The Real Deal!

This morning I woke up one minute before my alarm sounded and disabled it. I slept for another hour and then pleasantly got out of bed. Hunter, Yolanda, and I did P90X’s Cardio X workout while the kids ate their breakfast. I started a load of laundry and after it was in the dryer we set out for Hollywood. Hunter knew a quick way to get to Grauman’s Chinese Theater which saved us an hour of time wasted in L.A. traffic. We parked and wandered around for about an hour or two. My favorite part was finding the hand- and foot-prints of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. Ha!

Me with the stars of Harry Potter

 Hollywood Boulevard

We ate at California Pizza Kitchen after taking more pictures and looking at the HOLLYWOOD sign. We were pretty pooped, so we headed back. I watched the kids so Yolanda and Hunter could go on a date. They ended up napping most of the time. Correction, WE ended up napping most of the time (ahem) and then I made dinner for them. After Yolanda and Hunter came home we had Family Home Evening and held an emergency drill in case of an earthquake or fire. I decided to update my blog on the outdoor porch before going to bed because I know this week will bring many more stories and baked goods I’ll need to photograph—including one of my favorites, éclairs. Yum!


My Pasadena

I slept in. Without much to do, I stayed in bed for a while and started to eye my upcoming homework assignments. Yolanda and Hunter were busy with their Saturday things to do, that I found myself extremely bored. What did I have to do? Laundry? By evening, Hunter noticed my signs of cabin fever and he suggested that I go out. I decided to explore Old Pasadena by foot and find a restaurant where I would treat myself. Ha. I finally got ready, placed my iPod (I FIXED IT—YAY!) on my favorite playlist, and set off for an adventure. I felt empowered walking down new streets and observing the people walking by. Pasadena is a beautiful place! I had my eye open for a good place to eat. As I passed all of the shops, only walking in J. Crew, H&M, and Crate and Barrel, I found an offshoot from the main road on which I found a pleasant looking restaurant called “Crème de la Crêpe.” As soon as I saw the menu I decided to eat there! They had raclette—that’s all they needed to win me over. I was immediately transported back to France. The workers were French and the setting was just like any other small restaurant on the streets of Paris. I found a small table in the corner adjacent to the live jazz performers. I already knew what I wanted. I got nervous ordering when I realized just how unconditioned I am in French. It’s been about a year since I’ve fully engulfed myself in French and amazingly enough, teaching Haitian Creole six days a week managed to corrode at the purity in and confidence of my French. Oh well. I’ll practice more with Chef. Ha.

Crème de la Crêpe

I made my way back home but instead of taking the same route, I veered from it a bit and accidentally ran into Paseo Colorado, an outdoor mall similar to The Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City, but definitely much cooler! I explored for a while then noticed a movie theater. I decided to take a look at what was playing and ended up buying a ticket to “The Prince of Persia” since it wasn’t too late. It was OK, uh, kind of lame actually. I walked back home, surprising myself that it only took about six minutes to walk back. How did I not know this outdoor mall was here? I realized I need to get out more.


Back To The Place Where It All Began

When I arrived, students were already starting their mise en place for the two muffin recipes we were required to make today. I returned to my original station and got started right away. Before the day’s demonstration, we finished our apple pies by cutting vents and decorating them with flowers and leaves we furnished out of our leftover dough. I applied another egg-wash coating and placed all four pies (including the mini blueberry pies) in the oven.

We prepared the blueberry muffins using the muffin method which leaves the muffins crumbly yet moist while with the chocolate chip muffins, it required the creaming method which results in more of a pound-cake-like texture. I garnished my blueberry muffins with the crumb topping I used for my blueberry pies and used decorative sugars for my chocolate muffins. After throwing my muffins in the convection oven (needed for more lift) I checked on my pies. Perfect! I took the blueberry pies out. I noticed that the lattice design on the top of one of the pies wasn’t cooked as thoroughly as I would have liked, so I covered the main crust with tin foil (Chef’s suggestion) and replaced it in the oven. I kept a careful eye on the muffins and the two pies left in the oven. The latter ended up finishing first, so I prepared a baking sheet, arranged my products, and walked to Chef’s table.

After presenting my pies, chef showed his approval by limiting his criticism. Thankfully my pie crust did not slide off the top of the pie or cave in or burn or end up hard and flakey-less like some of the others in the room. He essentially said that I learn quickly and I have an ability to recreate. I was quite proud of myself considering the disaster the day before and the fact that I really could not put my heart into making the pie—I just don’t like them.

