Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Wall of Thanks at The Good Shepherd Street Mission

Every month possible my chef students go to The Good Shepherd Street Mission and serve clients their lunch and help prepare dinner. We welcome between 300 and 450 people each time we go. The pace is frenetic, the need almost overwhelming. After two hours of flat-out service my students have nothing left to give, physically or emotionally.
We are on the Wall of Thanks at The Good Shepherd...humble but delighted to be so as we have the chance to serve.

As always, I am very proud of my students .

George Brown Chef School Visit

Inspiration ==> Perspiration ==> Inspiration ==> Perspiration ==> Inspiration ==> Perspiration ==> etc.

Once in a while it is important to remind one's self where the trajectory leads ... why the learning NOW is important so doors will open in the future. Having a vision is important, and a sense of the possible. This creates hope...and without hope we are nothing.

George Brown Chef School is one of the premier places to get a wide and solid grounding in Culinary Arts in Canada. From personal experience I can attest to the quality of programs AND the absolutely terrific support offered to students and graduates as the move is made into professional work and life. The Director of Chef School is Chef John Higgins, who always welcomes my students to a tour of their possible future with a wide smile, a strong handshake and gentle, wise advice.

We chatted with Chef Higgins then were welcomed into the kitchen of Chef Dario Tomaselli, who gave my students 15 minutes of professional time and encouragement as well as a specific look at a professional teaching kitchen at College. Keep a good work / life balance, he encouraged my students, and aim high ... very, very high ... you'll never know how far you can go.
Be willing to take risks, and always keep learning...you'll never be 'full'. See the rapt attention!

Then we were off to The Chefs' House Restaurant, the teaching restaurant operated by the students of Chef School.
Teaching Chef Oliver Li welcomed my students, then had one of the student chefs do a "Chef's Call" for us,
teaching the front-of-house staff about the dishes on card, and features that are special. Thank you Chef Li!

This is what excellence looks like, and today my students learnt what it takes to be this good, this respected. That you, Chefs!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Mid-Term Exams!! (Are We Nervous Yet??)

Aaaargh! Time for an exam!

First, the REALLY hard part ... the written part. I offered students all the instructions on how to make beautiful focaccia. All they had to do was put the 34 steps into perfect order.


We practised yesterday by writing out, working in pairs, the instructions for two basic recipes requiring technique; making filled profiteroles,
and classical cheese risotto. Every pair wrote out the method of performing the recipe, and handed their writing to me. And waited a little whilst I took a look at their work ... then, with great glee I tore all the papers into small bits. Students blanched!

"OK", I said, "Now just stand up, in your pairs, and TELL me what you wrote down. Everyone else add, correct or encourage the speakers." With some nervousness and glances at each other, every single student stood and spoke ... and had to do BOTH recipes.

Today, each pair of students was told to simply prepare a basic station for two chefs. then, after the morning announcements, each pair was told what to make ... with no paperwork, no access to phones ... no support EXCEPT each other.
They had 90 minutes from cold start to absolute finish, including cleaning their stations and having the place literally perfect.

Enough talk from me ... here are the results, in photos.
Every single student did VERY well ... almost all marks are in the 90s ... and I am delighted.

After the exam was over we sat all together in my office and talked about how they're feeling about being ready (or not), and how they feel their skills are developing, and their confidence in themselves.
Every single student has discovered a new confidence in themselves, in their skills and abilities to accept a challenge, trouble-shoot on the fly and think creatively while all the time keeping clear, focused communication with their partner. I asked them all to think back to the very first day ... "Make Me Cookies" ... and there was rueful laughter.
Jacquane reminded us all how every cookie went into the trash ... they were, truly, awful.

Now? Wow.

We wound up with me presenting an alternative form of imagination and excellence to my chef students ... the amazing Maestro Cameron Carpenter, organist. (Listen and see Maestro Carpenter here.) He is a punk in style, but one of the world's best organists. He has taken oodles of classical training, then added his own sensibilities and style and made both the instrument ("The King" -- the mighty pipe organ) and the music his own. I shared with them also the fact that HE had a mentor, someone to follow ... and my students met the amazing Virgil Fox.

"Work towards being one of these two dreamers", I suggested. "Get a solid, solid training in the classics of your trade, and then reach beyond what you've been taught and make it truly your own."

Congratulations, all.