Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Mistakes

"Stage! You on vacation?"

I was in hysterics as I got this text message right when I was coming home after working with The Teacher for 8 hours. The Sous thought I had "chickened out" of The Restaurant and wrote me a message making sure I was coming back.

Do I really seem like that type of girl that would give up that fast? The Sous has no idea.

But, I do have to say, the work with The Teacher and the work at The Restaurant could not be different. The Teacher gets frantic at times, having to plate meals for 12 all at once, timing large quanitites of food, and having to manage most food related problems all by herself. However, at The Restaurant, it is a well-oiled machine, and everyone has their specific task and nothing faulters from that. The Teacher basically is working a miniature restaurant all by herself. And, boy, does she do it well.

Yesterday, my first task for The Teacher was to bake a flourless cake.

I am thinking, oh great, all I have gotten to actually cook for this woman is a gazpacho that I messed up and now a baking item, which I will surely mess up. This is a great way to start the day.

Let me first just tell you, I dislike baking more than anything. I have a sweet tooth, don't get me wrong, but I just hate the process of having to be so exact and reading a recipe over and over and over again making sure that you are doing the right thing. Although I enjoy specific direction, there is a little more room to fudge when you cook.

The Teacher and I were talking as I made the cake. My first mistake. This made me nervous because I had to multi-task in my mind as I separated eggs, zested oranges, chopped Callebaut chocolate, and perfectly toasted blanched almonds and pine nuts. I kept re-reading the same lines again and again: unable to move forward, even though I already knew what it said.

I was obviously distracted.

She taught me how to heat eggs, gently, over a pot of shallow simmering water to bring the cold ones to room temperature. I whisked them with a mixer that sounded like a 747 was taking off in her kitchen, and then folded the Callebaut chocolate batter inside. Then, I also heated the cold egg whites over the simmering water, forming them into stiff peaks with sugar. Then, slowly folding each half separately into the dark brown batter.

She had buttered and parchmented a round cake pan, she preheated the oven to 350 degrees for me because I forgot to do that (second mistake), and we stuck the cake inside.

That was the last time I thought about it (third mistake).

All of a sudden, The Teacher realized that she had not set the timer, and to be quite honest, I didn't even remember that I MADE the cake.

She took the cake out, and luckily it was not yet burnt, but it was definitely dry and not as appealing as it had the potential to be.

Right after she had originally put the cake in the oven, just seconds before I would forget that I have created it, she had told me that she would be telling her clients that I made the cake (her 1st mistake).

Well, shit. Now, because I am not an intuitive baker, and we forgot to set the timer, my cake was going to taste like a piece of construction paper with whipped cream on top. I had to think fast.

Really fast.

I decided that just in case because it was really dry, we should poke holes in it with a toothpick, make a simple syrup and gradually drizzle the syrup over it for the next couple of hours. That would salvage it. She like that idea, and let me do it.

I made a simple syrup, equal porportions sugar to water, and slowly drizzled the syrup over the cake. I would have to wait hours at this point to see if this solution would actually salvage my cake.

The rest of the night seemed to also be filled with faux pas. She let me make a brown butter (which I have now perfected because of The Restaurant) that she wanted it tossed with her homemade angel hair pasta, Dungeness crab that was just cracked by one of her diners, and blanched local asparagus. I took the lead on the dish.

I knew if was not a good sign when the angel hair was looking sloppy as I was tossed all of the ingredients together in the giant All Clad. Normally, I would have tasted the pasta like I learned at The Restaurant, but I had to plate it as quickly as possible with the biggest tongs that I had ever seen. I am talking GRILLING TONGS. Not condusive to methodical plating.

The angel hair slipped multiple times from the tongs as I tried to swirl the pasta precisely onto the plates. The crab and the asparagus were difficult to pick up with the giant tongs, and so some plates had more and some had less.

As the plates were given to the diners, I just thought to myself: that needed more lemon, I should have tasted it for salt, why did I not have a wet rag to clean the sides of the plates? The Restaurant has ruined me.

Later that evening, after washing way too many dishes, and listening to her diners get louder as they filled their glasses with perfectly balanced Cabernet, it was finally time for the flourless chocolate cake.

She cut the cake, and slyly gave me a small taste. I anticipated tasting a cotton ball like substance in my mouth that I would probably have to spit out on my kitchen towel, but somehow the cake was moist. She smiled at me, and said, that it was definitely going to be good!

I felt a sense of pride, and let out a huge sigh of relief. She let me plate the dish on little white plates. We cut the cake in half, and set them on top of each other to make a bow, and topped it with whipped cream and first of the season strawberries. The diners had no idea the cake was an overbaked-disaster salvaged by a simple syrup. All they could think about was the chocolate and orange combination.

I think I am finally earning The Teacher's trust. This might be her mistake.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I would have wound up in tears 2 hours into shift! You are really coming out into your own... you'll be taking over your Teacher soon! Ouch on the mistakes, but there is never a better lesson than experience, and your Teacher sounds like an understanding guide. Keep at it, we'll soon see your name in lights!