While I write this after my program is complete, it still feels, literally, like yesterday that this all happened. The dust from the program has not settled yet. But I want to account for my final days in school before I also forget the roller-coaster of events that unfolded in the final days and hours. I am splitting week 15 into two posts, one about the week and final days, and the second post simply on our graduation – it deserves a post on it’s own. Frankly, I could write a post about each of the last days in that week, but that might be going over-board. So here goes week 15….
It felt like we flew into week 15 with a sprint-start, there was little time to “enjoy” the final days of our program.
The skinny version of the week: Monday kicked it all off with our 3-hour final written theory exam, and then we had lunch prepared by the culinary class. The afternoon included a little time to prepare some of menu development project components in advance of our dessert production days: tuesday and wednesday (with wednesday being a service day, external judges, and guests too). Thursday was a massive – all hands on deck – cleaning the school day. Then friday we graduated, napped, celebrated, and said our goodbyes…
The full meal deal on week 15:
Monday’s exam was actually not as hard as I thought it would be. It was A LOT of writing though, and many pages, but I managed to finish in a good amount of time, with time to spare even. My hand was sore from all the writing though. Overall, I felt I did quite well.
We had a short break, and then wandered over to the culinary side of the school where we were seated with menus, prepared by the students. We enjoyed their three-course lunch menu, part of their final menu development, and were able to provide feedback too. Since I barely ate breakfast that day, it was a treat to enjoy a nice meal after our exam.
Here’s a look at what I was served:
After lunch I had to finish working on my dessert menu development project with my partner. Then I made some ice cream base so I could churn it the next morning as part of my ice cream sandwhich (the main component of my dessert plate). The menu development project was similar to our entremet project from earlier in the term, but it was more work because of having to work in teams and produce more numbers. Overall, I used the recipe costing as way of practicing for the exam, the weekend prior.
So, Monday was a reasonable day, in all. Tuesday is when the shitakes hit the fan for me. Seriously. It was the beginning of Murphy’s law and a real test to my patience and positive attitude.
First, I made all the components of my dessert, churned the ice cream in the morning so it would harden by that afternoon and I could sandwhich it later. I made a chocolate orange blossom sauce, candied almonds, baked off the gluten free chocolate almond cookies, made lemon tuille cigarettes, and made a beautiful citrus salad. All of these components would later make up my plate. Here is a drawing of the estimated plan.
We also had to make mignardise platters, mini-bite-sized desserts, using the same components we used for our main desserts (essentially using up the leftovers). So I cut out little heart shaped cookies to keep aside for my mignardise, and had some extra cookies that I decided to keep aside – just in case.
When it came time to make the ice cream sandwhiches, I cut out rounds of ice cream and sandwhiched it between two cookies. I had to work really fast or it would all melt. I only need to make six in total. I managed to get 7 together. An extra – just to be safe. (Are you seeing a pattern yet? I like to play it safe! Surprise!) I moved them swiftly to the freezer, and thought I was done. Started to clean up, and managed to save a half tub of the ice cream I had made, and kept it in the freezer – just in case. And this was no vanilla bean ice cream, it is decadent white chocolate cardamom ice cream, serious flavour.
As I cleaned up everything, I headed back to the freezer to check on my ice cream sandwhiches. When I opened the freezer, I was shocked. The ice cream was dripping out of the sandwhiches and they were becoming more thin by the minute. Somehow they were worse off in the freezer. I called my chef over, to discuss, and help me figure out why it was melting. This IS the main component of my dish to present tomorrow for judging, and it was literally melting in the freezer. Panic. Quiet panic overcame me. I have always been told I am very calm in the eye of a storm, and this felt like a tornado to me. No one had any idea what was going through my head.
Holy hannah. What am I going to do? Immediately, my brain just started to spin with ideas of how to save this dessert, change the menu, use the extras somehow and make cookies & cream maybe. At this point my hope of making a sandwhich was lost. If this were my restaurant, I would have to salvage these products somehow.
I left them in the freezer in case they might be salvageable the next day. I decided to make some extra ice cream just in case (how many times will I write that in this post, too many), and started to make a new ice cream base. I pull out the ice cream machine to get going, and this is after the rest of the class has pretty much gone home. I stayed after class for close to two extra hours, just to ensure I would have some sort of ice cream the next day. I knew I had saved enough cookies (just in case) earlier in the day, that I could use those as my main component, I just need an ice cream.
