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.