Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Get Ur Chef On!
Instead of having class last night, we were "volunteered" to work an annual American Culinary Federation (ACF) meeting. It was sort of a reception, with several product vendors, restaurants, etc. having booths and providing food. It seemed to be open to the public with purchase of a ticket, because there were tons of people milling around, eating and drinking, and they all weren't chefs.
The ACF is to chefs what the American Medical Association (AMA) is to doctors--it's the big professional organization that grants certifications, chefhood, sainthood, etc. Being a culinary student automatically gets us membership while we are in school, and we get access to all the local events.
We had a booth, as did 3 other area culinary schools. We had a large display of two marble slabs at each end of our station with artfully arranged roasted and grilled vegetables with 4 dipping sauces along with a hot entree that we were essentially sauteeing to order. It was Gruyere cheese grits topped with a ragout of exotic mushrooms. We were sauteeing the mushrooms on site, and adding some bacon and scallions to finish. It was pretty yummy...something about adding Gruyere to grits sort of transcends that whole "cheese grits" thing to a new level.
We did get an opportunity to scope out the other schools' booths, just checking out the competition so to speak. The other Fine Technical College in attendance had a large ice scuplture display that contained their offerings of various seafoods and sauces. It was a neat and very attractive display.
Le Expensive Private School had hot pasta station along with some other hot items...they weren't completely set up when I went through that area, so I'm not sure what else they had to offer. It did look like they were doing a sauce a la minute (which is fancy French chef speak for on order, at time of serving, at the last minute...it's something that you throw together quickly and right before you put it on the plate).
The kicker was the Highly Expensive Art School's display. They also had a vegetable spread. They placed a bed of the salad spring mix on their 2 banquet tables and laid out rows of raw vegetables...sort of a giant crudite tray. They had made a few watermelon bowls for the dip--nothing fancy, just the sawtooth edge--and that was it. Yep, a giant raw vegetable tray. Not a giant EXOTIC raw vegetable tray, but your basic carrots, celery, radish (not even radish roses!), squash, cucumber, and cherry tomato kind of veggie tray. And, I thought it was just weird to put ranch dip in a watermelon bowl. The idea of fruity tasting ranch dressing is not a pleasant one in my cookbook. Granted, they may have had actual containers to hold the dip inside the watermelon bowls, but it was just sort of weird to put savory dressing in a fruit. (Okay, according to Wikipedia, a watermelon IS a vegetable, but I think you understand my point.)
Granted, I thought their presentation idea of putting down on the table was kind of cool if you needed to do a large selection of veggies for a wedding reception, etc., but I guess I expected something much more impressive and spectacular from a school that charges as much for a 2-year degree as a Porsche Boxster costs. So, if you have $45K to burn, would you get a degree from a school with a lame vegetable display or a fast car? Fast, sporty, tasty car wins every time in my book! (What can I say--I'm a sucker for a fast set of wheels!)
I guess the thing that really got me about their lack of vision and excitement was this was an ACF meeting. There are chefs there from all venues--chef-owned restaurants, big hotels, country clubs, high-end restaurants, chef-owned culinary businesses, etc. For most students, the point of getting a culinary degree is that you want to get some sort of job in the culinary field, so you would at least like to be part of something that will stick in a chef's mind in a good way...not a lame or mediocre way.
Now, I'm off to mediocre my way through Banquet class. The good news is that we're in for a couple of weeks of lecture before we have to head back in the kitchen and perpetrate more mayhem on unsuspecting foodstuffs. The bad news is that there's no real opportunities to stick anyone. Haaaaahhhaaaahhaaa (that is hysterical laughter, BTW.)