Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Christmas Fruitcakes -- Yum!


This year chef's mother-in-law, Ann Aller, has given my students two entire days of her time in the kitchen. She came up from Ottawa to teach them how to bake her absolutely delicious Christmas Fruitcakes ... famous in the family since the early 1950s.

Mounds of eggs
Heaps of candied fruit peel
Tubs of flour
Nuts galore!

Well ... here we go.

To start, we combined all the peel and cherries and almonds and soaked them for 24 hours in pineapple juice, and a good dollop of brandy. Stir well and cover tightly!

The next day we made a simple quick dough ... but in large amounts.
Here are Kenzi and Allison just with the creamed sugars, butter and eggs for 20 pounds of fruitcake!

Then make a huge amount of dough ... hand-combined! Matthew and Rick do the sticky, gooey honours.

Fill the many pans after lining with parchment paper, prepared on both sides with butter, and cover.

Bake for between 2 and 3.5 hours in a 275 oven, carefully testing every 15 minutes for the last 45 minutes.

And ... the results speak for themselves!

All this leads to happy students, a delighted chef and a VERY pleased guest. Many, many thanks Chef Ann ... we couldn't do it without you!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Remembrance Day Preparation

Another November is upon us, and our preparations for the ceremonies for Remembrance Day are nigh. We do not, ever, 'celebrate' Remembrance Day ... it is a day of solemn observance, of reflection, for most of us some personal and family memories; a sharing of our story, no matter how fractured it sometimes seems.

Most Novembers our Culinary Arts students prepare a very simple meal. This year is no different. We are making a simple stew of 'availables' during WW I, either 'at home' or in the trenches. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this at all ... a chicken or vegetarian stew with fresh biscuits, a glass of water and a home-grown (Ontario) apple. That's all.

We charge $8.50 for this ... $5.00 of which is a donation to the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund, assisting Veterans with mobility and community access devices.

We are already sold out.

The tables, prepared by Matthew, are ready.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Busy October -- Breads, Pasta, sauces and The Good Shepherd

Some months simply fly by and blogging just doesn't get done. Sorry everyone ... we have been busy!

We have spent time at The Good Shepherd Mission again ... at our October date we served just about 600 people in the 2 and a bit hours the serving line was open. Went by without a glitch of any sort. Well done, everyone!

We are busy setting up our own actual restaurant in the school ... The Acorn! We now welcome our staff every fortnight for full lunch service in a sit-down restaurant, and deliver as well to those too occupied to be able to join us. Here is Kenzie delivering a colourful lunch to one of our VPs.

Chef Elliott Kuttas
came for a visit and got everyone turning apples to make Tarte Tatin, and roasting vegetables.
Knife skills were really featured and some delicious food was made. Thanks, Chef!

And to wind things up, we have invited any members of our school staff who want to learn how to make excellent bread to join us in our November Friday 6 AM Bread Clinics. We will feature making and baking Focaccia, UBC Cinnamon Buns, Challah and either Rye bread (Pumpernickel), Baguette or Ciabatta (students' choice rules). Makes for long mornings, but the results are simply delicious.

Here, in small photos, is the evolution of Challah, as an example. Matthew helped make these with Chef just a couple of days ago. On Friday we will enjoy French Toast made with the last of the loaves. Two have gone to our wonderful community volunteer, Ruby Trostin.

Here's to Fall, everyone!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

One LONG Class!

I arrived at school at 05h45 this morning (and that is not a typo ... a quarter to six AM) and three quarters of the students in culinary arts were already there, waiting for the doors to be opened. This take a mix of courage and chutzpah ... and it helps to be a little nuts as well!

Got dressed.
Note the time on the clock!

So ... what did we get done?

• Rye loaves ... 6 regular size
and learnt how to properly top-dress breads with a gentle veil.
• Focaccia ... 2 large pans
• Hummus with smoked and caramelized sugar onions ... 3 litres
• Guided tasting of 6 wonderful Ontario mustards
• Learn to use a capuccino machine steam wand to make scrambled eggs
* Make breakfast eggs and kefir blitzes for everyone
* Have a formal lecture on the history of restaurants, and how our work is tied (historically) to the medical community
• Attend a school assembly
• Prepare for photo day tomorrow
• Clean up everything to perfection
• Watch and discuss two safety videos

AND ...


We have been in class for 1 week today. There has been NO time allowed for a slow start-up ... it is 110% from the very start! Today's class was (on the surface) about getting a lot of work done in a variety of teams, but the underlying structure I am working on is learning to notice, to be able to juggle 2 or 3 things at a time, be even more aware of safety, to not interrupt anyone else's work or focus, and to start developing basic knife skills.

Sounds easy, eh?

Results = Fabulous!

Well done, everyone. You've earned the praise..

Monday, 11 September 2017

Bread and Patience

Takes time to bake

Takes time to learn how to bake

Takes time to train hands

Takes time to learn the secrets of making dough,and kneading

Takes time to train eyes

Takes time to learn how to use heat

Takes time to learn how to be patient

Takes time to learn how to bake

But ... here is Chef Bailey's first shot at making traditional pumpernickel.

Impresesive, Chef!

Learning to Wear the Uniform, and HUGE Cookie Success!

Day two ... time for a demo.

I have taught the concepts of getting ready to get ready, and mis-en-place. Now it is time to see these in actual application.

My kitchen is prepared and the demo takes 30 minutes from me starting to make cookies to the student chefs getting to eat the first ones out of the oven. We talk about their experiences the previous day...a sort of bash-yourself analysis. I don't let them beat themselves up TOO much, but do permit specific comments which are task-focused ... nothing personal.

Then ... it is time for our new chefs to learn about the history of the traditional western chefs uniform, and the meaning of the toque. Each get to put their uniform on for the first time.

Then ... find some new confidence with the uniform AND the demo .... I give the students 45 minutes to, again, Make Me Cookies.

As predictable, everyone is successful ... everyone has a HUGE grin on ... and the satisfaction level with a new set of challenges suddenly moves from"I can't do this" to "Let Me At It!".

And another semester begins on a strong and positive note.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

September ... And Another New Start. MAKE ME COOKIES !!


Culinary Arts has another new brigade starting this week ... and after a very basic intro day yesterday, loaded up with paperwork, today was the first day actually in the kitchen.

We start, by tradition, with a day called "Make Me Cookies". I supply two recipes from older cookbooks ... just photocopied right onto a page ... and divide the students up into groups. I tell them they have an entire commercial kitchen at their disposal, and 90 minutes. Here is a recipe ... go exploring, work in your small groups, and MAKE ME COOKIES!

Away they go!









And ... finally ... the work is assessed.
Sometimes we actually have an edible product (or two). This time ... nada. Zilch. Boom! Everything went into the dumpster, with explanations and commentary and a lot of laughter. Everything was raw / poorly-baked. Gentle, tough, honest and precise criticism ... and the chance to improve.

Tomorrow there will be a professional demo ... and another, professionally-written recipe will be supplied. Students will get another chance to make cookies and, if history is any guide, there will be 100% success. Everyone will know exactly WHY things turned out better ... and this is the first bit of strong, edible feedback they get in the course. EVERY student can choose to be very, very successful.

Welcome, new students! Welcome to our historic Brigade!