Nicole Croes is a member of Chef’s Training Program class 178, which began several months ago. As CTP 178 approaches the end of their program, they are in the process of planning their 3-course Friday Night Dinner for 100 guests – the final project for every graduating class. Nicole has been blogging the entire Friday Night Dinner process in installments here on Blanched and Shocked. Due to a family emergency, Nicole was unable to attend her group’s first dinner practice. Her teammate, Noel Kelly, graciously offered to step in for this installment. Here is Part IV. . .
One Woman Down . . . Friday Night Dinner Practice I
I know what you’re thinking: Who is this woman and where‘s Nicole? I’m hijacking her blog for today, but don’t worry. She’ll be back soon. Now that we took care of the niceties, let’s move on.
It was a sunny Saturday morning when we rolled into Kitchen 2. I decided to track down our requisition box and get on with the day. Hidden deep within the walk-in was our bounty, and we quickly ran it into the kitchen. We began pulling out and categorizing the components of our soon-to-be masterpiece, while thoughts of “What the heck is this for?” and “Wait, we’re doing that recipe now?” kept running through our minds.
You see, it was a very special day for our group: the day we would see how our entire menu would finally come together! After weeks of emails and lunchtime chats about themes, flavor profiles, seasonality and the importance of “elegance,” we finally had it: our 3-course vegan meal! It was awesome. It was beautiful. It was filling and complete! Fireworks were bursting, and I swear I saw millions of tiny hands clapping while shouts of “Bravo!” and “Encore!” rang about the kitchen. But I digress . . . To date, we never actually tested anything beyond our entrée – the crepes and their fillings. At that moment, most of our meal was still speculation.
So the question was: Will it work and how?
Abbey, our group leader, was hurriedly scribbling the elements of our menu on the board. I sat there watching intently as the list kept growing and growing. Line after line of recipes we needed to do kept finding their way onto the board. As the litany of tasks threatened to swallow the chalkboard, I thought to myself “What were we thinking?!” Adventurous? Yes! Insane? Quite possibly. Aside from creating absolute deliciousness for your Friday Night Dinner, it really comes down to time management. Knowing when to start what is a huge part of the game.
We decided it was best to start on the dessert and its sauces. So I was off to the stove with dessert ingredients in hand (or mise en place for those persnickety culinarians among you). I stood there, staring into my sauce pot, and layering in flavors for what would undoubtedly be a gastronomic tour de force of cherry tart filling.
Once we finished the task of prep, it was time to plate for evaluation by our instructors. We needed to make up four plates for each course. I have to admit: every time we walked out of the kitchen to serve a course it felt like we were on a game show. Plating became another issue in itself, so we opted to try different things with stacking and saucing since we had a few shots at it. Why not? I think there’s one thing to note here: It’s hard not to feel that this should be the BEST meal of our lives, but in truth it’s the FIRST meal of the rest of our lives.
We served immediately after we finished plating. I ran dishes to the instructors while my team continued on to the next round of plates. All in all, it was a really great day. A successful day! And even though we had just researched of our ideas before testing them that day, we were pleasantly surprised to see how it all came together. Not the hot mess we had expected at all! I guess we really are picking up some tricks of the trade. THANKS, NATURAL GOURMET! You’re kind of awesome. Afterward we sat with Chef Elliott and Director Education Sue B. for our feedback. We all agreed we only needed to make a few tweaks here and maybe a substitution there. In the end, it all came together beautifully.
Next session we will test a few new components of our dishes and bring it all home! Of course with our full brigade intact and a hopeful eye on a successful Friday Night Dinner! With all that said, hurry back Nicole. We miss you!