New Blog For Chef Training

This blog has always been about self-training and learning. As a result, I’ve created a new blog On Becoming A Chef, to chronicle my journey from enthusiastic cook to chef. The first step in this process has been enrolling in culinary school at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and you’ll find a detailed account of my studies, learning and experience going through culinary school. This blog will continue to figure posts about learning at home, in recreational classes or general observations about food. I hope you enjoy them both.

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Orientation at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

Last night was hopefully the second easiest night I’ll have in culinary school at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. The easiest night I hope is graduation! I got to meet my classmates, most of the staff and finalize details like taking a picture for my student ID. I was also given my student binder with syllabus, recipes for the program and student handbook. All that remains is finding the right shoes, non-skid closed toe shoes appropriate for the kitchen. I can’t wait to start next week. It’s all very surreal.

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Call the tailor, I’m almost ready

Culinary School Gear

Things are definitely getting real now. I showed up at school today for a fitting which was pretty exciting. On my way in, I was greeted by Matt, another admissions staff member I have been working with over the months. He showed me downstairs to purchasing to be fitted for my uniform. I tried on a few jacket sizes, pants and t-shirts, and narrowed them down to what fit and felt best. The jackets for students will all be embroidered with names, but I was able to bring home the rest including my knife and tool kit and books. Going through the process, and getting all of my stuff made all of this even more real. I’m so close to starting class. The payment of tuition definitely grounded it if all the stuff I had to carry home didn’t!

With orientation right around the corner next week, I’ll be starting classes including my knife seminars where I’ll ultimately pick out my chef’s knife after trying out a few sizes and styles.

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I’ve Been Accepted to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts!

Cambridge School of Culinary Arts Acceptance Letter

Great news to share, I’ve been accepted to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in the Culinary Certificate Program! I arrived home today find a packet in the mail with an acceptance letter and relevant school information. I’m super excited!

Based on the guidance from many people I spoke with at the school, I applied to the Culinary Certificate Program. This will enable me to get a solid grounding in cooking and baking along with seminars covering a variety of topics each week. The school allows students in the Certificate Program which is essentially the first half of the Professional Program to opt into the full program at the halfway point during the semester. The class is a mix of students in either the Certificate or the Professional program. There was no risk and starting this way enables me to immerse myself in the program and then continue or even switch over to the Certificate or Professional Pastry Program if I choose.

Over the next week I need to be measured for my uniform, and take care of other administrative items. Orientation is January 6th, 2015 with school starting on January 12th!

I also know that our texts will be On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals (5th Edition) by Chef Sarah Labensky, Priscilla A. Martel and Allan “Skip” M. Hause and On Baking (3rd Edition) by Chef Sarah Labensky, Priscilla A Martel and Eddy Van Damme. Surprisingly these books haven’t made it on my shelves yet, so they are welcomed additions. On Baking was recommended to me by Bonnie Slotnick of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the West Village of New York City when I popped into her store this summer, so I’m pretty interested in reading it.

Even more to come as the program starts. Stay tuned.

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Interview at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

that was fast! I had just dropped off my application to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts when my phone rang while I was in the checkout line at the supermarket. My heart sank when Denise in Admissions told me she was calling from the school. I quickly asked if I had forgotten anything in the application, the application I knew I had triple checked. As it turned out she was free and asked if I had time to come back for an interview. This was great news and definitely better than finding out that I had forgotten something.

I returned to the school about 30 minutes later and we spoke for a while, I answered some questions about my background, motivations and goals and even had to write a short narrative about my most memorable food experience. I left even more excited about things to come. I should hear back next week and hopefully with positive news. Fingers crossed, this blog is about to get a lot busier.

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I’ve Applied to Culinary School!

In 2009 I started out the year with a daunting goal, the goal of learning how to cook, the impetus for this blog. I later enrolled in a Basics class, starting with Knife Skills at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in March of that year and over the years have pursued additional classes there and other places. More and more I’ve tried to immerse myself in the world of food, something which has become part of my identity and personal brand. In 2010 I considered applying to culinary school and did some initial research. Ultimately, I ended up starting my own company, leaving little time for blog entries, but not deterring my desire for cooking or additional learning. The gaps in this blog are clearly evident, but my skill has improved over the years undocumented. In January of this year, I sold my company to a company based in New York and as part of that I had to do some transition work. With the work coming to an end, the goal of applying to and attending culinary school quickly became a reality again which brings us to today. I have officially applied to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts to start in January!

Cambridge School of Culinary Arts Application

I dropped off my application personally as I live very close and hope to hear back soon. Orientation starts on January 6th and classes begin shortly after on January 12th. If I am granted admission, I plan to document my experience and learning (the good and the embarrassing) to provide insight into the program and to help me solidify what I have learned. More updates to come shortly!

