The journey continues...

Monday, May 7, 2012

The second chapter of my culinary journey begins at This is My Now. Or you can just see my Pastry and Cake photos at Keepsake Cakes and Pastries. Enjoy! And thank you for following my story!

"It comes full circle"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This post is a combination post about week 10 with the revelation of my big news after that.

(Can you tell how sleepy I still am? My eyes are all tired, still. heh)

Chef Thompson made a comment this week that this class has "come full circle" for me. I began the quarter week 1 helping on pastry, though I was officially a server, and finished out the quarter this week back on pastry, this time with my usual A La Carte partner, Stacy.

Noone had changed up the platings of the desserts, even though creative liberty was allowed. Being who I am, I couldn't do what everyone else did all quarter, even though the original decoration of the cookies was mine, too. I had seen these:

one day while squirreling around on pastry blogs and decided to try them out. I've searched for a half hour and can't friggin' find where I originally found it, so please message me if you know where they came from so I can give credit!!

So this is my version of the cookie.

The antlers are much longer and thinner because of the difference in cookie cutters. Chef Thompson's was tall and thin, not short and fat.

I also made some teeeeeeeeeny tiny ones to go on top of the butterscotch pudding.

One more week to go!!!! Only ONE MORE WEEK!!! Portfolio Review is December 15th, and there WILL be a trio of mini cupcakes there for you to sample, if you decide to come say hello. If not, you can come out to Roy's Hawaiian Fusion in Jax Beach in the next few weeks and purchase them off the dessert menu, because my big news is that I am now Head Pastry Chef there!

My friend, Natane, who I have mentioned in this blog numerous times before, was working pastry there ever since the previous Pastry Chef left 3ish months ago. She told them about me over and over until they finally told her to have me come in. I took in my resume on a Tuesday to the Owner/Chef Partner, Adam Hyatt, and had an interview right then and there. I was hired unofficially until I went online and took the corporate evaluation, and was officially offered the position that Thursday. I immediately drove my two weeks notice to Nippers, and grinned all the way home.

I am so thankful for my time at Nippers. I learned so much there, and being surrounded by such astounding rigidity and people with such work ethic only made me better. I have what I would consider a deep internal drive to work my hardest as it is, but Nippers gave me the tools and practice to work my hardest in the most efficient manner. I can tell that this is noticed at Roy's. I immediately get dressed when I come in and gather my tools, my sanitizer, my bus tubs, my tasting spoons, and pots and pans. I have a list of what I need to get accomplished that day, and have done my work outSIDE of work to make sure that I can knock out my list with speed and efficiency.

I have creative liberty at Roy's, and we have established a plan to replace items on the current menu with my own creations until soon all the items will be mine, with the exception of Roy's Signature Chocolate Souffle. (Amazing, by the way, and well worth the 20 minutes of waiting for it to come piping hot to your table, fresh from the oven.) There were times at the end of Nippers that I was second guessing myself, wondering if I was any good. I know now that I am. Natane messaged me several times during this whole process, giving me words of encouragement that she didn't even know I needed. They literally brought tears to my eyes sometimes. She just believed in me so much, and trusted in my capabilities SO MUCH, that she made me believe her, too.

Am I ready to be Head of Pastry at Roy's? Hell yes. Will I mess up here and there. Undoubtedly. Am I going to give it my all, though? HELL YES! In the last three weeks, I have pushed my anxiety aside so many times and just told it to shut the fuck up. I don't have the time for anxiety at work. I just keep telling myself I can do this. I AM doing this. I will NOT let Natane down. She recommended me so highly, and I want to prove her right. The people at Roy's are absolutely amazing. All of them. It is such a warm environment, with family being a focus. I have been welcomed there with such excitement and open arms, literally, which has been such a soothing balm to my spirit. I love going to work. I have such a love for the people there, truly, already. Chef Adam has such a positive attitude, and it just emanates from him. His passion for the food and coming up with new items shows in the end product. He works hard at building up his team, and is rewarded with a staff who has been with him for a great length of time, many for the entire seven years Roy's Jax Beach has been open. I think that speaks greatly to a positive work environment, and I cannot begin to give enough praise to that aspect.

I have already grown since I have been there. I plated 29 dessert trios at the same time the other night, after prepping two of the three items myself previously. I have taught myself how to temper chocolate and have created beautiful truffles. I have notebooks and scads of ideas and recipes spinning through my mind at any given moment. I have a COTTON CANDY MACHINE and and ice cream machine at my disposal, and instructions to let Adam know what else I want. Seriously! *Can you feel my giddiness coming through?? Sometimes words just are not enough, which is why I put this entry off for so long. It needed time to soak in before I could even begin to communicate how exciting of a venture this is for me.* I am just blown away with gratitude for this job. I am getting paid to do what I am most passionate about (besides my family, of course). I think anyone who can say that, especially in this economy, is extremely fortunate and I plan to never, for a single moment, take that for granted.