My muffins were done! I pulled them out, arranged them as well, and walked up to Chef’s table for my final grading of the day. When presenting my muffins, chef looked very pleased. He said I follow proper technique. He then did something I’ve never seen him do or say before.

“Zonaton, ‘ave you tasted yuh muffeens?”

“No, not yet Chef.”

“Well, do eet!”

“Now Chef?”


I grabbed a muffin, rather perplexed and unprepared, and sunk my teeth into one of my chocolate muffins.

“Well? What do you theenk?”

I knew I couldn’t say anything too positive so I tried to look for anything wrong I could say about it. With a full-mouth I started my self-critique.

“Well, they are quite different from the blueberry muffins. These are more cake-like. When I make these again, I would like to add more chocolate (a suitable response for the one who possesses the name “chocolate boy”). I don’t like the decorative sugar on top.”


“It adds a crunchy texture to the muffin that I find rather ill-fitting to the moist, cake-like texture that a muffin should have.”

“Eh za blueberry?”

“The crumb topping is complementary to the blueberry because they are deliberately crumbly and I think the topping enhances the overall taste.”


“Yes Chef?”

“Vairee good.”

“Thank you (awkward pause). Uh, thank you Chef.”

After a nod of approval, he continued to compliment my work over the past two weeks. I don’t remember everything he said, but I was rather taken back and pleased that Chef notices my unfailing desire to learn and create. It was a good day in the kitchen. Yolanda had to drive to Le Cordon Bleu to pick up the four pies and roughly two dozen muffins, saving me from the terrible task of walking all of it home in windy weather.
Blueberry Muffins

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Apple Pie

Blueberry Pie

Shortly after arriving home, I received a phone call from a young lady from the ward named Sarah. She invited me to hang out with her and her friends with a caveat that I might feel uncomfortable since I’m “so much older” than her and her 18/19 year old friends. I’m only 24! That makes her sound incredibly insensitive, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. She is an incredible person actually, and I was very thankful for the invite. She picked me up and we made a quick stop at her home where we picked up her friend and dropped off some of the muffins to her parents. The rest of the evening brought wonderful food, good (and at times, interesting) conversation, and exposure to some of Pasadena’s finest—enough people to help down one of the four pies made in class today. All of the people that evening were Harvard students or at studying in New England. It made me wonder how different my life would have been had I gone to Harvard and not BYU for my undergraduate degree. As curious as I was, I couldn’t get over the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at BYU and the fine education received there. Go cougars! After Sarah drove me home, I got ready for bed and fell asleep—abruptly.


Fire and Blood, but NO TEARS!

It was another late morning, but this morning I did not feel half as sick and I definitely had sufficient amount of time to get ready and out the door. It was rather cool and there was a constant drizzle of rain on the walk up to East Campus. Feeling a bit groggy this morning, I found myself less alert during the demonstration of apple pie filling/assembly and mini berry pie filling/assembly. Gathering my ingredients took a while and set me back in time. Luckily I was able to gain more time peeling my apples. While sautéing my apples in butter and with my burning on high as was suggested, I found it necessary to use a towel to save my hands from burning on the metal sauté pan. As I added the cornstarch, a critical step in the creation of apple pie filling, I did not realize that my towel was too close to the burner and it caught fire. It took me a while to notice the flames blaring from under my sleeve. As you can imagine, this one event threw me off for the rest of the period. Luckily chef was out of the room when it happened and someone no one else noticed. I threw away the towel and quickly finished my apples all the while thinking, "I DON'T EVEN LIKE PIES!  ARGH!" 

A little fidgety following the fire incident, I somehow brushed against my razor sharp knife during pie assembly and sliced open my left hand. OUCH!  Again, chef wasn’t around. Phew. I ran to the back of the lab and repaired my hand and quickly got back to work. I finished my blueberry filling (so good) and assembled three mini pies—two with crumble topping and one with a lattice top. Unfortunately, we were unable to bake any of them due to time. After a frustrating production day, I was thankful that I still managed to finish everything I needed to get done before the end of class. It was rough people!  We corrected our exams in my last hour class and I quickly returned home longing for my bed. After a short nap and a few iTunes purchases, I felt a lot better. Tomorrow I will bring home four different pies and two dozen chocolate chip and sour cream blueberry muffins. It should be good!  Better than today at least...


