Culinary School Here I Come (85) Reflection and Apricot Boulange; Tasty Dessert or Stripper?


Not that I’m dramatic or anything, but this is the last time I’ll have to wash these again. NOT! I’ve learned that you may have graduated but you are still needed there! What I’m more excited about is not having to scrub my shoes every Friday. That was a pain the ass! It has been a little bit of a relaxing week or so after graduation. I’ve been studying how to do home energy surveys so I haven’t had much time to decompress but I’m done with that now and have spend the past few days just chilling. I have lost some of my endurance and stamina but it’ll come back in a few weeks with a normal exercise schedule.

This is my final blog in this “Culinary School Here I Come” series. I’ve compiled 85 blogs as roughly 1000 words each so I’ve written 85,000 words about this experience called culinary school. I would love to turn this experience into a book….I’ve got the words. I have made some good friends, identified the problem students and am so thankful that this journey is over. But first, let me update you on what I’ve been doing for the past week or so.

One of the things that was put on the back burner with school was my back yard re-landscaping project. It has taken a year to get to 75% completion and I can now work on the last 25%. This will be my official vegetable garden. In the meantime, I’ve set a smaller area up and have been harvesting some awesome heirloom tomatoes, tons of basil, huge parsley and these eggplants.

I also started some sunflower seeds and got these results. If you look close, you can see a honey bee.

That one plant turned out to be a sunburst of sunflowers.

Another thing that I’m excited to spend more time with is my fish pond.

I love being able to simply go outside, pick some basil and tomatoes and make an amazing Heirloom Tomato & Strawberry Salad with Basil Chiffonade. It’s too hot out here to grow strawberries.

This was one of my favorite salads ever. I love using fruit in salads. My photos suck, however, in the fall I have enrolled in a photography class and I plan to buy a better camera so my blog photos should improve a lot. Looking forward to that. I’ve always wanted to take photography but a bummer that we’ve gone past the darkroom. That would have really been cool!

A few years ago, before my culinary and baking experience, I was too lazy to make a real pie so I just wrapped some fresh fruit up in pie dough and called it a day. I took one once to a party and this is how the interaction with the host went down:

tinfoil:  Hi Jackie, I brought you something for your party.

Jackie:  This looks wonderful.  What is it?

tinfoil:  hesitating and thinking fiercely   I’ve made you this, this, pausing….Boulange.

Jackie:  Boulange.  Why, thank you.

Fresh apricots, candied ginger and nutmeg are the highlights to this magnificently free formed boulange! Until today an apricot boulange was a dessert. I find out that there is a stripper by the name of Apricot Boulange…and she works the pole really good!

I made a small Amazon purchase a while back. These were books that I checked out of the library and found them to be rather interesting. I’m looking forward to hitting some classical sauces hard.

Okay, so here is where I digest the past two years of my life. In some ways it breezed by (in retrospect) but in some ways it took forever. I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to commit myself to this two year journey. I’m glad it’s over. It was fun but would I do it again? Ask me in a few months because I am burnt out right now. I’ve made some really good friends and knew some people that I would never hire to work in my restaurant. I’d probably employ 20% of the students that I interacted with. Not enough motivation and not enough skill.

Is a big, fancy culinary school, like CIA the best bet? It wasn’t for me. I’ll tell you why. Those schools are not cheap. They are upwards of $30k per year. The Maui Culinary Academy is at the University of Hawaii Maui College and they charge about $90/credit hour. All in all, the 2 years with supplies and books cost me roughly $6,000. But wait, I was able to scholarship my way through the whole experience. Can you say free? “If it’s free, it’s for me”, is my motto. Now consider this, most cooks leaving culinary school and entering the workforce will be making $10-14/hour. How quickly will that pay off those CIA student loans? Living on Maui, we have no options other than Maui Culinary Academy, however, you can be a big fish in a small pond or a really teeny tiny fish in and huge pond. I was a whale! Yes, the CIA credential may get you far but it’s actually the work experience after you complete culinary school that will get you farther. What would sound better on a resume, a 4.0 MCA graduate or a 2.8 CIA  graduate? Maybe if I were 20 years old, I’d have a different perspective…but I’m not. I’m not even looking for a job on a line somewhere. Private Cheffing is the way to go. My hours and my terms. Will I get anywhere? Not sure but if I can be as successful there as I was in school, no worries! Do I wish there were more interesting classes at MCA? Yes, but now I can supplement my education with things online. I’ve got the basics, not I’ll be fine tuning some more.

