This was one of my final cooking classes I would be taking, and looking through the syllabus it was going to be a fun learning experience for most. Until we heard news that our instructor from ‘Intro Culinary arts’, the same one who put so much work into getting the new culinary building on the ground, got injured and would not be teaching that semester. So we got a new instructor, Chef Raymond…
On our first day of class, five students got kicked out of class for not having on their neckerchief and two students were three minutes late and he didn’t let them in. Class was going to be interesting this semester. From that day forward a lot of the students held a grudge against him. He was pretty strict, kind of reminded you of Gordon Ramsey a little bit. I want to say about three weeks into the class, two students dropped the class in hopes that there would be a different professor teaching next semester (there wasn’t) and some students even tried to report him for locking them out of class and kicking them out.
I on the other hand enjoyed it, I think what he was trying to show was discipline. If you came to your job out of uniform they wouldn’t let it slide and if you came to work late, it would be a problem. I think a lot of the students became so carefree because they got no punishment for these things before. This semester I came to class 30 minutes early to watch Master Chef UK for inspiration and ideas, or would be reviewing that weeks reading.
Now lets get into the actual cooking, that’s what you are here for right? Our first time in the kitchen we were each going to be making poached chicken with a tarragon sauce. Chef Raymond first, did a demo (demonstration) of how to do it, and explained the difference between poaching and boiling. Poaching is cooking at a simmer, not a boil. Poaching’s temperature range is 160F to 180F. The tricky thing with poaching is that the meat does not develop color from the Maillard reaction, since there are no oils to brown the meat. It just turns white, so it can be harder to tell when the meat is done.
After the demo was over we each went to our station and got to work on our own poached chicken. I only have pictures of my dish and two other students, so I will share those three. I like to think outside of the box and do more than what is expected. So instead of just making chicken and sauce I made sides. To start, I filled a pan with water, put it on low heat and added salt, white pepper, garlic and tarragon. I kept it on a low heat while I prepped my sides to extract the full flavor of tarragon and garlic. At my station I was slicing potatoes and mushrooms. I brought my potatoes to a boil in another pot until a fork went through easily, then strained it and put it in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Next I got a sauté pan, added oil and began to sauté the potatoes and mushrooms together with salt, pepper and garlic powder. That would be done soon, So I got started on my tarragon sauce by making a quick roux with butter and flour, then adding heavy cream a little bit of the poaching liquid and a sprig of chopped tarragon. While that was beginning to thicken I had my chicken breast poaching which only took about six minutes. It doesn’t take long at all and you don’t want to risk overcooking it because it will be dry. Funny how cooking a meat in water can make it dry.
Time was almost up, so it was time to start plating. I did so by spooning the sauce at the bottom of a plate with depth, almost like a bowl. Then added the potato slices and mushrooms, on top of that I put the chicken breasts, more sauce and fresh parsley. I am going to share what the Chef said about each person’s presentation and you are going to get a better idea of why the other students didn’t like him.
The chef was impressed with my presentation, he said that the potatoes had a good color, the mushrooms had a good texture and the chicken was cooked perfectly. He also said that it was genius to elevate the chicken with the potatoes and mushrooms. When I tasted it, I was amazed at the taste of the of the chicken too.
This was another students dish, and literally the chef said something along the lines “this S*** looks like fish and the sauce is breaking.” I was so surprised that he said that to the student, but part of me was laughing at the comments because it reminded me of Ramsey. We all laugh when we see it on tv and it was happening in front of me now, it would happen in front of me for the next three months.
When I saw this plate, I knew it was going to be quite some commentary. The Chef said “There is no tarragon sauce, you seared it after poaching which was not what I wanted, and the chicken is a little overcooked.” He also said that this student should garnish the food not the plate, there wasn’t a single piece of parsley on the chicken.
I think that day’s class probably made some students envy me, and if it didn’t I know our final practical exam probably did. Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures for the dishes in Food production two for some reason, So I will try my best to share the rest of the classes without the pictures. I hope I don’t come off as prideful or egotistical through these stories, this is just how they went down. I put the extra work in to come out on top and usually did, that’s all it was.
I hope you all enjoyed today’s reading and give it a like and comment if you want. Have a great day and remember HARD WORK PAYS OFF!