It's amazing how fearless I've become in the kitchen, which may or may not be a good thing. I used to pile up the oven mitts to grab a hot pan, and would never have dreamed of turning vegetables in a sizzling pan with my fingers or reaching into a searing hot oven to test the temperature of a piece of meat with my forefinger. I don't know that I've become less afraid, I think I've just accepted that the fate of a chef is to have scarred and gnarled hands and arms, and that the more times I do it the less it hurts. Which is exactly what I was thinking as I took a pan of cream over to our pastry stove to heat it up and continue on my way. The pilot lights were out…again…and as I cursed the fact that I pay five-figures to go to a school without a single working burner I searched for a match to get everything going. I found a used match with no more than three inches of exposed wood to light, so I got the end burning and started running the gas, waiting for the flame to kick in. The handles are unmarked, so I was tinkering with the gas handle on the left, turning it on and off, to try to get a light. My match stick was burning low, so I quickly switched over to the other gas handle to try that out and – WHOOOOSH…it lit. It also took off all of the hair on my left hand and five fingers, leaving little black nubs in their place. It was a little scary, but I've seen people's eyelashes taken clear off so I was happy to sacrifice a few knuckle hairs in place of my femininity. But it did fill the kitchen with that horrible burning hair smell…yuck.
Although my teammate and I chose to start the apple charlotte first, I decided to make the lady fingers and then the chocolate cake base, so that both could cool and be made and ready for when I needed it. I finished the charlotte, lining the lady fingers up in little ring molds and filling them with the Bavarian cream, and by this time we were pushing 7:45pm. We were working right next to each other, completing the same tasks, when all of a sudden chef got really angry. "How much of the coconut filling are you making??" "Just a full reci….oh." Apparently it was the only recipe on her dry-erase board that was supposed to be halved - in all the hustle and bustle we had failed to remember that small factoid. Which is obviously not the end of the world, although it opened us up for some additional fierce criticism. She continued on to yell at us for waiting so late to start the coconut fillings. I simply queried that, if we were told to finish the charlotte first how could we have known that we should have defied her to get the chocolate cake done first, when her specific instructions were to not work on the same thing all at once, but she didn't seem to understand the inconsistencies in her instructions. She claimed that the coconut reduction was going to take us an hour, and that there was no time to finish the cake and we'd have to use a different pre-made filling. She also reminded us that we had technically failed our mock final, and that if we made this mistake on the real final we'd be scr#w*d. This made me upset, because I was working my hardest all night, keeping myself organized and showing my skill and understanding for the dishes, yet hadn't heard a single positive comment from her. It also wasn't addressed that we would not be making both desserts on the real final, so really the timing for this wasn't accurate. I ignored her charge to use the pre-made filling, and put my coconut reduction on the stove to begin while I handled some other tasks. Sure enough, it took fifteen minutes, maximum, so I quickly cooled it down and slathered it on my chocolate cake, forming the layers and catching up with my teammate, who had used the pre-made filling.
It's always disappointing to me when we get yelled at for simply following directions, and I don't think the chefs understand that we aren't mind readers. We've been taught from day one to follow directions and do exactly as our chef says, so after nine months we're pretty used to following orders as directed.
It was a beautiful weekend on the Eastern Seaboard, and although it is technically fall the temperatures were pushing the mid-80's. A good friend had been planning an apple-picking trip for several weeks, so we all rented a car and drove up through Westchester to North Salem, New York, home of Outhouse Orchards. Unlike many orchards throughout the country, we were given a mesh bag, an apple-picking pole and let loose into the hundreds of acres of various apple trees to pick to our heart's desire. It was a gorgeous day, and we ate too many apple cider doughnuts for our own good but balanced them out with golden delicious apples picked fresh and eaten under the mid-day shade of an aging tree. It always surprises me how remote and "country" you can get with just an hour drive outside of the franticness that is New York City. It was wonderful to kick off the new season with friends, and we have an entire bushel of apples to show for it. I guess I'll be making a lot of apple tarts this week…