So, if you got the time, the cash and the stamina, give it a try. Even if you don’t want to do it as an occupation, think of the amazing dinner parties that you could throw. With that in mind, it’s time for tinfoilduck to sign out. It has been a blast and I thank you all for following. Stay posted for the new adventure of tinfoilduck.

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Culinary School Here I Come (84) Last Day of School, I Can’t Believe I Forgot the Butter & Graduation


So as I was loading up my car for my last day at school, I remembered the first day that I loaded up my truck to start the journey that I’m completing today. I will be on campus to turn in a portfolio and the take my last final in Advanced Baking. I can’t say it was bittersweeet but I can say I was so excited for this chapter to come to a close. Where the chapter continues is up to fate. I did learn some lessons not related to culinary school. I learned that after all these years, I can be patient. I’ve had to put things on hold for months because of my involvement in school. Had this been 20 years ago, it would have driven me totally crazy. Not now. Maybe age? I can’t say. I’ve also become more confident of speaking in public and especially on a microphone. I still get pretty nervous but not as bad.

I baked a whole batch of Banango Bread (Banana Mango) and forgot to put in the butter. I’ve discovered something though….it didn’t need it at all. I now have a low fat recipe in my cadre that was a total “mistake.”

What do you do when you have leftover pastry cream, chocolate cake, creme chantilly and strawberries? Make Choco-Strawberry Shortcake!

I also had some friends visiting from Los Angeles so I whipped up this Chicken Roulade with Sundried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese, Cranberry & Raisin Couscous, Kabocha Squash Puree & Roasted Asparagus Spears.

I love my yard so with my new found time, I’m able to finally reap the benefits.

Mangoes, papayas and Roma tomatoes. My eggplant is getting close and I’ve been harvesting my basil for Lemon Basil sorbet. You have to steep it for a while in the simple syrup first.

My mango tree has been very productive. I have close to 8 huge ziplock bags in the freezer ready for Mango Margaritas.

Oh, by the way, I graduated. Wow, all I can say is that it didn’t come soon enough. My next and last blog from the Culinary School Here I Come series will reflect about the two years and give you my thoughts about the program and any culinary program. Here are a few shots from the event.

Tinfoilduck.

Tinfoilduck with Chef Kyle and Chef Jake.

Tinfoilduck with Angie and Thomas. Together we have a total of 158 years of experience!

Getting our placement down before the show! It was an unorganized mess that didn’t get any more organized throughout the night.

You would think that I’d take a few days off after graduation. I started a 2 week seminar at the college taking a HESP Energy Management course. HESP stands for home energy survey professional. I will soon be able to do an energy audit of home to see where you can improve on your energy efficiency. I was hoping that I’d have a few days off but I was not so lucky!

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A Sad Day for Disco : (


This must be big since the topic of this blog is not about food, school or an irritating fellow student. Some of you may know that I’m a total disco freak, I only have disco music in my iPod and I think all other music sucks. With that in mind, I was stunned, saddened and really bumbed to discover as I was checking email this morning that Donna Summer had passed away. I quickly glance at what was trending and noticed that Donna Summer was #1. Before I could stop my reflex, I had clicked over to email so I forgot about it until I was done. I was so curious to see why #1.

