Thursday, September 15, 2005

White Chocolate: Evil, But In a Bad Way

So Orange came by today for some free chocolate! Someone from the other morning class and I stood outside in our chef uniforms (no aprons, though) offering passersby chocolates from the school. It wasn't difficult (unless you don't like dealing with strangers), so WTF. I'm also volunteering next Friday afternoon with Chef Bob: they're doing some kind of big production (for Disneyworld? Could that be right?) and they asked for a couple of students from each class. I thought it would be cool. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of volunteers for these things, though apparently with some groups of students there are issues.

Speaking of issues, we got a little mini-lecture from Chef Bob today, and I was glad of it. He appears very easygoing, and, in some ways he is, but, as he explained today, we're leaving the school with his name behind us, and if we're fucking up (he didn't put it that way), it makes him look bad. What he was complaining about is people chatting during his demonstrations and talking "too much" during production. I don't entirely agree with him on the latter--I don't see anyone standing around chatting instead of working, and I don't see anyone's work speed suffering because of their chatting (though, of course, he may see something different, or just prefer a quieter kitchen). There are people who are probably too slow for a production environment, but they tend to be the quieter among us, so that's not it. But I agree completely about the chatting during demo. Just because the chef walks away from the table to get something doesn't signal Talk Time. There's always a fraction of a lag between his reappearance at the table and the resumption of quiet, and it's been bugging him, but not everyone seemed to pick up on that. I think what's deceptive is that, unlike most "classroom" situations, in this one we're getting our hands dirty, doing stuff, making stuff, which is a more social enterprise (especially since we work in teams) than sitting in a classroom taking notes. This lulls people into thinking that it's kind of playtime--let's make cakes and candies!--but of course it's not. At the same time, everyone is taking the idea of school quite seriously, so I think it's just a matter of not recognizing the disjunction; I really don't think anyone's goofing off. Some people slack, but that's different.

It's always interesting to me how people work as team members. Our intern was cutting up a lot of chocolate for us, and finishing it, too, I think, and so was leaving her dirty dishes and sheet pans piled up by the sink. I hadn't realized that--I thought it was just class members leaving their shit around--but the intern mentioned it today. I told the class what was happening and suggested that when everyone washed their dishes, they grab one thing out of the intern's pile and wash it (thus slowly reducing the pile, sharing the load, and not creating a huge dish backup at the end like we had yesterday). Most people cooperated a little--or some people did, anyway--but eventually, at a handy moment when I was at the sink, V and I just blew through the rest of the stuff. (V is the one who is teaching me Spanish.) That's what I like about V, or one of the things, anyway: she just picks up whatever needs to be done and does it. I'd totally hire her, not least because we had a useful conversation today about these things--she thinks that a person's attitude toward learning (humility, she called it) and his or her willingness to be part of a team are the most important things, and I think she's right.

So what did we make today? Shells out of white chocolate, which is awful stuff (I really despise it); we filled them with passion fruit fondant (the acid in the fruit eventually changes the character of the fondant, which is what you want) and pistachio cinnamon something (that one might be okay). We cut up the two ganaches (Earl Grey and "island," i.e., rum). We tempered white chocolate, which is difficult when the chocolate is as thick as it was today; we had to redo our molds, because it was so thick that it didn't drain out. (Did I mention that it blows?) We made mendiants, which are little disks of chocolate piped onto a Silpat--about the size of a quarter--and into which you then stick little bits of stuff, like candied orange peel, dried apricots, dried cherries, caramelized almonds, pistachios, whatever. They're really gorgeous and rustic, simultaneously. You can do bigger ones, too--little wafers, for example--but these were supposed to fit into the boxes we have.

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