Official Liaison College Blog

Friday, August 24, 2012

Student Chef of the Day

The pressure builds and the buzz in the kitchen is a frenzy of activity.  The stations are ready.  The menu is double checked.  The dining room is packed with eager foodies.  As the Chef of the Day can you handle the intensity?  Read on.

Students who are taking the Advanced Culinary program at Liaison College are required to design, cost, and implement a luncheon menu.  Sounds simple and easy in a few words, but the reality is far from simple.  The student Chef of the Day comes up with a theme or concept for their menu and they research recipes for the courses.  The chef instructors provide guidance and feedback as the menu is tweaked and adapted.  When the final menu is complete the next stage is to dissect the recipes and develop a food/ingredient listing for purchase.  Then classmates are divided to teams for preparation just like stations in a foodservice kitchen.  The food is ordered and arrives ready for prep - each item is scrutinized to ensure that quality standards are perfect.  The Chef of the Day reviews the recipes and the menu and answers questions from classmates (the brigade) about preparation and timing.  All before even one customer sits in the dining room.  The dining room has to be readied.  The "front of the house" is the first visual for the client so that has to be inviting and crisp.

Yesterday I arrived for a Chef of the Day lunch at Toronto Downtown.  Under the strict supervision of Chef Mick (voted in the top 5 chef instructors in the world on in 2010!!)  the student presents his menu to the guests who are suddenly quiet and straining to hear every word.
The applause is loud in anticipation of the presention of the menu as described.  Can he pull it off?  Each place is set is with sparkling silverware and a polished glass.  The lemon water is served and the freshly baked herbed foccacia is passed around.  Delicious.  The conversations and buzz around the room starts again as the pending meal is awaited.  We all notice the Critique Form in front of us; Chef Mick has asked us all to be brutally honest and judge the meal as this will assist the student chef in getting better and learning.  Now the pressure is really on.  This meal is part of the student's mark.
The room is full with almost 50 guests and the bright sun shines illuminating the atmosphere.

We start with an Amuse Bouche (a teaser to get your mouth watering):  Kaffir Lime Leaf Shrimp Satay with Miso Tomato Avocado Concasse

The presentation was very colourful and the flavour had just enough heat to warm the palette.

Appetizer:  Taiwanese Tamale with pickled cucumbere and Asian BBQ sauce

The presentation of the tamale in a corn husk was very unique and creative.  The BBQ sauce was tangy and sweet which complemented the sour pickled cucumber and the mellow tamale.
Entree:  Flank steak roulade served with succotash and herb crusted potatoes topped with potato skin tumbleweeds finished with Chilean red wine jus
The tender meat rolled with vegetable and egg accompanied by the flavourful jus was delicious.  The potatoes are hidden in this photo as they are under the meat, but they were large cubes delicately seasoned and nicely done.  The succotash was a rustic combination of  vegetables and legumes that completed the dish.  (my personal thought was that this dish was a perfect autumn lunch - warm and filling - but I'm trying to hang on to the last weeks of summer and would have enjoyed lighter fare with more seasonal ingredients highlighting the bounty and color of Ontario in August).  I couldn't finish my meal for two reasons:  the portion was big and the dessert was next!

Dessert:  Dulce de Leche sticky toffee pudding with nectarine ice cream and candied oranges

The name says it all.  This dessert was served warm with a decadent warm butterscotch syrup.  The ice cream was more like a sherbet - light and not too sweet - which rounded out the flavour profile perfectly.  The warm sweet pudding and syrup blended with the cool, refreshing ice cream was a delicious end to a great lunch.  I looked around the room and noticed that not a scrap was left on any plate (always a good sign) and the guests looked completely sated and happy.  What more can a chef ask for.

The brigade came out of the kitchen to a loud round of applause and their hard work was recognized in more ways than one - they got to eat the last of the desserts! 

Well done .... I will be back!

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