Day One, Mise en Place, Knife Usage, Stocks, Sauces and Presentation Techniques

If there is one thing cooking schools do well is feed the students!  Unlike other college campus that claim the  “freshman 15′ (15 pounds of weight gain), this place is more like freshman 35!  Imagine being in school at 6am and starting the day with “Elvis Pancakes”.  Two large fluffy pancakes with peanut butter, banana and bacon.  Just what the King needed to get his engine roaring.  I’m sure he slept in and this was more like lunch for him.  Chef D ( John DeShetler) is our instructor for the week and he is knowledgeable and entertaining.  Already, I’ve learned so many techniques and tricks to make cooking just that much more fun.  There are 16 of us in the class, most of which are 40 years plus.  Serious foodies with extra cash to spend on a passion.  They come from all walks of life, regions from within the US and Mexico.  Some looking for their next chapters, others to learn from the experts.  Like any school of learning, we have eager beavers, those with questions and the silent ones.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  We have been assigned to a team for the finale competition on Friday.  Think of Top Chef but in teams.  My team, #2, has been assigned the Mediterranean  market basket (list of ingredients to use for the cook off) inclusive of lamb, lentils, eggplant, Nicoise olives to mention a few of the ingredients.

We spent most of the morning on knife skills.  How to slice, dice, oblique, julienne and cut “batonnets” (1/4 x 1/4 size sticks).  Sounds easy but when the master chefs comes around and grades your technique, not so funny anymore.  My strategy was to eat the ones that didn’t cut it (ha ha) so I wouldn’t get graded “random” in my technique.  This worked well for the carrots and celery but when I realized I had another 10 items to cut, and a huge lunch to eat, I had to abandon that strategy if my plan is to fit into my close come Friday.  A delicious lunch, followed by food preparation and a visit to the gym!  It’s been a great day, with interesting people and a week of adventure ahead!  I promise more pictures tomorrow, once I master my Flip cam and Ipod.  all of this technology is overwhelming but not impossible.


  1. Francine, had me chuckling along as you were dicing and slicing, reminded me of the I Love Lucy episode when she was popping chocolates, remember?? Sounds like such a wonderful bucket list item. My sister looked into going to a cooking school in Italy and it was so cost prohibitive, she abandoned the idea, but she could do this one, so much closer.. I have been cooking for 3 hungry guys, who work in construction all my life, so cooking is a way of life for me, and being Italian, well need I say more! Looking forward to a new kitchen reno which is in the works whick will make it a little more fun. Loved this post, and can’t wait to hear more advenures, N.

  2. Mickey Murray says:

    Hi Francine,I’m new to the Blogging world-like you I’m not interested in really knowing what people are doing every second of their life-a lot of it is just fluff-BUT I LOVE what you have posted so far!
    Right now I have just finished reading about your first day at the culinary institute and am very jealous! I too am a foodie-I started a small business about 10 years ago after a 34 year career in the corporate world!!! Food is my life!
    I am very interested in your week and will keep reading as it may be something I too am interested in doing.
    I am trying to perfect the french macaron and was looking at classes in France-unfortunately the prices for the classes are out of my league so I am back at the drawing board-sifting through cook books and food blogs to extract all the secrets I can about the cookie!
    Keep up what you are doing-I for one am really enjoying what you have to say-love your humour too!

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