I began to churn my new ice cream and it wouldn’t churn. The insert that was frozen, wasn’t frozen enough apparently. So, I transferred into a new one, which also ended up being not cold enough. Are you serious? Is this really happened, at the 11th hour?
For 30 minutes I tried to churn the ice cream, and it should only take 20 minutes. Nothing. I checked the recipe over with my Chefs and the method I followed, it honestly should have churned. So I left it in the fridge to see if it would churn in the morning – and use a properly frozen insert.
I cleaned up an went home, pumped full of adrenaline and listing back up plans in my head from A – Z.
Wednesday arrives. Restaurant day. Guests and judges are arriving at 11am to enjoy a three- course dessert menu. I arrived at the school for 7:45am. I woke up thinking, “OMG I have to freeze my ice cream”. Totally tunnel visioned on ice cream, I started on that component immediately upon arrival at school.
I went to the freezer to grab a new frozen insert and begin churning, and was shocked (again) when I opened the freezer. The door had not been closed properly after an event in the previous evening. All the products on the door had defrosted, naturally, and the ice cream inserts the whole class was going to use were defrosted – dripping with condensation. My jaw dropped. What are we going to do? The show must go on, we have to come up with something.
I immediately alerted Chef about the freezer status. We sealed the freezer shut so it would have a chance of freezing by the time service starts. They offered to buy us all ice cream to use from the grocery store down the street, and would eliminate that component from our judges’ marks, due to freezer issues. Phew. But I still had to present a dessert of some kind.
I tried to use one of the inserts anyway, but they just weren’t cold enough. So I whipped my ice cream base that had melted, and then froze it. Kind of like frozen whipped cream. As a back up. I never ended up needing it, but it did taste pretty good considering the rounds of churning it had been through (although it was a little dry).
I was never meant to make an ice cream sandwhich. Seriously. I had to let that go pretty quickly, on to plan B and C.
My dessert morphed into “The ‘I can’t believe its not gluten’ chocolate almond cookie, with citrus salad”. I mapped out my modified plan and took off from there.
I still wanted to use my abandoned ice cream sandwhiches somehow. They just turned a little soggy overnight. I turned them into my mignardise and made them into cookie truffles. I added a few other ingredients to make them hold together, and after chilling for a few minutes they turned out quite well. I rolled them in chocolate and a gluten free oat streusel I made that morning, for texture, and voila, I had a new dessert addition. I was impressed with myself.
My plating design shifted a bit because of the ice cream trauma, but it all came together in the end. I even put the cookie truffle on each plate for something extra. Here is one photo taken by my sister, one of my dessert guests. Disregard the ice cream though:
Service came and went, and everything worked out. I managed not to lose much of my product, I salvaged it all in the end and was fortunate to have saved as much back-up as I did.
I was pretty proud of myself and how calm I managed to stay throughout the day considering the hurdles I endured. I learned so much from that experience. Here are a few more photos of my dessert development, from practice plating and testing new other plate options, to my final dessert look.
All the guests seemed to love our desserts, for the most part, and provided great constructive feedback for improvements, etc. One of my partners made a peaches and cream puff and the other made a triple cheesecake dessert. Every guest declared they had eaten way too much dessert by the end of their dining experience.
One person wrote in feedback that they wanted my recipe for the cookie even! That was a win for me.
Then we cleaned everything up, and officially done our last assignment for the program. Completely done. Nothing left to do but clean.
Thursday we all arrived at the school to clean, have our final one on one meetings with our chef instructors, receive our letters back to ourselves (written on our first day of school), and then pack up our lockers and drawers.
It was all so surreal.
We enjoyed one last family meal together, pizza, made by the pastry students. As we ate, it was the quietest I had ever heard the school. I guess the pizza was good! We made deluxe pizza, vegetarian, and gluten free deluxe. I helped with the pizza mostly that day, and it was a lot of pizza to manage – especially with all the different topping requests.
Once we ate we had our last one-on-one meetings and received our final project marks back. It was a relief to see that I had achieved my goals in the marks department.
Then we all headed home. I just had one last thing to do, finish my valedictorian speech and make a video (of the 2500 photos and videos I captured during my time in school). Yeah, I know, it is a lot of photos. But wait until you see my video!
PS. Here was our class mignardise platter, mine contribution is the cookie truffle I’m pointing to.