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Sunday, March 20, 2011




Chef Whites in public –
WAIT-STAFF - I was in Applebee’s after the gym one day just minding my own business ordering a burger when a waitress approached me and asked if I liked my classes.  You see, I was wearing my chef whites with my culinary school’s name (Ivy Tech.) embroidered on the chest.  She too was a student at the Ivy and wanted to get another perspective on the program.  

I told her I loved everything so far and she began to tell me about all the chef instructors and their idiosyncrasies.  I was very thankful that she lent me this very valuable piece of information.  She also gave me advice on how to complete a project for my Food Theory class and that morsel of data led to an “A”.  We had a nice conversation as the restaurant wasn’t very busy.  Her plans are to head to Polynesia and enter the fray as a personal chef to the wealthy.  I admire her ambition and her choice of locales to spend the rest of her life.

GUY IN A CAR - I was driving home from my baking class one beautiful Saturday with the window down and I hear some guy yelling at me from another car.  He was pointing to the shoulder pockets on my chef’s coat saying how he liked the pocket for my pens and markers.  “It looks cool man!”  -- “I said it LOOKS COOL MAN!!” -- “We can market that look for the business man” he exclaimed “we’ll be rich!!  Ha ha ha!!!”  He then drove off.

Dude, how am I going to get rich with you if you drive off?  At least give me your business card.  The thing is…he sounded very serious until he started laughing like a little school boy after passing gas in front of pretty girls at his first dance (yeah, this happened to me and I couldn’t stop laughing – nervously of course).

MARSH – I popped into the local Marsh after one of my cooking classes and was looking for some pastry flour.  I was going to make a fruit tart that I had just learned that morning when a trio of women asked me what would go better with a salmon – a chardonnay or Riesling?

I was a bit startled and wondered why I’m being singled out and realized I had my chef white’s on and shared with them that many Rieslings are sweet and chardonnays have some body with a hint of sweetness.  They chose the chardonnay.

Straight away a man overhearing our conversation wanted to know what to cook for his girlfriend of one year.  It was their anniversary that day and he wanted something special.  I asked him if he was adept at cooking and he exclaimed that he burns water.  I told him to take her to a nice restaurant downtown but first serve her champagne accompanied with a bouquet of flowers and Hors d’ oeuvres back at his place.  He realized that cooking something might be a bit too ambitious and liked the flower drinky thing – his words not mine.  My guess is that he’s a bit challenged when it comes to skills of romance.

Working the line –
Our breakfast and pantry class just came back from Spring Break and our team’s switched duties.  For the first 8 weeks my team helped set up for breakfast and then stayed in the kitchen helping create the lunch menu and daily specials.  These next 8 weeks my team will be in front cooking before the masses of people ordering their food.

The breakfast crew worked the line which consists of taking the orders or manning the griddle.  The “line” as they call it in the biz is the lifeblood of the kitchen.  It’s a line of chefs/cooks working side by side to expedite/cook orders of food.

My teammates each had a preference as to what they wanted to do which was quite interesting to me.  First Kay wanted nothing to do with cooking on the griddle.  She’d prefer to stay in front of the customer and take orders and interact with them as she’s very much a people person.  Her social skills and demeanor suit her for this position as well…it’s as if she was born for customer service (she is quite good at the face-to-face aspects of this business).

My other two cooking buddies Blake and Kevin wanted nothing to do with interfacing with the customer.  One of them mentioned that people suck and I don’t really like them that much.  I really can’t argue with him that much except that the sucky ones are few and far in between.  The other one heeded Chef Comstock’s call to keep an eye on the dishes in the back and would disappear from time to time to satisfy this requirement.

I thought this to be a fascinating dynamic that the boys didn’t like dealing with customers (their bread and butter so-to-speak) and our lone female representative wanted to ONLY deal with the customers.  What does this say about the differences between the sexes?  I’m not sure and don’t care to argue the point here but was very surprised to learn this socio-paradigm existed within our group.

Meanwhile, I’m having a blast talking to folks, cooking for folks and shooting the bull with my classmates.  This is one of the best parts about this class.  I’m really going to enjoy the next 8-7 weeks as I find that I enjoy both aspects of this switch.  I guess that I am a people person (hate that phrase) that likes to cook.

