Culinary Arts Project

Level 4: Under Pressure – Day 61


  • Serve a pork chop ‘bone on the left’, so the customer can cut into it from the right.
  • When frying a pork chop, fry the presentation side first – the first sear gets the best color.
  • When frying a fillet, also fry the presentation side down first – in the case of a fish, the presentation side is the fillet side that was close to the bone, not close to the skin.

Today was the first day of Level 4, and it was AMAZING. Crazy, hectic, but AMAZING. We were divided into 4 teams, and then half of each team had to create a chicken consommé plus a pork chop with green peppercorn sauce, while the other half had to fry a skate grenobloise (brown butter with lemon, capers, and parsley) plus bake an apple tart.

Vitor filleting his skate
Vitor filleting his skate
Joe flambeeing the pork sauce
Joe flambeeing the pork sauce

I was on team #1 and had to do the consommé and pork dish. Team #1 had slightly more pressure because we had to plate first. At exactly 12.45 we had to be in front of chef Joe or chef Dominique with our two consommé plates, and at exactly 1.25 we had to be back with our pork dishes. 5 4 3 2 1…GO!!!!!!

For the apple tart crew, they knew what they had to do… make the dough and fast. I tried to not let any panic set in, because it wasn’t as clear what to do first. Ok, the consommé has to clarify for an hour so that’s the priority. I don’t know if anyone remembers the post about ‘the raft’, but ‘the raft’ is back. We take 3 liters of marmite (a chicken stock which has been browned with burnt onions) and clarify it with a raft. A raft? That’s right, a raft composed of julienned carrots/leek greens/celery, egg whites and ground turkey is added to the marmite, and after an hour has clarified the consommé. I actually got that part going pretty well, though no ‘clarifying appeared to be happening’, but I felt under control. (see main pic for ‘the raft’).

Ground Control Erik and his pork dishes
Ground Control Erik and his pork dishes
Pablo's had to write the Espagnole recipe on his arm
Pablo had to write the Espagnole recipe on his arm

What next? The peppercorn sauce needs a sauce Espagnole, which has to be made and reduced for 30-50min so that’s next. Grab my pork, cut out the weird little bones, manchonnéed the rib bone, and start roasting the bones till brown. Now the panic started to set in. I hadn’t brought the recipe for the Espagnole, and chef ran through it fast in the demo, so I only had rough notes. Now I started making mistakes. 12 in total for the day. Once the bones were brown, I added the veal stock, forgetting to brown the vegetables first, forgetting to cook the tomato paste, and forgetting to ‘singer’ (flour). Oh well, swirled some flour in a bit of veal stock and just throw it all in. Grabbed the peppercorns (“Those aren’t peppercorns, those are capers – Joe points out”). Ouch. Ok, its finally on a simmer. Panic growing. Now I have to prepare the ‘taillage’ of vegetables for the consommé (these are the finely cut carrots, turnips, beans, and peas). Last time we made consommé we cut them into paysanne slices, so I did that, but no, we were supposed to macedoine (cube) them. Darn, and there are no more carrots. Oh well.

Chef Joe critiqueing Joanne's tart
Chef Joe critiqueing Joanne’s tart
Chef Pascal talk tart with Spencer
Chef Pascal talks tart with Spencer

Anyway the panic kept growing, and while I got the consommé plated on time (“not enough salt”, “wrong taillage”), I did reach a point of total panic/paralysis during the pork preparation. We’re not supposed to communicate Station to Station, but Erik came to my rescue pulling me out of it. He acted as Ground Control to my Major Tom so to speak. I owe you big time. I got the pork plated 2 minutes late (but on the wrong side), and done medium rare, but it did taste amazing. Apparently only one of us got the consommé perfect (Rachel), and only one of us got the pork dish perfect.

I’m really liking this level. I like the pressure, the food is back to that amazing tasting food I was hoping to experience. Quite frankly, I thought that every day of culinary school was going to be like this. We all do the same dishes for the next three days to improve speed and accuracy. Hopefully I can get my mistake count down to 0.

Flower outside David Bowie's apartment
Flowers outside David Bowie’s apartment

Bicycling home, there was a crowd gathered outside a building three blocks from the school. It was David Bowie’s apartment. So sad.

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