Breakfast in the Afternoon

I woke this morning feeling a bit ill. Perhaps it was merely psychological; but throughout the night I kept waking up at the slightest noise either one of my nephews made—Paulo, heavy breathing and Andre, the most horrific sounding coughs. You know when you are around sick people and you feel like you’re getting sick just by breathing the same air? The whole waking up at the slightest noise is funny really, because I remember that my dad was always a very light sleeper. I could be down the hall with my door shut and whisper “DAD” in the middle of the night and I would hear a “What? What’s wrong?” in response all the way from his room. HA! Who knew I would inherit that light-sleeping-quick-snap-out-of-delirium quality. Sick or not, I had a late start and ended up skipping breakfast so I could arrive on time.

When I arrived at Lab 3, I set up at my new station (due to the unreliable oven). I was a little apprehensive about moving to the other side of the room but the inconvenience of running back and forth to use a working oven was taking up valuable time. The other side of the room consists of fewer people.

Today we learned the “cutting method” and practiced by making biscuits and pie dough. Rather straight-forward. The key, of course, is cold water and cold butter. While we worked at our stations, Chef prepared gravy from bacon, rosemary, and basil. Hungry as I was, you can imagine how wonderful it was to sink my teeth into my hot flakey biscuits drenched Chef’s delicious concoction. Because we had some extra time, we prepared a crumb topping that we will use tomorrow when we assemble our pies and Friday when we make our muffins.

Eating My Biscuits in Class

In my second class we had an exam on pathogens. Basically, we had to know the causes of and preventative measures for various food related illnesses such as: Hepatitis A, Norovirus Gastroenteritis, Bacillus Ceres Gastroenteritis, Listeriosis, Hemorrhagic Colitis, Clostridium Perfringens Gastroenteritis, Botulism, Salmonellosis, Shigellosis, Staphylococcal Gastroenteritis, Vibrio Vulnificus Primary Septicemia, Anisakiasis, Cryptosporidiosis, Giardiasis, etc… I think you get the point. I did well.

I came home and quickly photographed my biscuits before the family gobbled them up for a pre-dinner meal.


Biscuits and Gravy (compliments to Chef Guillard for the gravy)

Yolanda convinced me to go out for the evening and explore Pasadena—it was more like a push out the door. I took pictures of my walk up to school and shopped around at a bookstore and Target. Pasadena is a rather mellow city with a calm night life. I quite like it. On the way home I picked up a movie for my sister, brother-in-law, and me to watch. It was another late night, I’m afraid. Here are some pictures! It's too bad the camera died after the first three or four shots and it wouldn't let me focus correctly.  Grrr. 

 I live on Bellevue Drive

This is the street I walk up to school

The door I enter every morning


Why Does Everyone Keep Yelling At Me?

On my walk to East Campus I pass by the Mayfield, a private school for five to fifteen year olds. As I walked past the outdoor field my attention was drawn to a young seven year old who screamed out to me:

“Hey there funny guitar holding milkman!”

Is my uniform that bad? Apparently my bag of baking tools looks like a guitar case and my outfit is similar to a milkman’s? Who knows what a milkman looks like nowadays? Especially a seven year old?

I laughed.

When I showed up to class, I was ready to go. On today’s agenda: Biscotti and Strassburger Cookies—you know, the kinds you get in the Danish Cookie Tins? I worked at a pretty good pace today and to my pleasure there wasn’t any sabotage or drama. Both kinds of dough were made but we only had time to bake the strassburger. We flavored our biscotti with blanched almonds and orange zest. During a demonstration I asked Chef Guillard if I could garnish my strassburger cookies with more chocolate even though he is not a big fan of the stuff—what a shame eh? This question resulted in what I hope does not become a long-lasting nickname for me. “CHOCOLATE BOY.” It didn’t help that when I was garnishing the cookies he caught me lick my finger. He screamed out at me from the other side of the lab.

“ZONATAN!” I looked up at him like a little boy who was just caught doing something naughty. “WASH YOUR HANDS!”

“Yes Chef!”

