Egg day dawned bright and prospects were good going into the kitchen Friday in Culinary Foundations II class. Then clouds began gathering -- clouds of too much browning, over-cooked and poorly folded omelets, pan too hot, not hot enough, too sticky, too oily.
"If you want to make an omelet, you must be willing to break a few eggs," Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin once said.
We culinary students wish it were just "a few eggs."
Instead, to make perfect French omelets, by Chef Dan Fluharty;'s standards, we had to break many an egg.
When thinking omelet, one must disabuse himself of the image of a good old-fashioned veggie and cheese omelet or of the offerings at IHOP and the Denny's Grand Slam or anything approximating them. As we should know by now having been steeped in French culinary standards for 10 weeks, the omelet is the height of delicacy, perfect in constitution, shape and presentation.
"We will learn to cook the French omelet," Chef Dan had said earlier in the week. "Why French? Because this is a French culinary school, (affiliated with) the Cordon Bleu."
Learn we did. Well, sort of. A half-dozen tries into the process, I presented Chef with my latest effort, a somewhat sadly shaped mass of yellow.
"It has good texture, good color," Chef allowed. "What about this shape? You want something more shaped by the contour of the pan, like this." He put his hands on it and began shaping it to his liking.
"This isn't for a grade, is it?" he asked.
"Well, Chef," I stammered. "Uh, no." I then hurried off to try another.
Eventually, Chef joined me at my stove top, showed me two straight times how, even lent me his magic spatula (certainly, that was the key to it all!). My next two efforts were disastrous, and with time running out on the day's exercise, I finally plated one that led Chef to show me mercy: "That's better. A little brown. I'll call that an 8." Eight, meaning out of a possible 10 points. Most generous. I took it and moved on to egg poaching.
Nothing like going from the frying pan to the near boiling water.