Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fulfilling end to a fine term in culinary school



Overcooking was the theme of the final day of culinary competency exams at the California Culinary Academy on Friday. Chef Dan Fluharty called several students on it, both for their pork chops and their veal scaloppini. He subtracted two points for my overcooking a veal scaloppini.

Now, lest one misunderstand: We're not talking about food that's charred beyond recognition. Overcooking is a matter of seconds and a degree or two, especially when dealing with these cuts. One of my two small pieces of veal was cooked right -- very slightly pink in the center -- while the other was cooked a few seconds over. That may have occurred in the keeping-it-warm phase while I plated other items or in the final saucing, that is dipping the veal into the heated sauce marsala just before plating.

Most aspects of the final exam went well. Chef scored my grilled pork chop as perfectly cooked. I lost two points on my sauce chasseur, one for it was a bit thin and one for it being a bit underseasoned. Thirty-eight points on the plate, out of a possible 40.

The veal cooking cost me two points, and undercooked Brussells sprouts cost me two more points. My pommes duchesse -- mashed, then elegantly piped, then browned potatoes -- turned out nearly perfect. For the plate, I earned 36 of a possible 40 points.

From a strategic viewpoint, it was a great success. I followed my plans for all meals in both days, and I plated highly flavorful meals on schedule, in fact ahead of schedule.  I made a tactical mistake here and there, but nothing that made an item inedible or even the least distasteful.

All in all, it was a good conclusion to the six-week term in Culinary Foundations II. The four plates I prepared for the final exam garnered a collective 91.3% of the possible points. I'll take it!

(Photo shows remnants of the grilled pork chop-risotto-broccoli plagte, after Chef sampled and judged.)

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