So here is a ginormous, massive, screaming from the top of my lungs, "THANK YOU" to the universe.

Weeks 8+9

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Week 8 I was serving again. I have come to the point that I am not nearly as anxious about this, and it's pretty much a breeze. Aunt Toshia brought in three of her kids and Harmony and Layla on Tuesday, and since she "never says no!" to my kids, they promptly ordered desserts only (Harmony ordered the whoopie pies

AND the gingerbread men with butterscotch pudding)
and sugary beverages. Oh well. I was in class until 6, what did I care? She got to deal with the aftermath. Haha!! It was a fun surprise, though, and the kids loved getting to see me at school.

Week 9 I was back on Garde Manger with Stacy. Everything went even more smoothly that the first week. The Duck Confit salad had been taken off the menu, and Stacy got to prepare the Amuse Bouche for the day instead, which Chef had prepped the items for. Tuesday, Chef had me mise out a batch of focaccia bread which I then made and baked on Wednesday.

We are getting SO close to the end and I am scrambling to finish up my final projects. There is other big news in my working world, but I will leave that for another post. :D It's pretty friggin' exciting though.

Week 7- Sandwich

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This week Stacy and I were on the Sandwich station. The sandwiches we responsible were Pork Cemitas, Bratwurst, Fried Chicken Sliders, and Fried Green Tomato and Shrimp. I decided to be responsible for the Sliders and the Green Tomato sandwich since they both came off the fryer. This also meant I was responsible for the Sweet Potato chips that come as a side to the majority of the dishes that come out of the kitchen. (These photos are from the food show, again. I never seem to remember/have time to take photos this quarter.)

The sliders are served with AI Bacon, pepperjack cheese, sliced avocado, and a lemon remoulade with a side of pickled green tomatoes.

The Green Tomato Sandwich is served with a red pepper syrup, goat cheese spread, and smoked shrimp.

Monday was prep day, and we, once again, managed to get everything done that needed to be done in a timely and organized fashion. We always decide the week before what two dishes we will be in charge of so we can both make lists of what we need to get accomplished. I got the green tomatoes sliced, breaded, and frozen so they just had to be pulled out and into the fryer for service. All the spreads and garnishes were prepared. The only thing I needed to do Tuesday was breading the chicken.

Service went smoothly. I sliced the sweet potato chips a little too thin, but it wasn't the biggest deal in the world. At least they weren't overcooked like the time Marc and I visited the restaurant to eat. Chef CJ came through and tried my chicken and said *in a surprised voice, might I add* "This is really good!" It was definitely seasoned well (season the flour, eggs, AND panko, people!) and juicy due to NOT overcooking. Not rocket science, but I am happy that this is a skill I have learned.

The most annoying part of this station is breakdown because part of that includes cleaning/emptying the fryer. Once you do this, you smell and feel like used fryer oil. Sexy. (I think someone should invent a sarcasm font. It is desperately needed.)

Chef decided that this week our stations will be chosen by luck of the draw...Stacy and I both got "unlucky" and are serving.......A-freaking-gain. Ah well. Now I am REALLY glad I didn't throw out my shirt, tie, and bistro apron.

Week 6- Garde Manger

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This week Stacy and I were on the Garde Manger station. We had four dishes- A Lebanese Shrimp Salad, BLT Caesar, Duck Confit, and a Sous Vide Chicken Salad. Stacy took the Duck and Chicken salads, and I took the Shrimp and BLT salads. This worked out well because you, by now, should realize how I feel about raw poultry, and Stacy really didn't want to do the emulsions which I have really come to enjoy.

The Lebanese Shrimp salad is served on grilled pita bread, with Za'atar spiced shrimp, lebneh cheese balls, pickled red onions, and a lemon parsley vinaigrette.

The BLT Caesar is served with AI Pancetta, roasted tomatoes, fresh croutons, shaved parmesan (this week it was grated because we didn't have a block to shave), and of COURSE, Caesar dressing.
(This is the photo from the food show day. I didn't get a photo of one of mine)

Prepping is easy peasy for the most part. Stacy and I are both on the same page for the most part when it comes to organization and cleanliness, and on prep days we get to have some tunes playing overhead. This class has a good camaraderie, and many of us are about to graduate. We all are comfortable with each other and get pretty silly together.

