Today was the last day of level one, and nerves were palpable this morning during our practical exam. The challenge was threefold:
1. In 20 minutes, we had to julienne (cut thin strips) a carrot, jardienere (cut thicker sticks) a turnip, ciseler (dice) and emincer (thinly slice) an onion, and ciseler a shallot.
2. In 30 minutes, we had to showcase our tournage on an artichoke and a potato. (We had 15 minutes to complete each task.)
3. In 30 minutes, make a tomato fondue, a diced tomato dish that is simmered with shallots and herbs.
This was the easiest of the six practicals we will encounter on this culinary journey (or at least, I’ve heard it’s the easiest), but as newbies it was pretty daunting. We took this test in the fifth-floor kitchen rather than our ordinary fourth-floor kitchen. A new space just added to our nerves. And seeing the gigantic carrots freaked us out. (Luckily Chef cut them in half.)
When we all got to our stations, Chef started the clock and peelers started to go crazy. As knives began to slice through onions, we all started to cry because they were the most tear-triggering onions I’ve ever cut.
About 10 minutes in, Chef reminds us not to cut ourselves. And then about five people cut themselves. Blood dripping on their board, they had to rush to grab a band-aid and get back to chopping.
Our second part of the final went without injury, and we’ve all graduated from the turd-like cocottes we used to make to something that actually resembles what Chef demonstrated.
Lastly, the tomato fondue went flawlessly. You just needed to cook down your tomatoes until the water evaporated and make sure it tasted good. Check.
The second part of the day was the written part of the exam. Chef Laura told us all the questions would be pulled from our previous tests, but sitting down and looking at the first question proved she was fooling us. You could hear everyone grumble when they realized that the first page looked like nothing we’ve ever encountered on a test before.
Then we had to take the SafeServ, a national certification on food safety. By this point, I was tired and hungry (maybe I took the test while eating a second chili dog…). It’s amazing how slow the day goes when you’re not in a busy kitchen consumed by making multiple dishes.
TIP OF THE DAY: Try not to be nervous when cutting things. You’ll probably slice your fingers. (I’ve seen it happen.)