Growing up on Maui in the 70’s was a blessing and a curse. I am still alive as a result but it was incredibly boring. In high school, my goal was to be a Certified Public Accountant. Talk about being a nerd! One day as school, we had what is known as Career Day. I remember the exact location and I almost remember what I was wearing. I don’t remember the other stops that I made except for the room with the pulsing rhythm.  I knew it was a hair salon from Oahu and they were doing a hair fashion show. Up till this point, the music that I listened to was America, Three Dog Night, Elton John and Boston. What was this spacy, hard driving electronic music with a woman singing vocals? I stood in the back and watched the glitz and glamor of a real fashion show from the “big city.” I kinda felt like Jethro in the Beverly Hillbillies. Beautiful people, pulsing music and lights….I was sold. When people ask if there was ever a transformational moment in your life, that was a life changing event, that was the moment for me and Donna Summer’s “Try Me” was the song.

I was so amped, I asked someone who looked important who was the singer. They gave me all the information and I headed out to the record store to get a copy. To my amazement, they had it. It was quite odd though. It was LP sized but there was only 1 song on each side and the songs were both approximately 17 minutes. This is where it gets fuzzy…I don’t remember if it was the B side to Love to Love You Baby. That was the first disco song that I ever heard and the first 12″ disco single of many that I ever played.

It was at that moment that I knew there was a bigger life outside of Maui and I started counting the days to my move to Oahu. Within a few months of starting college, I had changed my major from accounting and became a dance major. Who knew that Donna Summer indirectly played a part in my dance career which led to my real estate career and now my life as a culinarian.

I also have to say that the first concert that I ever went to was on Oahu and it was either her Bad Girls or Once Upon a Time tour. I remember how excited I was to see her perform live. Her music was a constant with me all through the late 70’s. I remember waiting for her albums to get released. They had become these amazing double album sets that were theme based. The cover artwork was amazing and she was photographed by the best photographers, including Francesco Scavullo. She got a little weird and Christian in the early 80’s but relaxed a little. She had some good songs in the mid 80’s and 90’s. It wasn’t until 2008 that she released her first full length record in 17 years. She has an amazing collection of songs that so many people don’t know about. Most people know the radio hits like On the Radio or She Works Hard for the Money. There’s some amazing stuff on her Live and More album and Bad Girls.

She also played an important part when I met Stephen. She was the topic of one of our first, if not first conversations. I knew this would work because of that! We were fortunate to have seen her two more times. It was in 2008 at the Los Angeles County Fair (I was shocked to see that she had put on some weight and worse yet, was wearing flats!). We also saw her at the Hollywood Bowl with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Her voice was still so amazing.

In closing, I will leave you with 2 songs; first Try Me, which is still a selection in my iPod and another one of my favorites which is a slow song, There Will Always Be A You. This song would make me tear up just listening to it, now there is a reason. One of the most amazing voices ever.

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Culinary School Here I Come (83) Plated Dessert Competition & A Cleaned Out Locker


Wow, Friday was the last instructional day for me. I have 1 final left and I have to turn in a portfolio. I cleaned out my locker on Friday, packed up my bag and left the building for the last time. So dramatic, but true. It was pretty exciting to be inches away from done, but at the same time I won’t see a bunch of people that I have seen almost daily for close to 2 years.

It was a very emotionally draining week for me as Tuesday was our final Baking Competition. Our entry is Carrot Cake; Traditional and Modern.  My partner and I had been practicing for a while and had saved up all of the components for the dish. On Monday we decided to do a dry run. It turned out pretty okay.

Everything held up pretty well, except for the carrot tuile. We made it on Thursday and held it in a container with limestone. That didn’t help. It was like a limp noodle.

So Tuesday came. Our start time was at 7:15 and plate up was at 11:15. The first disaster, besides my partner, was that my partner only made 1 copy of our portfolio. We were supposed to bring 4, 1 for each judge. So she spent the first half hour making copies while I was getting our station ready. I knew she was going to be a problem and I assigned her only 1 task to do and she screwed it up. Wait, it gets better a little later.

