Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Power

Larry wants to know what counseling I received, and, I have to say, the answer so far is "not much." I think for this first round, the chefs are are asking us what we want to do and, when appropriate, hooking us up with the right people or places. I want to do the internship or, failing that, work at a patisserie in this city where I can get production experience. I don't really think that working in a hotel or restaurant will help me all that much, but I'm willing to listen if the chefs think otherwise. (I could see doing it for three months, for example, under the right chef, and thereby learning a lot about the efficiency about which Chef Tom preaches.) Because of C and the Kid, not to mention a lack of money, I can't really go to another city--and, frankly, even if I could, in order to be willing, I'd have to be convinced that I'd be (a) learning something I could not possibly learn elsewhere and (b) learning something that would be truly worth my while in terms of opening a bakery.

We had our first evaluations with Chef Tom today, and he knocked everybody (or nearly everybody) down a peg or two. I asked the same question I asked in every other evaluation I've received, i.e., how do I get better? On what should I work? Because each chef notices, cares about, or emphasizes a different thing, and the three of them triangulate nicely. He told me I need to be more of a perfectionist, and I think he's right about that. Some people argue that I'm too picky--i.e., too much of a perfectionist already--but I disagree. I think that, in everything we do, there's a balance between getting something done and making it the highest-quality product possible. A product that never sees the light of day (or gets stale) because you're fussing with it isn't good, but neither is a product that could be better if you only took a little more time with it. He told me to focus on getting it right now, and worry about getting faster later.

We didn't actually produce much today. We finished the strawberry rhubarb thing: strawberry gelee, rhubarb confit, pistachio creme legere, all frozen into a cake ring, and that thing sprayed green and set on top of a sablee crust topped with pistachio almond cream that had been baked, with the whole thing surrounded by sliced strawberries and garnished with strawberries and pistachios. I didn't feel like bringing mine home today, but I'll bring it tomorrow and take a picture; mine doesn't have a crust, because there wasn't quite enough cream legere so we shared among tables, and our table ended up with enough for two, but we'd only made one crust. My partner needs to take desserts home for Thanksgiving, so I let her have the one with the crust (it looks quite lovely).

Did I tell you about the power of the cookie? Early on, Chef Fred told us about it. Give stuff away to everyone, he said, and he told stories about how, when he worked in a hotel, the engineers and so on got all kinds of pastry and stuff from him and his staff. When something broke, whose broken thing got attention first, do you suppose? That, he said, is the power of the cookie. I do that anyway--people so rarely get to eat home-made things, and I like to do it. I've been taking stuff to my yoga class, for example, in part so it doesn't just sit around and rot, which would be a shame. Kind of karma yoga, you know? Anyway, remember those plums I sliced last week? We finally cut up and froze the last of them today. However, chef told me to take some of them. Why do I need them? I'd taken a slice of the plum tart to my morning bus driver (I catch the same bus every morning), and he asked me if I would make a whole one for him, that he'd pay me for it. Today I told him I'd do it for him at cost, but he insisted I had to make a profit, so we'll see. Nevertheless, I was completely touched (and excited) that he wanted it--my first real customer! And he clearly wanted it because he wanted it, not because he wants to make me feel good. The power of the cookie, indeed.

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