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Diary of a Trainee Chef - part 2

Written By Reena on 14 Apr 2013 | 19:30

Incredibly tomorrow sees the start of term 2 at Tante Marie.  I am sure that time moves more quickly in Woking - seriously the first term flew by in the blink of an eye and a whirl of caster sugar.  

As well as learning loads of new cooking skills, I've also learnt a little about my personality:  I have spent my entire adult life thinking my parents pushed me to succeed while at school.  It has become apparent that I am actually the driving force and I have a hugely competitive nature.  My moment of enlightenment came one Sunday morning prior to my theory exam when my mum said:

"Don't  you ever just wake up and think 'I can't be bothered.  I'll relax today and work tomorrow.'?  That's what a normal person would do.  You've always been like this.  You stress us all out.  You are a total pain in the neck.".  

Okay so maybe some quality parent- child counselling sessions are required...

News in brief since my last post:

Celebration cake
The surprise highlight of last term was designing and decorating a cake for a special occasion.  I decided to make a cake for my friend Rachel's fiftieth birthday and you can see the result above.  I have to admit I am secretly very pleased with it.  Cakes have historically never interested me but I found this exercise very relaxing and Rachel was really pleased when I gave it to her.  Who knows maybe professional cake making is in my future?  The cakes from the rest of the group were fantastic - here are a few of my favourites.

Intermediate exam
This was the first exam I sat and as I mentioned in my previous post I was worried.  Thirty minutes before the exam started we were presented with a three-course menu to prepare and serve in five hours split across two days.  The first day went really well but I panicked when French trimming my rack of lamb on the second day.   On the whole I did well though with a final mark of 70% against an average of 67% and a high score of 74% (well done Jenni!).  My feedback from our all-seeing examiner, Mrs A, was that I sat a "nice exam" and that my food tasted good but my presentation was a little untidy in places.  Hmmm presentation has always been my weak point.

Budget lunch exam
This initially felt like a Herculean task.  The brief was to design and cook a three course family meal for four people with a budget of £8.50.  As this was a budgeting exercise we had to account for every penny spent (we weren't allowed to use any special offers) and actually had to spend £8.50 exactly - not a penny more or a penny less.  My final menu consisted of my own dishes.  As I needed to incorporate all my newly learnt skills this meant creating new recipes that were within budget, could be cooked and plated within 2 hours 45 minutes and actually tasted nice!

My final menu was:
  • Spiced mushroom tart with raita
  • Masala mackerel with potato bhajia and cumin mushy peas
  • Carrot halwa with cinnamon biscuits

Essentially it was an Indian take on a very British menu - pie followed by fish, chips and mushy peas with carrot cake to finish.  The exam went well, my fish was a little ripe (damn you Asda), but otherwise it generally went to plan.  My final mark was 73.5% against an average of 68% and the feedback from the examiner (the very sweet Ally) was that the food was presented nicely (yay!), tasted delicious and that I should keep cooking the recipes!  I can't begin to tell you how happy I was.  A professional chef actually liked my recipes!  I'll provide them for you in the next few posts.  Meanwhile I'm busy thinking about what to cook for the Celebration Lunch exam next term - essentially the same exercise but it needs to be a three course blow-out lunch with a budget of £25.

Wine course
This was three days of tasting wine while listening to John Downes, Master of Wine download tonnes of information prior to an exam on the last day.  I can't say that I especially enjoyed it - my allergies flare up significantly with alcohol and so mostly it felt like a three day lecture when I would rather have been cooking.  Subsequently though I have made some amazing wine purchases purely by recognising regions and vineyards that John recommended.  On a recent trip to Paris Steve left all wine buying decisions to me and I have to say we drank very well.  Top tips include:
  • Puligny Montrachet - an amazing white Burgundy and my new favourite wine
  • Sparkling Saumur - a great alternative to champagne
  • Elqui Valley syrah - a full bodied Chilean red.

Theory exam
The last day of term saw us sitting a two hour theory exam covering everything we had been taught during the term.  I am sure I passed but it really wasn't my finest hour.  I get my results tomorrow - eek!

My dad
To say that my dad is not pleased about me quitting my job and doing this course is an understatement. His last words on the subject were:

"You can't even cook anyway.  All you eat is fish fingers.  Fish fingers!  Shall I get you a fish finger?".

I have yet to find a counsellor willing to take on this case.


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