Well, I guess being unsanitary is quite a naughty act in the culinary world. I just couldn’t help myself. The rest of the period flew! It’s a good thing my cookies turned out very well. Chef just took a look and said, “Great. You did a great job.” Phew! Today wraps up our unit on cookies. We have now mastered, hopefully, the three cookie methods: one-stage (throwing all ingredients in the mixer), creaming (creaming fats, sugars, salts, and spices, THEN add liquids, THEN dry ingredients), and sponge (whipping eggs and gradually adding sugars when foam starts to develop THEN fold in other ingredients). Tomorrow we have an exam. A written portion and a practical (meaning we have to bake something). No finger-licking for sure! After tomorrow’s exam day and the bake off of our biscotti we will start on the next section PIES and CUSTARDS! It’s going to be great! My ServSafe certification class managed to continue to make me paranoid about the places where I eat out. Do you people realize how many diseases are floating out in the world of fast food and dining? Maybe they share all of this information so we’ll be “inspired” to spend more time in the kitchen cooking for ourselves.

Strassburger Cookies (with the gross baking jam)

 Strassburger Cookies (chocolate dipped)

Strassburger Cookies (baton)

We made what I deem to be a successful recreation of the Café Rio chicken salads for dinner before having Family Home Evening. For our activity, we brought cookies to our neighbors—but not before I was able to snap a shot of all of them. FYI, I'm not too happy about this photo shoot.  I was quite rushed so please forgive the poor quality.  They still look okay.  Don’t be deceived, however, because these good-looking cookies were rather bland! Hence the delivery to the neighbors! ;) HA! Well, to the books then rest.


Oh My Word, I Burned Them!

I woke up early with enough time to run through the main points of my upcoming exam.  During the walk to school, I was cat-called by two young ladies stopped at a red light in their music blaring vehicle. Nice (sarcastic). When I arrived in the lab, I could sense that stress levels were higher than normal. Most definitely due to the looming exam. I calmly set my station before Chef handed out the exam. Before each of us made our way to our stations he said, “No talking for the rest of the day!”

So we worked in silence for four hours. Well, we could talk to chef, but we could not talk with other students. I breezed through the written exam thanks to the hours of preparation beforehand. After turning in the exam, I prepped my biscotti loaf, applied a thin coat of egg whites with my baking brush, and placed it in my oven. I was sure to set my timer to 30 minutes so I wouldn’t forget the loaves. As soon as that was out of the way I started on the practical portion of my exam—recreating chocolate chip cookies. Our unit exams consist of a written portion and a practical portion which is the actual baking portion. We are given a recipe and we have to prepare it using the appropriate method, bake it, and plate it within a certain time frame.

All was going well. I had previously planned out my four hours so I could bake off both the practical chocolate chip cookies and the biscotti. My station, which previously had no workable oven was now equipped with one so I was pretty excited to finally have what I could truly call my own space. Working in silence was actually quite comical due to the fact that we are share the same ingredients so everyone was forced to resort to body language to communicate “I need the brown sugar” or “Can I have that?” or “Watch out, I’m behind you!” I’m sure those watching through the observation windows thought we were a group comprised of ASL students.

I was making good time when all of a sudden I could smell it! Was something burning? I looked at my timer—15 minutes remaining. I checked my oven anyway. All four of my biscotti loaves were fully cooked and severely burned on the bottom! I quickly pulled them out, too focused on my practical recipe to fret. I finished the dough, prepped it for baking, and threw the trays in the freezer. As far as I knew I had done everything right with the biscotti. I marched up to Chef and asked him for an oven thermometer. I placed it in the oven and after 10 minutes it reached 400 degrees even though it was set for 350 degrees. After explaining the situation to Chef he told me to continue with the process and finish my product. He also gave me his dough he had prepared during the demo so I could bring some home to eat since he could tell that my dough was in fact “perfect.” As I started to slice my dough when it was cool enough I had a brilliant thought. What if I just cut off the burned portion of the dough and dip the edge in chocolate to hide the fact that the crust does not fully encircle the cookie. I set my mind to it and after salvaging what I could, I threw the dough back into the oven until they were nice and golden. I returned to my practical dough and threw them in another oven at the same time.

When the biscotti finished, I dipped them in chocolate and plated them on a large white dish. My chocolate chip cookies baked PERFECTLY! YES—one less problem to deal with! I plated them as well and brought both plates to Chef. He looked at them and said, “Is that your biscotti dough?” I explained what I did defending my actions by stating that I was able to take something what would otherwise have been trashed and turned it into a sellable product. He seemed to agree with me that it was, in a word, quite brilliant! Ha. I didn’t think they looked half bad. Chef told me that I received a 100% on the written portion of the exam and A’s on both the biscotti and the practical exam cookies. Oh glorious day! I was so thankful that despite the issues this day threw my way, things still managed to work out.

