Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cramming for exams? No, for everything else

Learning the culinary arts will last a lifetime, say the chefs who are our teachers at the California Culinary Academy. If so, why does it seem that they are trying to cram it in all into this one week?

Culinary Foundations II class is in its waning days; the written final exam will be today; cooking competency exams will be Thursday and Friday.

Yet on Monday and Tuesday, Chef Dan Fluharty was still pushing new dishes and techniques. On Monday he demonstrated, and put us to work practicing, two stuffed poultry dishes. On Tuesday, he demonstrated and again put us to work making a braised duck leg and fillet of sole. Both were appropriately challenging, the fillet especially so, because each of us started with a whole fish from which to exract the fillets.

Neither duck leg nor fillet of sole will be on the competency final exams. But several of the side dishes that we made will be, so we got to practice making rich, creamy risotto, rice pilaf, sauté of broccoli, turned zucchini, beurre blanc for the fish and a rich pan sauce for the duck.

Any and all cooking practice serves to improve our knife skills, our attenton to the details of the stove top and the oven -- temperature control, that is. It also improves our organizational skills and efficiencies, all headed toward the plating and service.

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