Thursday, 16 February 2017

Catering For 50! This Brigade's First Challenge

We have been asked to cater for a group of 50 teachers tomorrow, providing an arrival snack, then refreshments throughout the day. The group is being trained in, and certified in, First Aid.

Our menu is, as always, limited by budget. We have about $2.25 per person. What to offer?

We have settled on an opener of Birchermuesli in individual cups,

Followed by focaccia fingers and our special smoked maple house hummus

To go with these we have built a variety of fruit trays for a quick pick-me-up

And an afternoon invigorator of mini cheesecakes and 2 kinds of coulis ... raspberry and orange.

Bon Appetit!

Being of Service to Others

Sometimes it is easy, TOO easy, to be a receiver of the work of others. It requires intentionality to be a giver, a supporter, engaged in listening.

Three afternoons this semester the whole brigade will be heading to the Good Shepherd Mission at Queen and Sackville to serve. We are offered this time and willingly take it, not as a burden but as a working challenge to ourselves. What does it mean to build community? To be in community?

Here is the group who attended to the needs of others this afternoon.

Many guests and workers at the Mission came to speak to me about how impressed they were by the character, the outstanding manners, the kindness and the care shown by each member of the brigade. I thanked each generous complimenter, and told them that this group of students has been with me for less than 2 weeks!


Each one is a fine young person, and I commend them for their care.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Marmalade by the litre!! Yums All 'Round.

Last week-end Chef went shopping for his family groceries at Fiesta Farms (his usual place) and found they had received their HUGE shipment of Seville Oranges.

Woo hoo, thought the old guy, it is marmalade season this week at Monarch Park!

About 14 kg of oranges were procured.


First we chop them up into thin slivers, each a demi-lune, and remove only the seeds

The cut-up orange slivers go into the fannies and are covered with water ... we did 6 fannies full of orange slivers

These are simmered down for several hours and sugar is added

We allow them all to cool on the counter overnight, covered with a lid

The next morning re-heat gently and add an indulgent flavour as desired ... this year we made three final kinds ... Bitter Orange with Drambuie / scotch whisky / Grand Marnier. Finish the reduction and cool off

Then do a taste-test. My students this semester have found they do NOT enjoy, appreciate or have any fancy for Scotch or Drambuie. The Grand Marnier goes over VERY well!

Chef invited staff to come into the kitchen after school and help can and get a good deal on a large jar. One took up the offer! Welcome, Dave Currie!

By 18h00 yesterday everything was canned ... and the clean-up was set up for today.

Today, we just made fresh toast in class and smeared it with melted butter. THEN added a little marmalade! My, how opinions have changed overnight! Today it was all 'yum'!

We have some delicious jars for sale. Just ask Chef OR email him, at

A special thanks to the following for going above and beyond in some particular way on this marmalade run ...

Kevin for chopping up, Jahquane for helping everyone else stay organized, Maryam for keeping Chef on track, Arielle and Yahya for making toast, buttering it and smearing on great gobs of our home-made marmalade for our indulgent taste-test this morning.

Delicious work, everyone! Well done.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Uniforms and Strong Starts

Today, the second day in the kitchen, was the day of the REAL start to the course. Yesterday we had the fun (and despair!) of "Make Me Cookies". Didn't work out so well yesterday ... everything went into the recycle bin.

But today ... Ah! Today was a different story ... the class time started with a demo at 08h45 (we start our classes 15 minutes BEFORE the rest of the school, just to remind ourselves that this Culinary Arts class, this time, is different from all others). The demo was how to REALLY read a professionally-written recipe, and how to start thinking like a pro.

"Think Like A Chef, Not Like A Cook" my students hear day after day. It does not mean 'cook better', it means think and plan and THEN execute. As Asia, one of my former students wrote on our whiteboard, "The LAST thing a Chef does is cook" ... because when you start the process, you are committing yourself to completion.

The basic method of all this is 'mis-en-place'. This involves reading, thinking, planning and preparation. Get out bowls, tools, boards, knives, etc.. Pre-heat ovens and set racks BEFORE the heating starts. Set up for a steam oven (if required). In short, get ready!

So today the demo was all about getting ready, really. Yes, cookies came out of it, but the main demo was the teaching of mis-en-place, and how to really read for content and implication. Oh yeah ... and how to warm a butter and sugar mix with a blowtorch (very popular!).

Then, after the demo it was time to put on uniforms for the very first time.
Chef jackets, proper aprons, side towels ... then each student was carefully given their toque, the chef hat of many folds. Each fold, it is said, represents a way to cook and serve an egg. (Thank you, Jahquane Lewis, for sharing your photo!)

I emphasize the trust that is always put in cooks and chefs, and how wearing the uniform means that you can always be trusted, under every circumstance, to do your best, to serve honestly, to never, EVER, fool around with someone's food. It is a huge amount of trust, and it must never, ever be betrayed. Everyone took the charge from me sincerely.

Then, back to those darn cookies, but this time with renewed and refreshed eyes and method.

Measuring was done carefully, particularly the water displacement for the butter (which had been softened on the counter overnight). The proper way to use a measuring cup was followed,
and the correct holding of a high-temperature 'spoonchula' developed.

Dough was rolled properly,
and each cookie pressed down to the proper height with a sugar-charged fork.

The parchement paper was folded correctly today, or form-fitted SilPat was used.

The results? Perfect! So good that 1) there are none left, and 2) I don't have a single photo of the results. THAT, friends, is success.

Well done, all! A very strong start.

Tomorrow ... the beginning of knife skills, and making litres of white veg. stock with bouquet garni.


Monday, 6 February 2017

Aaaaand ... They're Off! Away They Go!

It is a new semester.

It is a new start.

New everything.

We always begin with the same challenge ... results vary. I offer ONLY the recipe and a fully-stocked and loaded kitchen. No advice, no support (except for safety challenges), no directions, no questions are answered. This is a day to explore a new learning area, investigate and meet each other. And try to make something edible.

The challenge is always the same ... "Make Me Cookies!", and a recipe is given out from the 1949 Purity Flour cookbook, for Oat Meal Cookies (with raisins).

Teamwork is introduced, with the emphasis on communication. Always communicate!

The recipe seems so simple ... blend sugar into butter, add an egg or two, stir in measured dry ingredients, form as chosen and bake in a pre-heated oven.
So ... Pre-heat an oven.
First, figure out how an oven works.

Second, start mixing stuff
Third, put stuff together
Fourth, prepare cookie baking trays

Fifth, form cookies
Sixth, stick trays into ovens
Seventh, watch cookies bake
Eighth, figure out how to remove cookies from oven

Ninth, try out cookies.


Results this time were ... um ... variable. The concepts of 'crust' and 'crumb' were introduced, along with what a barely-baked outside and a raw inside look (and taste) like. Also, deficits in measuring (like 8 times the amount of baking soda used), and technique challenges (such as walking around the kitchen carefuly trying to balance a measured teaspoon of vanilla extract) were outlined and proven.

Today, all the cookies went into Mr Dumpster. This WAS, however, a very successful class ... everyone got to analyse what they did, and what needs to be improved. Tomorrow there will be a demonstration of technique and results from Chef, whose start-to-eat speed record is 27 minutes flat ... and then students, in their same groups, will be given 40 minutes to do the same.

This chef predicts a VERY good class tomorrow for everyone ... there was good learning today! And the cookies will be eaten!

A good first day, everyone.