Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pssst.. pass the's quail for lunch if we get it right!

Jaime, Katy and Zak waiting in silence
in the kitchen.

When a story is whispered from one person to the next, how closely does the final message resemble the original? That’s the premise behind today’s exercise for the morning Advanced class. The students were not allowed to speak though: They told the story with their prep work.

They shopped for their own vegetables yesterday, but were otherwise in the dark about the single dish they would prepare this morning as a tag team. They waited with  blindfolds on as Chef Dan brought four fresh quails from the cooler.

Katy chopped herbs, trussed the quail and put it in the oven
after Zak and Nuno had taken their turns at the table.
Zak was first to remove his mask, and the only one to receive instruction on what dish they would prepare. He had fifteen minutes, working in silence, to pave the way for the other three students. He turned on the oven, then set to work on the mise en place, prepping the vegetables, herbs and quails. Everything was laid out in bowls to let the rest of the team know what dish they were making.

Nuno was second up. His first move was to check what veggies were prepped. With focus and speed he blanched the leeks and stuffed the quails before handing the reins to Katy, who then trussed the birds, browned them on the stovetop, and put them in the oven. By the time Jaime had sat through 45 minutes of listening to rustling, rattling and chopping, smelling the herbs, warm veggies and roasting birds she was ready to work, finishing the quail, the plating and presentation.

The point of the exercise? Working the line in a kitchen is hectic. It requires team work, careful observation, and the ability to jump in and take over, sometimes with no advance explanation. After doing this lesson a couple of times, the students have a better sense of what that will be like, and can look forward to that kind of environment with confidence. 

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