Orange Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

I went home that afternoon with 36 individually wrapped chocolate chip cookies and plenty of biscotti to last us a few weeks. After dinner I ran to the store and purchased vanilla ice cream to make ice cream sandwiches. Too bad I took pictures of my cookies before buying the ice cream! All I can say is, it was a great day!


Thank Heavens for Sundays

Not much to report today, I ended up going to Yolanda’s ward because Hunter was out of town. I’m glad I went though because I was able to meet many wonderful people there. Yolanda and I made homemade lasagna and Canadian Oreo cookie milkshakes. Delicious! Before retiring to bed I attempted to remake the Brysselkex cookies I made in class. The preparation process was so much easier having frozen the dough for a couple of days, but because our oven is not quite accurate temperature-wise, they didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted. Too much spread. I’ll include a picture anyway. When Hunter got back we—Yolanda, Hunter, and I—stayed up talking until about 2 or so. Yeah, you think we would have learned by now.

Brysselkex Cookies


Happy to Be Here

I slept in today. Really slept in until 10:30am. I couldn’t believe myself, but I needed it for sure. I did my laundry, studied, memorized everything you’d like to know about cookies and each ingredient’s purpose to help in recipe formulation. Sounds fun eh? I made some homemade fries for the kids and helped finish a zucchini casserole my sister started. Somehow the day is over. I helped tidy the house and then decided to start this blog. So here it is. Hope you all enjoy reading about my culinary endeavors. Thus far, all I can say is that I’m loving the experience. I learn something new every 5 minutes! There really is so much to know and learn. For those of you who think culinary school is “cake,” I ask you to drive down to Pasadena and just experience one day of these classes—you’d be surprised! Okay, I’m done writing and listening to Pandora’s Imogen Heap station. Until tomorrow’s noteworthy events unfold.


Ladurée Exposed

An important day—the day we learn to make French Macaroons and Meringue! Ever since I was introduced to the Ladurée Macaroons in Paris last spring, I have been aching to have the opportunity to make these little pieces of divinity. I showed up to class determined to master the sponge technique of cookie making—the technique necessary to make the almost batter-like macaroon dough that is piped onto the pan. It was so fun to make and mine turned out very nice—although I now know how I would adjust the recipe in the future to make it more to my liking. I was unable to cook my meringue because my oven was stolen and there was not enough time to preheat another oven and cook the meringue before class let out. Oh well! I had my macaroons and that’s all I needed to start off a good weekend!

French Almond Macaroons

Back at home, I opted out of going to a huge YSA dance simply because I did not know a soul there and did not want to show up by myself. Lame? Perhaps, but my brother-in-law got “Blind Side” which I hadn’t seen yet. Great, happy-type movie. After this first week of class I find myself asking where this is all going to lead me. I know that coming to Le Cordon Bleu is the right step, I just wish I had a better clue as to what exactly I will be doing following this program. No worries folks, plans are forming but nothing too solid at this point. I guess I could just take it one day at a time for a while.


So the Drama Begins

I showed up to class ready to learn and perform. The day’s schedule included checkerboard icebox cookies—rather technically difficult to make, especially since the dough is very fragile due to the butter content.  One of the students turned to me and said, “You know, it’s really starting to tick me off how everything you prepare looks so perfect.” This is definitely not true, but the comment worried me more because I didn’t want yesterday's performance to cause any rifts in the relationships I have with my fellow students. Whether it was a compliment or not I decided to be more cautious about the other students.  I committed myself to be more of a help to others, yet focused.  Tension was high in the kitchen because each of us was having a hard time managing our time. The task seemed almost impossible for the day—at least with the amount of time we were allotted. I finished my dough and through it in the oven. While it was cooking I passed off my piping assignment—making a cornet and piping the alphabet, “happy birthday,” and my name with colored edible gel. Chef loved the work. I ran back to my station, pulled out my cookies and set them on the stove top to cool. While they were cooling, I brought all of my instruments to the sinks to wash. I had this feeling to go back to my station and when I did, there were flames coming from under my baking sheet of cookies. I ran over and saved them before they burned. I was pretty shocked that someone would try to burn my cookies by turning on the stove, but I decided not to make a scene and brush it off as if it were an accident. Mental note: keep an extra eye on your product, station, and belongings. I left with all tasks accomplished! I spoke to Chef in French for a little bit—that was nice too.