Next week I’m going to include a new recipe each blog at the urging of some of my friends and possibly add some sanitation/cooking/baking advice and/or tips and facts.

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011




More of the same
I’m not sure how to approach this subject because it comes as a reminder that I’m fallible and more than likely an unfocused idiot.  I wrote a couple weeks ago regarding a rather nasty cut that I gave myself rushing to complete the set up of my omelet station for Pantry and Breakfast class.  Turns out that the entire tip of my thumb came off last Tuesday showing that my knife skills need a bit of work. 

Well, I did it again or rather I would love to tell you that I only did it again but as luck would have it…..I endured 4 additional cuts on BOTH hands.  One cut (a rather deep and severe one) was inflicted by another student.  No we didn’t try to replay a scene from “West Side Story” pitting the sharks against the jets but rather getting my hand in the way of a student wielding a knife as a pointer.  Folks, please use your hands, fingers or even a pointer when you point at something okay?

I’ll be fine but my wounds have limited my gym activity a little bit.  I even had a dream on this topic and it involved a large chef’s knife running at me and chasing me off a cliff, of course that’s when I woke up at 3:11 am.  You never get back to sleep after a knife chases you in a dream or should I say nightmare?

Knife   : 5
Me       : 0

It’s video time again
This school is presentation crazy.  We, seemingly, have a presentation due as a project for each class.  This semester I’m going to do another video for my “Meat Fabrication” class.  My topic is the evolution of beef throughout history.  I follow cattle’s domestication over 10,000 years from the Stone-Age on through to cowboy times.  It’s very interesting to me but how do you convey that to kids in a kitchen/class setting?  The youngen’s attention span is shorter than that of a whacked out kitty with a snoot full of cat nip, they just don’t care.

I’m determined to make this interesting as well as teaching them the origins of beef.  I’ve come up with some characters from time periods in my research paper that may accomplish this feat.  First from the Vikings is Olaf the “Offal” (offal [pronounced awful] is entrails of domesticated animals for consumption).  Next up is the Roman Empire’s Alexander Dente; his friends call him Al Dente.  Our character representing the French’s contribution to beef’s history is BOUQUET GARNI and lastly we have Wyatt Burp paying homage to the American cowboy.

These lucky folks will be playing a game of Jeopardy answering questions surrounding all things beef.  I will, of course, be playing all the characters including the very female BOUQUET GARNI.  I’m hoping this approach will get their attention enough to get my point across….we’ll see?  

 I will make each character different in their own way such as the Viking will be a staggering drunk and the ditzy BOUQUET GARNI will be the smartest one arriving at her answers through a 6 degrees of separation methodology that doesn’t seem quite right.  I got a feeling Wyatt Burp will have an itchy trigger finger.  Humor is the greatest teacher.  All I gotta do is be funny.  Hope this goes well, I’m hoping to post this on my blog and you can be the judge.  We should see it in 2 – 3 weeks.  Stay tuned.

Dining a la Heart
Remember when I wrote about my Pantry and Breakfast class making a field trip to help out “Real” chefs compete in an event?  I was able to weasel my way into volunteering for the formal event held this past Sunday evening.  Folks came out in their best garb for a wonderful cause.  All the chefs had to make heart-smart dishes that resulted in healthy delicious fare.

There were about 750 attendees on that night and many of them stopped by our booth to sample the food.  I was volunteering for “Whole Foods” and we served a Quinoa salad in addition to a smoky kale, pumpkin & lentil salad.  The chef’s at “Whole Foods” concocted two very delicious dishes….my hat off to them. 

I did notice, however, that a fair portion of folks that night were asking if our dishes were gluten-free.  I asked my Nutrition professor about this and she commented that Americans are eating less and less nutritious foods these days resulting in anomalies occurring within our bodies like the gluten intolerance's as well as the rise in diabetes.  PEOPLE, I URGE YOU TO EAT HEALTHY!!  Okay, I’m off my bandwagon.  That’s it for me for this edition of my blog. 

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)