Last week, my class began a three-week block of Banquets and Catering with Chef-Instructor Paul Irving. After six weeks of fabricating meat and fish with limited cooking, I was hungry to get back in the Teaching Kitchen (aka The TK) and fire up the French top.
My first week of production had its ups and downs. Some dishes I nailed (buttermilk biscuits) and some flopped onto the buffet line (too thick Clam Chowder). But hey, I am a student, if I'm going to flop let it be in The TK versus in a Michelin-starred restaurant. The key is to learn from both the mistakes and the wins.
With that in mind, and with encouragement from Chef Paul, my class ends each production day with our Fresh Five: a list of five "aha!", "ureka!" learning points. To make the list, the point must apply to the day's menu, but also have a broader application to navigating the kitchen.
As I prepare for my second week in the kitchen, I am meditating on a Fresh Five from Chef Paul.
"With repetition comes skill, with skill comes variation and with variation comes innovation."
To further illustrate this theory, Chef Paul shared how he uses soup station techniques to create innovation at a sauce station and vice versa. For example, how sauce finishing techniques can elevate a soup and how high-volume techniques frequently used in soup cookery can be leveraged in making sauces. These innovations are only possible through years of repetition and skill building.
So, this week, I will resist the itch to innovate, resist the itch to alter and just focus on skill. The rest will come in time.