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A Return To The CSCA

Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

Given my Boston roots and recent visits to other schools (ICE and ICC), I keep circling back to attending the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. It’s size, location, and focus, seem like a great fit. Over the past few months I’ve been communicating with the admissions staff regarding the school’s programs, Culinary and Pastry, trying to decide which track makes the most sense. Much of it is a personal decision as much as a career one. The decision between a certificate and the professional program is also one that I’m considering.

Yesterday I visited the admissions office to get more perspective and to ask more pointed questions I’ve been wrestling with regarding what’s next. The conversation was easy, informative and gave me better insight into the program. Fingers are crossed as to how the next few months will unfold. Based on work commitments, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to start with the January class or if I’ll have to wait for May. The prospect of school is still as exciting as it ever was and I have a lot of thinking to do around applying.

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Morning Pastry Class, Day 2

I left the first day of Morning Pastry Class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts really excited to return. Despite the class starting at 6:00 and being scheduled for around 3 or 4 hours, I didn’t leave until around 11pm. Adding to that, I had to drive out to my parents’ house to sleep for three hours before getting up to drive some family that was visiting to the airport and then go from there to my apartment and then back out to an early morning investor meeting for my company. Needless to say I was exhausted after the whirlwind of activity, but it was worth it. There was so much to learn and do in the class and it was a lot of fun. If there was one thing that I observed above all else, it was that people just don’t follow directions. It was very funny to have to see Chef Gomes save us from our selves. I wondered how our end products would turn out.

Rolling out croissant dough

It was amazing to see how Chef Gomes worked with and transformed the dough.

Le Croissant

These guys get real big once they have proofed!

Laying out the croissants

The ends of the croissants were brought together on the sheet pan.

Filling chocolate croissants

My classmates and I may have eaten some of the chocolate bars out of the box instead of putting them into the croissant dough. I’m expecting the bill any day now.

Filling bear claws with jam

The bear claws are harder to get right than they look.

Oh the shapes we made

We made stars with the dough and filled them with pastry cream and apricots.

Proofed Croissants

The croissants got much bigger when they proofed!

Scoring chocolate croissants

Using a razor blade, the chocolate croissants were scored for added texture.

Croissants baking in the oven

The smell of butter and waiting for these suckers to bake was torture.

Fresh baked croissants

If waiting for the croissants to bake wasn’t bad enough, we had to wait for them to cool down. Some over eager students were willing to burn their mouths to sample the goods. I may have been one of them.

The bounty

Things were just getting started with the first batch.

Croissants with pastry cream

The picture says it all. These did not last.

Croissants with a sprinkling of sugar

Whoever was on dusting duty was quite generous with the powdered sugar.

Palmiers (Elephant Ears)

If pounds of butter were not enough to cause serious health problems and weight gain, these elephant ears were like putting the final nail in the coffin. These were pretty much all butter and sugar.

Cinnamon Buns

Sadly I may never order cinnamon buns from a bakery again knowing that they will never be as good as these were.

Brioche

If I had to guess, the brioche was the most healthy item on the menu.

The pictures tell the story better than I ever could. I left the class with two boxes filled with the most delicious pastry items I have ever had the fortune of eating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week, I was happy.

I can see this class being an annual tradition.

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Morning Pastry Class, Day 1

In October I was fortunate to take a two day morning pastry class with Master Pastry Chef / Pastry Program Director Delphin Gomes at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Without a doubt this was one of the best classes I have ever taken. Even though I took the class last fall, I took many pictures of the amazing pastry we made. I can almost taste the butter now as I write. The best part of the class was the fact that there were not written recipes. The focus of the class was on the method, and not the recipe. We were given clear instructions and sage advice at the beginning of the class which included basic ratios of ingredients and the instructions for combining them, where if done properly and as was the case almost properly, would result in pastry never experienced by the students this side of the Atlantic. The pictures in this post and the pictures and videos in the posts to follow speak for themselves.

Making Pastry Cream

You’ve never had better pastry cream.

Proofing Croissant Dough

The Chef and his assistant had created some dough prior to the start of our class so we could start working right away.

Smashing a pound of butter!

After a long day at work, there’s nothing better than being able to smack a block of butter with a rolling pin to get your frustrations out. The noise level of the class was insane. I’m guessing this activity would not be welcomed by my neighbors and would result in immediate forfeiture of at least half of my croissants.

Rolling out the croissant dough

Any frustrations assuaged by the flattening of the butter quickly returned when the croissant dough had to be rolled out into a straight and event rectangle. The Chef had to intervene…often.

The first day was primarily one of setup. We had to wait a whole week to return for the second and final day where we could make our croissants, puff pastry and brioche.

Culinary Wisdom: According to Chef Gomes, a good croissant takes two days to make. If yours didn’t take two days to make, you aren’t eating a good croissant. Joking aside, the reason for this is directly related to the proofing times required and the flavor production resulting from them. Throughout the proofing, the dough had to be folded (turned) several times to create the layers of butter and air required for an amazing croissant.

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