I printed a task list for the day and everything went as planned. The carrot cake was baked perfectly, the carrot sherbert turned out really well. I couldn’t get the damn brix reading to drop below 40. I think the whole brix reading is a crock of crap. Anyway, I was mostly stressed about making the Cream Cheese Semifreddo. As you recall, a semifreddo is the most difficult of the still frozen desserts (remember this fact; semifreddo is one of the most difficult of the still frozen desserts) because it contains all 3 foams; pate a bombe, Italian meringue and whipped cream. It turned out perfectly and we had just enough to pipe into our fleximolds. The next stressful point was the Carrot Tuiles. Tuiles are tricky. They have to be thin, you can’t bake them too long and if you’re molding them, you have to work quickly. We needed 5 so I figured I’d divide the batch into 2 half sheet pans so they wouldn’t harden before I had the chance to mold them. Best idea of the day! Had I done them all on 1 sheet pan, I’d only have 3 good ones. We also made our own designs on transfer sheets for our white chocolate disc decor. It was pretty easy. We just painted colored cocoa butter, scraped a design into it, then dusted with gold luster dust. The hard part was cutting out the discs.

When we got the 15 minute call, I stared plating the carrot cake, then the pineapple foam. I waited a few minutes then set the cream cheese semifreddo, the then quenelled the carrot sherbet and popped the carrot mousse on the semifreddo. The final steps were the decor. Caramelized pineapple and pecans and finally the chocolate decor and the carrot tuiles. It’s showtime folks!

I think it looks a little more refined than our test. I was so excited and relieved to get it out. Everything went perfectly even down to the plating time. I was proud of the product.

I wasn’t so happy when it was judging time. Some comments ranged from “the carrot cake is too sweet” duh, carrot cake is sweet. “Some acid was needed to balance out the richness” duh, that’s what the pineapple chunks and foam was for. So we placed 3rd. I was pretty much devastated. 2nd I could take but third, bitch please! I moped around for a few days then finally snapped out of my funk. I did manage to serve the rest of my carrot cake and everyone who ate it said it was the best carrot cake they ever had. It’s so hard trying to please everyone. I’m glad I’ll be on my own where I don’t have to please anyone but myself and I’m even more glad to not work in groups and have partners again. So sick of that.

To add insult to injury, we get our comment sheet back from the judges and one of the judges said that “we only showed basic skill levels”. WTF, do you know what a semifreddo is? Has anyone made their own transfer sheets? What about the mousse? Wasn’t it a perfectly baked cake? F You!

I calmed down after a few days and finally posted the photos on facebook. Here are some other pics of our journey

Testing out shapes for the Carrot Mousse.

Testing out a carrot cake recipe. We didn’t use this one.

Itty bitty pretty carrot tuiles.

Now I’ll be studying for my Baking final and putting together my Work Practicum Portfolio.

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Culinary School Here I Come (82) 3 More Class Days, Baking Competition Practice & I Was Robbed!


Well I wasn’t physically robbed, just emotionally but I’ll get into that later. OH MY HELL, I only have 3 more class days left. I also have an Advanced Baking Competition and a final for that and a portfolio due. That’s it. Wow, I knew I’d finally get here but it’s getting so exciting now that I can see the end.

I’ve been practicing with my partner, Myra, our competition plated dessert. Carrot Cake; Traditional and Modern.

So, on the left side you will find the traditional carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and pineapple. It will betopped with a white chocolate disc painted like a cross section of a carrot. On the left is the modern treatment of carrot cake. We have taken the flavors of carrot cake; cream cheese, carrots, pineapple, coconut and pecans and have featured them in non traditional ways. The base is a cream cheese semifreddo, on that sits a carrot mousse and a quenelle of carrot sherbet and is topped with a carrot tuile. The modern treatment sits on a sea of pineapple foam with diced pineapple relish, toasted coconuts and candied pecans. Wow, I hope all that gets done and plated in time.

