleaned for a good hour-and-a-half afterwards.
I look back at this night and begin to grin. I think back about the last three years of this culinary education and some of the students, Chef Instructors and staff I have met through out this education. I think about what I had learned (totally another story) and how I am able to handle my own in the kitchen, in the front of the house and in the business. I can now talk the talk, AND walk the walk. There are plenty of other skilled chefs and cooks out there that can walk all over me in any kitchen; but, how many of them can do it with as much class as me, with as much skill and as much education as me. I can now literally walk into any restaurant, any food service operation or any kitchen and hold my own . . . not necessarily some one else’s own . . . but my own.
I became grateful this night . . . , because this dinner was for me.
I may not be walking with the graduating class, but I’m with them on every step they take. Congratulations!
Just remember . . . they call ’em Chefs, . . . because they work in the industry.
Hug a “Chef”.!