Tuesday was service. I love how much I have picked up working in the industry as far as setting up stations for service. It's pretty much second nature now, which is comforting to feel. The one comment we got from the dining room was that the pita bread under the shrimp salad was hard to eat and a little impractical. Wednesday when I came in, Chef Thompson approached me and we said, almost together, that we should cut the pita into wedges. "You knooooow, Heather...You're alright." That is Chef's classic praise in this lab when someone has done something right or thought ahead.

Next week, Stacy and I will be on sandwich station. We will see how THAT goes, since they seemed to be in the weeds the whole class this week.

Weeks 4+5- Saute

Thursday, November 3, 2011

(This is my plating. The other photos are the ones from the food show on week 1. I didn't get the time to take a photo of my veloute this week.)

The last two weeks I was on the saute station for A La Carte. The four dishes that come off saute are:

a Shell Bowl (mussels, clams, and scallops)

Short Ribs and Chili Mac with Potlikker Greens (yes, that's spelled correctly)

A Mushroom Veloute (soup)

and Seared Scallops with Spaghetti Squash. There are two of us on the station, so we each are responsible for two dishes. I was in charge of the Veloute and the Scallops.

Prior to the first Monday, I made a list of everything that needed done and the time each would take. I also made a list of mise en place to gather. This ended up being a huge time saver, as well as helping us stay organized.

Mondays we prep everything for service. I made the Veloute, roasted the squash, and prepped all the items for the Bouillabaisse for the shell bowl. Stacy seared and braised the short ribs and prepared it's sauce, cooked the pasta, and cleaned her shellfish. The Roundswoman prepared the Bechamel for the Chili Mac.

Tuesday we have an hour prior to service to get everything ready. I, again, had made a list of everything left to do and the order we needed to do it in (IE, prepare crackers asap!), the utensils and pots I would need for service, and the plates we were going to need to gather. I realized how much I have actually learned working the line at Nippers when it came time to set up the station and get ready for service. I immediately set up a bain marie on the stove to hold all our hot items that are not prepared a la minute. I set up a sani bucket for my utensils in addition to the one for the station. I gathered our plates and put them in an oven at 175F to keep warm for service. I gathered all the pots and utensils I would need during service. Chef came by and began to tell us several items on that list we needed, and everything was already done.

We warmed our items that were prepared the day before, and I made the crackers and a buerre blanc, as well as thawed and panned the scallops. We set up the cold station and it was time for service!

Service is only two hours long and was over before I knew it. I stayed calm and my scallops came out so wonderfully. It was actually kind of fun working saute, and I enjoyed the experience. Our homework was to prepare a list of what we could do better to improve the flow of service.

The second week on the station was a little...well, absent. This quarter has just been a terrible quarter for being sick and the kids being sick. Such is life, I suppose, but I still felt guilty about leaving Stacy to manage a couple of the days with who(m?)ever Chef decided to throw on the station with her.

Next week we will be moving to Garde Manger!

Weeks 2 and 3

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weeks 3 and 4 were spent serving. This was fairly easy since I did it for a whole quarter previously. Mondays are spent getting the restaurant ready for service. We iron the tablecloths, polish the glasses and silverware and fold napkins, make simple syrup for tea, set the tables, and cut paper for the table tops. When we come in Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, we put together bread baskets, fill the ice well with ice, brew coffee and tea, fill the tiny pitchers with simple syrups and cream for coffee, fill the mini fridge with sodas, place flowers on the tables, turn on the *horrible* music, wheel out the hostess stand, hear about the special of the day and the amuse bouche, pipe butters into ramekins for service, and we are ready for customers.

The restaurant is open from 11-1 Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I was hostess on Tuesday of week 2. As hostess, it is my job to greet and seat customers, ring in to go orders and take payment for them, and answer the phone.

The internet at the school was down that day, so noone received an email letting them know we were open. We had barely any customers. Wednesday I had two tables, one of which was the new head of culinary at AI, and also the HEAD of culinary at all AI who was visiting the school. No pressure. It all went well, though, and the week was over.

Monday of week 3 I had a mandatory meeting I had to attend at work at 10AM. Tuesday and Wednesday were service days, again, and I had one table each day.
(Chef Heidi and three staff of AI)

I am finding it more and more challenging to keep a positive attitude as I near the very end. Actually, I'm finding it downright impossible. The majority of this is due to the changes that have been taking place at the Art Institutes. The rest of it is due to the fact that I am completely burned out. School, work, kids, homework, housework...I am mentally breaking down. I've been informed that I "will not just flip the eff out and lose it" by a licensed professional. That is slightly comforting. "Make it to the end of December" has become my mantra. 8 more weeks. 8. More. Weeks.

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