Carrot tuiles. I’ve never done a tuile before so I though it would be a good idea to practice! It’s thin and crispy and looks like a carrot to me!

We’re getting our sorbet syrup ready. Sherbet is made with sorbet syrup, your flavor base, milk and a tiny amount of cream. We did a test run and it was a success.

Our cream cheese semifreddo and carrot mousse in the blast chiller. Can’t decide which flexi mold to use so we tried as many as we could.

Yes, showtime begins at 7:15. We are the second group to start. Gotta get to the ice cream maker first!

Ok, here’s the robbed part. It’s not a biggie but kind of a downer. In Garde Manger class, there is always a final competition that is judged by industry chefs and graded according to ACF standards. In the 15 years of competition at the college, only 1 gold medal has been awarded. Last semester, my group got the highest marks and we only got a silver. So, they changed the judging and tabulating criteria.

The judges are mulling over the first groups offerings.

So, here is where things start to break down. Last semester each group had to produce 1. a charcuterie item which was allowed to be prepared the day before, cut and glazed with aspic on the day of competition, 2. a composed salad, 3. a hot appetizer with a sauce & 4. an hors d’oeuvre plate with 3 items. On top of all this, it was a mystery basket competition, so we didn’t know what items we were going to use until 15 minutes before we had to come up with a menu. Granted, each group consisted of 4 members. This year it was either 2 or 3 members and if you had 2 member in a group, you made a charcuterie item and 1 hors d’oeuver. If your group had 3 members, you’d have a charcuterie item and 2 hors d’oeuvre. Out the door went the mystery basket and they had weeks to decide what to prepare. The outcome was some good food, mostly mediocre and the results were 4 gold medals, 2 silvers and 2 bronze. WTF. Anyway, I’m actually not bitter, just disappointed.

Cannot wait for school to end. Stay tuned next week for the final Baking Competition results.

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Culinary School Here I Come (81) T – 3 Weeks, Aipono Awards & Seafood Lasagne


3 weeks left to go. 1 final down, 1 more to go. Next week is our final Baking competition. That should be interesting and ultimately, fun. I have a catering project due for Purchasing class and I have my portfolio due for my Work Practicum class. Things are winding down.

Chef Kyle is presenting his appetizers at the Aipono Awards reception. The restaurant industry gets together to “dish out” awards for the community like best new restaurant, best wine list, chef of the year, etc. Here are more photos of the event.

As the evening progressed, the lighting got worse so these are all the photos that I got. Last year, I worked the event. This year I was a guest because I was awarded a $1000 scholarship (along with 5 other students) from the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association. I got to eat all these luscious treats. Our baking class worked on the dessert. Here are some elves getting them ready for service.

We started practicing for our competition. We tested a batch of carrot cake.

We are hoping to get more practice in this week. We’ve committed to a Cream Cheese Semifreddo so we gotta work on that. We also have to prefect our Carrot Sherbert and Carrot Mousse, let alone our tuile. Oh my!

I felt like I was back in kindergarten (there was no such thing as preschool in my day). We made marzipan animals. That was my bird.

Not bad for us being in Baking class and not Ceramics!

We went on a field trip to a food distributor. It was pretty interesting and it was a massive structure.

The scale of this place was massive and very cold. The refrigeration was intense and the freezer was undescribable.

Friday was my last day at the Makena Beach and Golf Resort. I was doing my extern hours there. If you ever want to get a job, start out as an unpaid extern. That would be the best piece of advice that I could give to a fledgeling culinary student. I was not formally offered a position there but if I was interested I could be working there. I like the place and would consider something part time or on a casual basis.

I also had some friends over for dinner and as usual, I pulled out all the stops. I served my usuals; Carrot Ginger Soup and Beet and Arugula Salad with Balsamic Reduction. I served a new dish that I really like a lot. I call it my Seafood Lasagne with Crab and Mushroom Cream Sauce.