When I got home Hunter and I ran some errands and bought paint to repaint the main room of the house. We spent the rest of the evening taping corners, moving furniture, and rolling paint on the walls. Eventually I decided I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I passed out in my bed.


Back in the Game

I woke up determined to perform well. I pressed my uniform and finished my homework assignment. I arrived in the kitchen more confident equipped with everything I needed. We were given an assignment to prepare two kinds of dough. We were asked to partner up, one partner to make chocolate dough and the other, vanilla. Well, I was left without a partner and when I approached Chef, he told me I had to make both in the same amount of time. “Yes chef!” I returned to my station where I collected myself and prepared to execute. I gathered all the necessities and placed them around me in an organized fashion—mise en place. I prepped my oven for yesterday’s dough, which ended up not having a rack. I prepped another oven. I got in the mode. I made the two sets of dough, caterwrapped them, and threw them in the fridge. Afterwards, well behind the others who only had to prepare one dough, I placed yesterday's dough on a jumbo sheet with enough space for anticipated spread. While waiting for the cookies, I cleaned up my space and watched as every single person pulled out their cookies. All of their cookies spread into one another while in the oven. When I pulled mine out, mine were the only ones that hadn’t touched. They were perfect! I plated them and finished two other kinds of cookies and quickly plated them for grading. I decided to take artistic license and plate in a unique way that I found more aesthetically pleasing. Chef liked my work and found nothing wrong.  His critique was all I needed to boost my confidence. During his closing demonstration, Chef Guillard finished by saying, “Any questions? None? Jonathan, none?” Ha. Even though he may have been mocking me for being a questioner, I rather appreciated it.

Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut

 Linzer Cookies

Jeweled Linzer Cookies

In the last hour of class, Chef Knight basically forced me to give her some of the cookies I made. Everything else, a blur. After the walk home, Hunter and Yolanda helped me set up a photo journal of all of the treats I bring home. After the shoot, we prepared Adobo, ate, and then slept. Not before preparing for the next day.


A Happy Birthday?

I woke up after approximately four hours of sleep to breakfast in bed for my 24th birthday—French toast and fresh fruit. The nephews crawled into my bed and I hurried and downed my food. In a mad rush, I got ready and ironed my uniform. Yolanda prepared a bagged lunch for me and I left not sure that I had packed everything I needed for the day.

At school, it was the first day of producing in the kitchen. I didn’t have a digital scale so I had to use a manual scale to measure out all of my ingredients. This set me back in time and the fact that I had no idea what was going on made me rather stressed. I caught myself wandering the kitchen not remembering what I was needing to grab—possibly due to the lack of sleep. You can imagine how mad I was at myself at this point. All I could think of was the fact that I was so tired, behind, and disabled—literally disabled by a completely sore front side thanks to P90X. Argh. Not only that, I was making quite a mess at my station and I was frantically searching for all of the tools I needed in my huge heavy toolkit. All I wanted was out. Somehow I was able to finish the dough I needed to make and threw it in the fridge prepped for baking with just enough time to clean before class let out. Terrible, terrible day in the kitchen. In my next class when Chef Knight found out it was my birthday she said, “It’s your birthday? And what are you? Like 16?” Ha! I keep forgetting that I look rather young. She was surprised when I said, “24.” Wow, I’m 24!

Saladang Song
After making it home, I vented to Yolanda and Hunter now more conscious of my own lack of preparation. They treated me to a Thai restaurant called Saladang Song which is probably one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. Classy! Elegant! Incredible food! Their plating was impecable! Their Green Thai Curry was to die for! In wing-tongue, “Utterly dangus!” After dinner, Hunter drove me around as I bought everything I could think of that would help me be more effective and confident in the kitchen. I bought a digital scale from Sur La Table, extra tools, rulers, writing utensils, and extra towels. I came home to a Cheesecake Factory Godiva chocolate cheesecake with a candle in it. Oh yeah, it was my birthday! Ha. As I forked that perfect dessert down, I went through my toolkit and organized it in a way that would help me be able to find the tools I will need based on their function. I did my reading and then went to bed happily fed and one year older and wiser too.


