Intermediate Cuisine—tick

Waiting for the certificate ceremony with my buddy Mr Fire Gun. He loves craft beer

The good news is my charcuterie didn’t kill me or Roberta. FTW!

The bad news is we’ve eaten it all.

The good news is exams are over.

The bad news is I just peeled away part of my finger and fingernail with a speed peeler. Damn you small potato!

The best news is I passed. And with another Mention Bien. Lordy! Lordy! Honestly, that WAS NOT expected. I felt far less prepared this time.

Pass certificate for Intermediate Cuisine. With a shiny sticker

Intermediate Cuisine was largely an out-of-body experience. Quite surreal. Get up. Cook. Crack a joke. Be cheeky. Screw something up. Write a little. Collapse. Repeat. Tired isn’t the word for it.

I started the term badly with a series of silly mistakes and worked hard to get my averages back to where they were in Basic Cuisine. Then food poisoning struck. Its greatest impact was the knock to my enthusiasm. I was so sick I temporarily lost my love for food. Sadly—for my waistline—it didn’t last. Severe dehydration is probably the closest I’ll get to looking ripped. In fairness, it wasn’t so much a six pack as a bladder of fine wine. Don’t ask what fine wine is doing in a bladder. Give me this metaphor.

There’s always banter around which of the 4 exams dishes we’re actually going to get. I’d convinced myself we were going to get the quail or the stuffed cabbage. It turned out to be the salmon ballotine. 2 terms, 2 fish exams. Come on school. Have a heart. Give a meat-eater a carnivorous exam dish.

You know when you’re in a nerve-wracking situation, like giving a speech or sitting an exam, you have butterflies galore? But within a few minutes of starting you settle down and get into your groove? I spent the whole 2 hours of the practical exam waiting for this to happen. I felt like I fumbled from one thing to another. Don’t get me wrong. I knew the dish. I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew what my next steps were going to be. I just felt clunky—not the slick robot from Basic Cuisine. No elegant swan gliding gracefully. Just a Yorkshire Terrier jacked up on chew sticks. I served 2 minutes early.

Intermediate was hard. Social life was pretty much sacrificed during Intermediate Cuisine. I’m not complaining. I chose to study intensively. I’m merely remarking. What got me through was my passion for cooking, the good humour of chefs and their encouragement, and the friendships in the team.

Boss chef conducted the debrief. I was walked through my scores and given feedback. A comedy of errors.

I didn’t wash the herbs. Getting caught was inevitable. (Rebellious grin.)

I didn’t use a nozzle to pipe the fish mousse. I didn’t think it mattered. I mean, for a mousse inside a ballotine? Silly me. Technique! Technique! TECHNIQUE! “A nozzle should always be used because it regulates the flow.” Understood chef. Lesson learned.

I’m marking these up to complacency. A strong reminder not to ignore the basics.

And when boss chef told me I double-dipped—Oh I felt so dirty! The shame of it. Double dipping is using a tasting spoon twice without sanitising it in between.

My sauce was also too acidic. I knew this but in the exam you go with what you got. With time to reflect I’m wondering how chef would correct this? The nature of the sauce cooking doesn’t seem to afford the opportunity to tune in the acidity or correct it. Champagne and champagne vinegar are reduced with shallots. Then cream is added. And then a truck load of butter. If the sauce is too acidic at this point, do I add even more butter? Or more cream? Or both? Fat undoes acid to some extent. Gauging acidity before the cream and butter is pointless. Of course it’s going to be acidic. What to do? What am I missing? I need to ask chef when I get back. It’s this use of instinct that Superior Cuisine is going to demand.

In the few days off since exams, I’ve just about caught up on blogging and my method notes. Though I could do with another week before starting Superior I’m excited to get into it. I’m sure it’s going to be full of curve balls. I’m back at school on Wednesday.

I need to start thinking what all this is going to amount to. Am I actually going to do something as a new chef or just be a better home cook? I’m tempted to continue studying with the Diplôme de Boulangerie and/or the Diploma in Culinary Management. I think my biggest fear is coming out of Superior Cuisine not feeling ready.

Weva. Happy days. Can’t help smiling. Life’s for living.

I signed up to be a Le Cordon Bleu Buddy. It means something to give back and if I can help a new student settle in—awesome.