The next time I serve this I need to lighten up on the mushrooms. The layers are a seafood mousselline with fish, shrimp, lobster and crab. It’s layered between fresh lemon and cracked black pepper pasta. Then topped with a mushroom, vermouth & cream sauce and garnished with crab meat. It was awesome!

My new favorite sorbet, Basil and Lemon.

Roulade of Salmon & Lobster with Miso Soy Glaze, Shiitake Mushroom and Kabocha Squash Risotto. I worried that there was no sauce, but none was needed. I closed with my usual Chocolate Lava Cake with Salted Caramel, Chocolate Ice Cream, Mocha & Dark Chocolate Mousse and Creme Chantilly & Raspberry Sauce. Always a show stopper.

I’ve been itching to get back into real estate. I have been working with a client this past week on purchasing a house here. It seems like the market is picking up…at least for me it is. In 3 short weeks I’ll be a graduate and will have my days free again.

 

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Culinary School Here I Come (80) T – 4 Weeks & Counting & Lost Another Student


What is going on? In my last blog, I wrote about 2 culinary students that were killed in a car crash. I found out yesterday that another culinary student was found “unresponsive” at the dorms. She had transferred out of the program but I had a couple classes with her, one of which was Beginning Baking.  You will be missed, Shell.

Like the title says, T – 4 Weeks. That means 4 weeks to go. 1 final is down, only 1 more but I do have a couple of projects and a final Plated Dessert Competition. This week was voting on the Purchasing Class garden project. M & W class Vs. T & Th class.  Guess who won!

T & Th class : (

M & W class  : )   We won! We get 6 hours off of purchasing lab. What will I do with my free time? We also had to produce a mini segment for 1 of the 6 functions of purchasing. My group was responsible for maintenance.  Here goes!

We had fun doing it and it ate up one class so all’s good!

We spent the week in Advanced Baking class working on the Aipono awards desserts for the weekend. I wrote about it last week. There was no plate up this week but the awards are tonite so I’ll be taking a photo of it to share. This is a pic of pate a choux being piped for use as a decor.

Over at the resort. I normally get there around 1:00 pm on Friday. I got there at my usual time and no one was there. Had I been smart, I would have turned around and left. Silly me asked the Sous Chef where everyone was. The only other person coming in wasn’t scheduled till 2:00. So I hung around and busied myself. I’m never there alone so I was able to take a few shots.

It’s usually hard for me to take pics so I was able to snap my way around the kitchen and walk in. When the other baker arrived I was assigned to do the pumpkin tarts. I just love those tart shells. Aw, Shell, I miss you.

The final gets a whipped cream dollop and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.

I am a student representative to the Advisory Board of the Maui Culinary Academy. We are in the process of being visited by member of the American Culinary Federation to get re-certified. Some board members were asked to dinner with the ACF members at Ko Restaurant at the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort in Wailea with Executive Chef Tylan Pang. The dinner was wonderful.

Our first course was a Stone Seared Ahi with an Asian Dipping Sauce. It was interesting being able to sear your own slab of Ahi. As much or as little as you like! The stone is superheated in a salamander then placed on a bed of salt to stabilize and diffuse some of the heat from hitting the bowl.

Our appetizer course consisted of Kobe Beef Poke, Hamakua Farms Alii Mushroom and Organic Chicken Lumpia and Spicy Ahi Sushi. I could have just stopped here. Pretty awesome and amazing.

I don’t recall what this dish was called, but it was my entree. It was Chioppino like. Lots of seafood (lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussels & clams) in a tomatoey broth with green olives and peppers. What a wonderful dish.

We were served a dessert sampler. The two standouts for me was the lower left and the lower right square cake in the back. I know this as a dobash cake from a local bakery. It was the lightest and tenderest cake ever. The lower right was a fried dough ball with amazing coconut ice cream. Yummers. The whole concept of Ko is Plantation Style local cooking of different ethnicity. It was a fun night with lots of wine. Thumbs up.

So, I’ll be leaving shortly to attend the Aipono awards. I’ll fill you in on that later.

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