The First Day of School

Yolanda and Hunter were up before me preparing my lunch and helping me press my uniforms. Hunter and I started P90X while Yolanda prepared a delicious breakfast for us. After I was completely dressed in my uniform and we took a few photos for the memory book, I grabbed my extremely heavy toolkit bag and started my trek to East Campus. It was beautiful that morning—somehow the walk seemed so much more pleasant that morning. It was rather rain-threateningly overcast such that I had to wear a light jacket.

I walked into Kitchen 3. Immediately you see four industrial style ovens and stove tops to your left and the same on the right with a long stainless steel rolling table down the center—eight stations total. The same set up is found on the opposite end of the kitchen and in the rear, where the windows look out to the beautiful tree-lined Green Street, is a demonstration station with additional tables. When I arrived, I was immediately called out on the fact that I had not yet placed my skull cap on my head (strike one). Chef Guillard then began class with a two hour long orientation on how class in going to be run over the course of the next nine months. We are to be fully uniformed before entering class. We are not to wear anything over our uniform including jackets (strike two). We are to scrub down the room when we enter. Placed our aprons on. Situate our tools. Prepare our stations. One wet towel. One dry tucked into our aprons. We are to complete homework promptly. Do our readings every night. When called upon or talked to by our chef instructor we are to use the phrase, “yes chef” or “no chef” or “(insert appropriate answer) chef!” No exceptions. We are to make certain that we do not cause any in kitchen collisions by calling out, “Behind,” when walking behind someone. “Knife behind,” if with knife or “Hot behind,” if with anything hot. We can never be late. Any days missed result in a zero for the day. No make ups, but you still have to make the product you missed that day on your own time. In a word, INTENSE. Definitely more intense than what I imagined. Not that I imagined a simple-baking-in-the-kitchen-on-a-Sunday-afternoon environment, but I definitely wasn’t imagining the military. It didn’t help that my abs were killings from the morning workout.

The group of students is rather diverse. Becca, a transfer student from the culinary program who found her love for baking in an intro class back in January familiar with rigorous schedule of our five-hour block classes. Becky, a corporate trainer gone culinarian. Patty, similar story but older. Massumeh, an Iranian woman who dreamed of going to culinary school.  Armine, a small Armenian woman. Sebastian, the only native of L.A. who has spent the last six years in Uruguay managing his catering business. Michael, my Korean friend from NSO and father of a four year old boy who inspired him to pursue his desire to receive a culinary education. It was great to get to know each of them!

The rest of the lab course included a demonstration to the creaming method necessary to make “the best chocolate chip cookies.” As he was making the recipe, he kept on making adjustments like removing egg whites. I was surprised that so many students were not taking notes and hardly anyone had questions. I, on the other hand, wanted to know why he was doing everything he was doing. Although I merited the excuse to feel embarrassed for asking so many questions, I didn’t care that I questioned his techniques only because I really wanted to know why he does what he does, not simply what he does. I think I’m entitled to that no? I actually think he appreciated the questions.

My last hour’s class is held at the Hilton Campus a block away. Food sanitation and safety. It’s not difficult reading, but there is much to memorize. Thankfully, the chef instructor for this class, Chef Knight, is hilarious and rather tangential—which is a trait I posses and sometimes appreciate. Ha!

Before I knew it, the first day was over. I walked back home, gave a full report to my sister and her husband. That night we attempted to recreate one of our favorite meals from Sunny Florida's Pollo Tropical and I must say, it was pretty dang good! Perfectly cooked and seasoned beans spilled over white rice coupled by the most incredibly seasoned chicken. We had Family Home Evening after dinner; and after pretending to be a dinosaur and a horse for the nephews’ entertainment, I felt ready to crash. Somehow, I ended up staying up until 3:30am talking to Hunter about future plans. Not a wise decision.


