Thursday, January 14, 2010

'You're only as good as your last plate'

Short attention spans and impatience seem to be driving forces in a good bit of society, and they are the driver in restaurants, where one mediocre or bad meal or a bad experience with service will send someone away permanently. Thus, they also drive the assessment agenda in culinary school.

"You're only as good as your last plate," Chef Dan Fluharty said Wednesday, just after applauding my classmates and me for what we prepped, cooked and plated. Then he moved on to discuss what's next.

That will be two plates, actually, on Friday. Preliminary menu calls for plate No. 1 to be a beef fillet with Madeira sauce and an artichoke and plate No. 2 to be a grilled skirt steak with green beans, a bearnaise sauce and - yum! -- French fries.

My "last plate" was turkey scaloppine, accompanied by a shiitake mushroom pan sauce, potato croquettes and a mixed greens salad with hand-made mustard vinaigrette. It was good, Chef Dan Fluharty said, giving it a high grade. He specifically mentioned the sauce and its seasoning. The assessment was confirmed later at home where I rewarmed and served the leftovers.

(I got away with one on that "last plate." My shiitake mushroom sauce lacked shiitakes; it had what was available, white button mushrooms, which I used after my shiitakes burned in the pan when I left them too long while talking to Chef about my previous "last plate." If he noticed the sauce had other than shiitakes, he didn't comment. That's a shiitake above, a less flavorful white button mushrooms below.)

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