Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Culinary competence, confidence trump comfort

Am I getting comfortable with my skill level in culinary school? Hardly. Am I beginning to feel a bit of  competence and confidence? Yes.

That was very much in evidence today. The finished product, which is what matters in the culinary world, was successful in Culinary Foundations II class. It was our first full plated meal -- protein, vegetable, starch, sauce, garnish.

Forget for the moment the feel-good philosophizing about the journey and not the destination being the goal. The destination in culinary arts is most definitely the goal. It feels good and gives one a sense of competence to put a well-cooked, attractively plated and highly flavorful dish in front of someone. And the confidence of having done it right comes at the moment of plating, similar to when -- excuse the sports metaphor -- Barry Bonds swung the bat and knew, he just knew, that it was a home run. I knew when putting my roasted chicken on the plate today that it was a winner.

Roasting a whole chicken, potatoes and other root vegetables and making an accompanying sauce was the order of the day. Chef Dan Fluharty, as is his custom, demonstrated the techniques for the first hour or so, and then sent us to our respective cooking stations to create something similar.

We each trussed a chicken and put it in to roast. Then we prepared potatoes tourné, the fancy French cut to shape them as small and elegant footballs, and other root vegetables -- rutabaga, parsnip, carrot and turnip. Each was cut differently for roasting, for presentation and knife-skills practice.

The outcome for me was chicken done just right, vegetables that were cooked well and a sauce -- oh my, a sauce -- that did just what a sauce should do: elevate every other element of the meal. Importantly, Chef Dan agreed.

It was a living, breathing, highly edible example of both the competence I have built and the confidence I am beginning to feel in my culinary skills.

(Photos: Above right: Whole chicken, foreground, and root vegetables, background, awaiting preparation at my cooking station. Lower left: roasted chicken, just out of the oven.)


  1. So wait, don't you need people to come help you eat your homework and your other school trials? That chicken is looking awfully lonely!

    It's fun to read about your increasing confidence/competence, Michael. I take it there have been no "knife accidents" since your thumb incident the first week?

  2. Thanks for the comment. Yes, there is and will be a need for people to "help." Your selfless generosity is so touching!

    A nick or two here and there, a blister or two from hot butter or oil, but no more "knife accidents" worthy of an emergency room visit.

    Thanks for asking.