I generally try to keep negative emotions out of my blog entries, and heavily censor anything bad I may want to say about people or a class, but enough is enough. I am halfway through my Fundamentals class and am anxiously awaiting the end, more than any other class I've had. This class seriously sucks. It's not just the food that I don't really care for (today my group made fried scallops, potato pancakes, and zucchini fritters (see above), all of which were really tasty!), but it's my chef (who shall remain nameless). Honestly, I think he has very little understanding of what he's teaching us, except he thinks he knows everything. That's just the worst. In order to make you understand why I just can't hold my frustration in any longer and absolutely need to vent in a public forum, I am going to provide you with a list of crazy things my chef has said or done that makes me think he's completely unqualified to teach us anything. Here goes...
1. Yesterday, one of the dishes my group made was an Italian-Style Fried Broccoli, which we cut into spears, blanched, then breaded, fried, and finished off in the oven, and later kept warm in the steam table. My chef insisted that we blanch the broccoli until it was completely tender even in the thickest part because he likes to eat the whole thing so it needs to be completely cooked through. Okay, I get that, but what about the frying, then baking, and finally the heat from the steam table? Just today he told us that overcooking vegetables will lose nutrients, flavor and ruin the texture, so why yesterday did he flip out on me for not blanching the broccoli until they fell apart when they were going to continue to cook and suffer through 3 different forms of heat application before they hit someone's dinner plate? By the time I tasted one, it was disgusting mush.
2. Yesterday, one of my friends asked him to proof-read her homework assignment. She used the word "commingle" in her paper. He didn't know what it meant, and suggested she should add the definition to her paper so he wouldn't have to open a dictionary. Yikes!
3. Whenever he demonstrates something for the class to teach us something, he always does it wrong and then afterward tells us it shouldn't be like that. Well if he can't do it right, then how are we expected to do it right? Case and point, when making an omelet, he browned it and then told us it shouldn't be brown like his. He also hard-boiled an egg to show us the correct way, and then said he had overcooked it and it wasn't creamy enough. The list goes on...
4. He insists we follow every recipe to a T even when they are kind of ridiculous. The other day we made a very salty marinade for our pork tenderloin, which flavored the pork just fine, but then we were supposed to reduce the marinade into a sauce. When we did it became even saltier and completely unpalatable. We asked him what to do and he said, just serve it with a little sauce. I suggested he taste it first, shocked that he would force us to serve a sauce that bad if it really wasn't necessary to the dish, and after tasting it he said to just water it down. Last I heard water doesn't make a salty sauce less salty, it just thins it out. Needless to say, no one ate the sauce.
5. In our last class, we were given a lot of creative license, which is completely nullified in this class (see above). Also, in our last class, plating design was a big part of something we got to practice every day and think of unique and aesthetically pleasing ways to present our food. In this class, not only does our chef have us pre-plate all of the food ahead of time (before the dining room people come to take them away) and keep the plates warm in the warming oven (this is really not right), but he has a really messed up view on garnishing and plating techniques. For one, he thinks that every sauce or garnish must be placed directly on the food or else no one will eat it. Case and point, yesterday our dish included three dry components and no sauce or extra color. In plating our dish, we decided to draw a line of finely chopped parsley on the plate to give it a little color, yet keep the dish clean and modern looking, and adding something to the stark white plate to fill it up a little. He yelled at us because the parsley wasn't on the food. "No one will eat that parsley if it's not on the food. Parsley's delicious! Put it on the food next time!" So today I was eating in the dining room as opposed to plating the dishes, and my plate was garnished with a huge sprig of dill (do you think I'm actually gonna eat that?) and my friend's fish was drowning in lemon butter sauce. One of our friends had attempted to plate the fish dish with a light napping of the sauce over one side of the fish and onto the plate, and he got angry because the sauce was on the plate and not on the food and then ladled more lemon butter sauce over the whole thing. How many fine dining establishments have you been to where the food is completely covered in sauce and chopped parsley with nothing on the plate itself because "people won't eat it if it's on the plate"? None that I can think of. I think he learned how to plate food at TGI Fridays.
Our attempt to make a pretty plate out of the sauceless options we were asked to plate together. At least we gave it a shot.
A sad-looking plate, but at least all the garnishes are on the food! That really makes up for it! Oh, and check out our overcooked fried broccoli... blanch it completely you say?
6. I've saved the best for last, believe it or not. Today one of my friends decided to make a beurre blanc sauce to serve with our fried scallops since we didn't have a sauce and we really thought it would be nice to add one to the plate for flavor, texture, and of course aesthetics as well. She copied down a recipe from her Alice Waters cookbook and brought it to class. While reducing her white wine, vinegar, and shallot mixture, our chef came over and told her she was doing it wrong, that beurre blanc was called beurre blanc because it has cream in it, and proceeded to pour tons and tons of cream into her sauce. He then told her to bring it to a boil, whisk in the butter, boil it some more and then take it off the heat (huge no-nos! When making beurre blanc you are supposed to whisk the butter in off the heat or else your sauce with break). When my friend informed him that this was Alice Waters's recipe, his only response was that different people do it differently, and this is how we do it at Johnson & Wales, and completely stifled her in her efforts to make a classic beurre blanc. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! First of all, he basically told Alice Waters to suck it right there (I hope she's reading this). I can't believe it. Second of all, a lot of JWU recipes are messed up. We make adjustments to them all the time. Just because that's how it is written at our school doesn't mean it's in the bible and when an enthusiastic student wants to try something out, he needs to come on over and rain on her parade. Even if she was wrong, let her try it and learn from her mistakes. And PS, she was not wrong. Anyone who knows anything about food, should know that a classic beurre blanc does not have cream. Here's a little note from wikipedia: "In cooking, beurre blanc —literally translated from French as "white butter"— is a rich, hot butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar and/or white wine (normally Muscadet) and grey shallots into which cold, whole butter is blended off the heat to prevent separation. (Lemon juice is sometimes used in place of vinegar and stock can be added as well). This sauce originates in Loire Valley cuisine. A beurre blanc to which cream has been added as a "stabilizing agent" is called a Beurre nantais." Just to confirm my suspicions, I looked over every French cookbook I own and none of them contain heavy cream. The only mention of heavy cream comes from Anthony Bourdain in his Les Halles Cookbook where he states that one can use 1 oz of heavy cream optionally as a cheat: "For a slightly more durable beurre blanc, do what most chefs do: cheat. Through cream is not part of the classic recipe, many of us sneak a little heavy cream into the pot after the lemon juice and wine have reduced. We reduce the cream down to a thick emulsion and then remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter... If you do use this method, though, be sparing with the cream. This is a butter sauce, not a cream sauce." Damn straight! So where on Earth did that cup or so of heavy cream come from? No, Chef, it is not called a beurre blanc because there is cream in it. It's called a beurre blanc because it's a white butter sauce made with white wine. A beurre rouge is a butter sauce made with red wine. Get it? Seriously, I'm going to scream...
Beurre blanc sauce my ass! Looks more like Alfredo!