Monday, June 16, 2014

Culinary Classes Overview, pt. 1 (Fundamentals and Meats)


It is incredible how quickly the last four months have gone by. Since day one of arriving everyone has said that time would fly by. I honestly didn’t really pay attention much to these thoughts, but out of nowhere four months have flown by. For the sake of readers of this blog who aren’t Culinary Arts students, whether they are prospective students or even just Baking and Pastry students here, I want to give a run down on the classes I’ve had so far, starting with the kitchen classes.

Timeline (to put the timing in perspective)

Semester 1
Fundamentals (15 weeks)

Semester 2
Meat ID and Fabrication (3 weeks)
Seafood ID and Fabrication (3 weeks)
Modern Banquets and Catering (3 weeks)
Intro to a la Carte Cooking (3 weeks)
High Volume Production Cookery (3 weeks)



Fundamentals 


Fundamentals consist of exactly what it sounds like: learning the fundamentals of cooking. It begins moving quite slowly; learning to make stock, cook soups, learning to make accurate knife cuts, and generally how to operate within a kitchen. You are in class twice a week (either Tuesday and Wednesday or Thursday and Friday) for around seven hours. During this time, you first, as a class, prep all the vegetables that have been ordered from the storeroom (the food stewards team picks it up from the storeroom before class), and for the first 13 days (varies to some degree apparently from chef to chef) you complete what is referred to as a knife tray. For my class the tray was as follows:
Class picture

·      1 onion cut small dice OR minced
·      1 onion sliced to 1/8in wide slices
·      1T shallot, minced
·      1T garlic, minced
·      1T parsley, minced
·      1 tomato concasse (tomato is peeled, seeded, and then chopped)
·      1 potato, half cut julienne and half cut brunoise
·      1 potato, half cut batonettes and half medium dice

The cuts are all placed on a plastic cafeteria tray before being graded for precision by the chef. Each of the potato cuts have specific measurements that make them a julienne versus a batonettes or medium dice versus a brunoise and it is expected that they be precise, both in shape and size. Eventually, the time was limited to only 45 minutes to do all of the above. All I have to say is that practice makes perfect; take advantage of the tutoring center.

Sautéed Chicken Fines Herbs (Day 24)
After the knife tray was completed we would move into production, which is a bit of misnomer because we were each only producing small quantities of whatever we were cooking that day, not producing for students to eat like in the further kitchens (which are referred to as “production kitchens”). The cooking started off slower and easier, with less tasks at the beginning of the course, eventually moving into producing plates with a protein, sauce, one starch, and two vegetables and again with a time limit. During this time, they’re also occasional written tests as well as having written homework for each day that consisted of writing definitions (“Key Terms”) and “Study Questions.” Here is broad rundown of each of the 28 days of class:

Day 1:           “Professional Kitchen Mise en Place: Knife Skills & Equipment”
Day 2:           “White Stocks & Broths, Basic Kitchen Hand Tools & Small Equipment”
Day 3:           “Clear Broths/Hearty Broths”
Day 4:           “Hearty Broths”
Day 5:           “Consommé:“Clarification of Broths”
Day 6:           “Specialty Soups, Potato Purée/Mashed Potatoes”
Day 7:           “Purée of Lentil Soup and Bean Cookery, Introduction to Brown Stocks and
 Roux
Day 8:           “Fish Fumet & Chowder”
Day 9:           “Velouté & Cream Soups”
Day 10:       “Béchamel”
Day 11:       “Emulsion Sauces”
Day 12:       “Espagnole & Jus de Veau Lié”
Day 13:       “Demi Glace & Tomato Sauce”
Day 14:       “Culinary Fundamentals Review Day” (read: knife skills test, cooking practical,
 and written test)
Day 15:       “Time Management and Multi-Tasking” (We continued potato cookery as
  well as going over red vegetable cookery. This is the first time were multiple
  dishes being cooked at once, hence the title.)
Day 16:       “Introduction to Rice Cookery and Sauce Workshop” (we made several rice
  dishes as well as a couple of derivative sauces)
Day 17:       “Introduction to Fresh Pasta”
Day 18:       “Introduction to Protein Cookery” (referred to as “egg day”)
Day 19:       “Submerged Poaching”
Day 20:       “Shallow Poaching”
Day 21:       “Roasting”
Day 22:       “Braising”
Day 23:       “Stewing: White Meat”
Day 24:       “Sauté: Chicken”
Day 25:       “Sauté: Fish”
Day 26:       “Pan Frying”
Day 27:       “Grilling”
Day 28:       “Sauté: Beef (or Red Meat)”

*Day to day may vary from chef to chef and the topic of each day may vary as well. These
  titles come from the course guide.


Meat ID and Fabrication

Sweet Italian Sausage (Day 8)

Meats class is the first class when you start the three-week blocks. It also marks the start of having class everyday, but for Meats it is only about three hours a day. This took about a week for me to adjust to, especially since it is such a forward-loaded class with a lot of technical information throughout the course. Although the majority of the class is spent cutting meat, there are a few days that were demo and lecture only. We covered techniques such as boning, tying and trimming for roasts, cutting cubes, cutting portions cuts, frenching bones, and general cutting techniques. The days were broken down as follows:

Day 1:           “Introduction to Meat and Meat Fabrication”
Day 2:           “Bovine: Beef Purchasing Round and Chuck, Roasts and Stew Fabrication”
Day 3:           “Bovine: Beef Loin and Rib”
Day 4:           “Bovine: Beef Portion Control Cuts”
Day 5:           “Bovine: Veal Purchasing and Fabrication”
Day 6:           “Swine: Pork Purchasing and Half Hog Fabrication”
Day 7:           “Swine: Pork Fabrication”
Day 8:           “Cured Pork and Basic Sausage Making”
Day 9:           “Meat Lecture and General Review”
Day 10:       “Kitchen Fabrication:(Special Projects Day)” (We each picked two cuts from a
  few option to fabricate – basically as close to a practical as there is in this
  course)
Day 11:       “Ovine: Lamb Purchasing and Carcass Fabrication”
Day 12:       “Poultry Purchasing and Fabrication”
Day 13:       “Game Purchasing and Fabrication”
Day 14:       “Final Exam and Cutting Practical” (All three of the classes did a written test
  and ID test but no cutting practical)

*Day to day may vary from chef to chef and the topic of each day may vary as well. These
  titles come from the course guide.


In my next post I will go over the academic classes we take during this time. I am also entering Seafood ID and Fabrication so stay tuned for an overview of that class once I finish.
Check out Part 2, where Emilio talks about his first semester academic classes.

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