California Culinary Academy.
Five stitches and four blisters later, my knife skills are much improved, I can stir up a roux on my way to making sauces, I now know the fundamentals of restaurant and food-service safety and sanitation, and I can name and relate the uses for a wide array of pots, pans and fundamental kitchen equipment and tools.
As a result of the stitches, I learned a better way to core a tomato for concassé (turn the tomato, not the knife, to reduce the danger of knife slippage).
The blisters came when I was stirring my first in-class roux and bits of molten butter and flour splashed onto my hands. But I made a good brown roux, which helped me make a flavorful espagnole sauce.
I've learned these most basic of the basics from two excellent chef instructors and from listening to and observing my fellow students, both in their own successes and mistakes.
Executive Chef Michael Weller, who oversees the culinary arts program, said during orientation on Sept. 19 that the first six weeks, that is the first term, would be the most difficult. So far, it has been difficult and intense, but also energizing and challenging in many positive ways.
Next comes building confidence, manifest in increased assertiveness at the cutting board, mixing bowl and stovetop.
(Photo courtesy of fellow culinary student Keejoo Hon)