Day Five, Culinary Jeopardy, the Final Cook Off and Friends for Life

Following a late night at the famed Escoffier restaurant…and bar, Chef is all set up for a quick game of ” Culinary Jeopardy”.  He wants to see what we, the collective we, have remembered  from our week.  Like the real Jeopardy, there is a selection of categories (Knife skills, Thickening Agents, French Words, Kitchen tools to name a few).   Teams are ready with their hands on the buzzer, let the games begin!  I really thought I would have an advantage in the “French Words” category, but it appears we have a few francophiles in the crowd.  All week long my ears were abused with such mispronunciations, some new to me.  It’s something I have gotten use to over the years, but kitchen terminology not often spoken were plentiful this past week.  The best of the best…”mirapooh” for “Mirepoix”.  I guess mirapooh is something you have if you eat too much mirepoix.  My  team didn’t win but the winning Team 3 left the game room with new measuring spoons!  I must say the collective knowledge after just four days was impressive.  Congratulations to all of them!

The final cook off began.  We were all given a “market basket” list of ingredients and had to design a menu, inclusive of an appetizer and entree, using most of the ingredients.  Sort of like “Iron Chef”.  Teams had been in discussion for several days, deciding on a menu.  Some more serious than others.  When you need to consider and include a variety of cooking methods, colors, textures, tastes and presentation, it does challenge you .  Our team’s grand finale menu included french lentil salad &  Parmesan toast, medallions of lamb a la Robert (thinking that French words would give us more points) with  caponata a la grille (more french words) over lemon scented couscous.  Stepping back, you could see a more confident, organized effort comparison with Monday’s rat race.  One teammate described Monday’s effort best… “watching all these highly accomplished people try to work in a professional kitchen…priceless”.                    

Following our last meal, everyone participated in the critique and kudos of our morning cook off.  It was clear, we all had learned a ton!  This was Chef’s final commentary and inspiration to send us  off more confident, more daring, more curious and certainly more skilled!

Top 10 Lessons (for me) from the week. (Recipes to follow next week once I figure out the scanner!)

1)  The importance of a sauce and the role it plays in puling a meal together.

2)  Perfect pan gravy(what’s left at the bottom of any cooking pan and what you do with it)  is more complex and time consuming than I had previously practiced.

3)  Just two knives of great quality and sharpness is all you need.  French chef and pairing knife.

4)  The use and mix of fresh herbs to most dishes can be magical.

5)  Don’t be afraid of high heat…it delivers flavor (as long as you don’t burn anything)

6)   The importance of the size and cut of vegetables  for consistent cooking and appearance.

7)  The right pan for the right effort.  Using the right pan makes things easier and efficient.

8)  “Mise en place”, having everything ready before you start.

9)  One third of your time should be spent resting meats and presentation.

10)  Americans don’t drink enough!

On so many levels, this was one of my great experiences. Filling a room with mostly like minded passionate foodies, experienced with life in a way that keeps things real and who allow themselves to learn and make new friends.  A true recipe for life.  Here is to the graduating  class of February 2011!


  1. Anne Smithson says:

    I can not wait to see the receipes. What a wonderful expereince and it was so much fun to read about it in your words. AS

  2. Mickey Murray says:

    I have been glued to my computer for the last week just waiting for the daily updates from the CIA-I only wish I could have been a fly on the wall!It all sounds like an amazing experience and now you can cross it off the list!I’m really looking fwd to the recipes and whatever other bits you post. Would also love to find out how you were able to take the course-I went into the CIA’s website and requested info but was told that I don’t meet the requirements???
    Anyway sometimes when you have a min. maybe you can share the process with me !?

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