Le Cordon Bleu

Before leaving for my new student orientation, I ironed my deliberate bleu fitted French-cuffed hidden-button-up from Le Château and my Giordano’s slacks—what I thought would be rather casual. When I arrived I was definitely over-dressed. Everyone else, including their parents, was dressed in street clothes. Needless to say, I felt a little self-conscious. After checking in, we were herded into the school’s fine dining restaurant and café where we were able to snack on pastries and partake (or not partake) of the coffee bar. While we waited to be led to the kitchens where we would meet our chef instructors, I struck up a conversation with a mid-aged Korean man named Michael who turned out to be in my Diploma program and morning schedule. Soon after, our instructors arrived—one Chinese, one American, and one French— straight from Paris. The campus President gave a rather long discourse and then released us to our instructors who led us to one of the industrial-style kitchen labs. After hearing all of the instructors speak, I was happy to learn that my instructor would be Chef Guillard—the Frenchman who seemed so much more professional and credible. Come on, he’s French!

After the orientation meeting with our individual instructors we were carted through the campus to “orient” us with resources available to the students. We received our access cards, uniforms, and tool kits. I left home that morning with a simple moleskin and pen and came home with literally thousands of dollars worth of professional baking tools and knifes. All of it fits in a gargantuan black bag I have to cart to class everyday.

After going through the goodies with the family back at home, we left for the outdoor outlet mall. Without the need of anything really, I just enjoyed the weather and allowed my mom to buy me a new pair of summer jeans for my birthday. We enjoyed some Vietnamese food at yet another great restaurant for lunch and some frozen yogurt with fresh fruit. On our way home we stopped at Chinatown so my parents could re-live their Hong Kong days and haggle with the vendors for some good produce. I couldn’t understand my dad as he and my mom were practically yelling but smiling at the vendors seeking only the freshest shrimp and live crab. It was hilarious! That night, Hunter and I prepared the shrimp—tempura style—and learned how to prepare perfectly steamed crab from my mom. We ate like kings and queens that night.


The Fitting

First thing this morning my parents, Yolanda, my two nephews, and I walked to Le Cordon Bleu’s East Campus—not a 15-minute walk from the home that includes walking down streets lined with aromatic purple-blossomed trees and quaint homes and shops right through the heart of Pasadena. We went to the main office to check in for my fitting appointment. Yes, I must be in uniform for the next 9 months.

White Chef Jacket with Le Cordon Bleu Embroidery

Classic Hound’s Tooth Pattern Chef Pants

Full Bib Apron

Toques—that’s a chef skull cap

After the fitting, I signed more papers with my Student Representative, Anastasia who asked me whether I was Italian—that was a first! Ha. After walking home, we prepped for the Beach and braved the terrible L.A. traffic on our way to Malibu Beach. I slept the entire way there. When we arrived the weather had cooled significantly and the constant breeze added to the unfavorable beach weather. We decided to spend a few hours there despite the weather considering the fact we had already spent an hour on the road to get there and spent $12 for Zuma beach parking. It really wasn’t that bad and I even managed to wade a bit in the water. My favorite moment was picking up my nephew and running straight into a section of the plage covered with hundreds of seagulls that all took to the air as we approached. Thank goodness we didn’t get pooped on.

Zuma Beach - Malibu

To avoid the traffic on the way home we stopped at an Italian restaurant called Spumoni. Instead of ordering, I decided to pick off of everyone else’s incredible dishes—which turned out to be not only economical for my parents but quite the deal for me. The restaurant was pretty high class and even had a live Frank Sinatra wannabe singing all the classics we grew up listening to. By the time we arrived back at the Bellevue home, it was late enough to hit the bed to get enough sleep before my new student orientation at LCB.


La Belle Pasadena

By early afternoon the Honda CRV was packed with all of my belongings ready to carry them and me to my new home in California—La Belle Pasadena. For much of the seven-hour drive I read Julia Child’s, "My Life in France," only pausing to rest my eyes and contemplate my imminent life in California. As I read her experiences at Le Cordon Bleu, I wondered what exactly this new educational path will hold in store for me. After a while I got rather tired of her florid writing style and simply had to stop reading.

Pasadena City Hall

Nightfall had approached by the time we arrived in the beautiful city of Pasadena and within a moment we pulled up to my new Bellevue home. We immediately unloaded the car and moved it into the room my sister Yolanda and brother-in-law Hunter prepared for me. I am so thankful to them for taking me in and making me feel right at home—they set up an IKEA decorative divider and freestanding shelf next to my bed to garnish the walls and made as much room as they could in the closet. Thankfully, I was able to fit my significantly reduced wardrobe into the half-closet space. No winter clothes needed here—goodbye scarves and jackets! Already deep into the night and an hour ahead, I lay in the new bed and called it a night.