Week 3 Day 4: Alsace

and Today at Cook Street we dance! Ya vol, sneil, bitter. I have to get into character whenever we have a theme day and this day I know used to be a special one for Chef Dale, who has strong germanic roots. We had a blast. My group is like an improv class. The students are all taking on italian nicknames. We have Ricardo, Thomasino and Meghania and Mixmaster J. working the pots.
Ze menu for ze day:Garden greens soup mit mustard creamJagerschnitzel, spaetzle unt braised cabbage. Ya we serve it also with the jagers sauce, which is a mushroom veal sauce. No unt we do not use Jagermeister. Though both have hunter in the name.
Unt Flourless chocolate cake or deconstructed Schwartz Forest cake like my cousin Heinz used to make in Frieburg.img_0117.jpgimg_0119.jpgimg_0120.jpgimg_0116.jpgGewurztraminer from Alsace provided the perfect foil for the rich and slightly spicy (not hot) Germanic influenced meal. All was wunderba. Sorry for my non existent German spelling. Any of my German speaking friend should feel free to provide editing.

Week 3 Wednesday: Le Fromage

This day had me up for the long lecture and serious tastings: Cheese, Salt and Olive Oil. I had been working on producing a cheese powerpoint presentation. I have always been intimidated by trying to produce one before. Yet another MS product to try and learn, but in actuality it is easy to do. So, I have a renewed fervor to try and get all my lectures gradually in this format and use a laptop and projector to help me add a visual aid to my lectures. Students respond to lectures in a range of different medium. Oral presentations by themselves do not cut the moutarde, so you need to connect by adding other senses (visual, touch, feel, smell, a good dose of humor, ask a lot questions to keep them engaged and if all else fails make extremely absurd sexual comments).These topics are easy for me because I love them. Salt is obvious and probably the one ingredient that I would most miss if I were suddenly put in a hellish environment where I was absolutely prohibited from using it. Imagine a a salt free spa chef……no stop. I didn’t write that…..too hard for me to put in print. Olive oil took me a while in life to appreciate, but now that I know the level of art and that I have actually visited some of the olive oil producers in Provence. I understand what is involved and the passion that the producer gives to this amazing lipid.Finally cheese. If there is one product that singlehandedly makes me want to pick up my family and move to France it is this one. Once you have tasted true unpasteurized brought to its peak of perfection by a skilled artisan cheese curer, then you understand that of which I speak.The cool thing is that my presentation features pictures of one my students who felt the same type of cheesapithany during a tour at Aleosse and is now the cheese manager at the Truffle in cherry creek. He supplied the cheese for the tasting that featured the different categories of cheese I was attempting to have the students grasp. I believe that the presentation hit on all cylinders and that the students left with a better understanding of what is involved in this art.The menu for the day was meant to be set up as a buffet. Hot line was responsible for Roast NY strip (which we had rubbed down the day before with spices and salt) a green peppercorn sauce which we also started as a base Espagnole (the mother sauce from Escoffier) the day before as well and nurtured to perfection on that day. From stock to sauce a 4 day operation. To accompany slow cooked bacon and onion individual tartlets intended to have the students practice Pâte Brisée. On Garde Manger they put together a salad of mussels with basil vinaigrette. Paired with this sumptuous buffet a red Languedoc Bio-dynamic wine “Les Hérétiques” Syrah, Grenache, Carignan etc. Très Bon.img_0115.jpgimg_0114.jpg

Week 3: Tuesday, Ingredient Identification and tasting, tasting, tasting

After a long weekend it takes a little more effort to get the engine back on track. We’re in week 3 and the focus is ingredient identification and to taste as many examples of different ingredients as possible. What better way to learn every color available to a cook’s culinary palette than to taste them. Chef Dale started us off with an herb ID and tasting and then we had scheduled Chef Tim Zeigler at Italco to do an herb and spice presentation. I have taken my students to Italco on many occasions when I was working at Culinary School of the Rockies and his presentations are great. He is very heavy at pushing dried herbs, but that is understandable given the nature of his job. We allotted him 45 minutes and we noticed that after 40 minutes he had 3 more ID stations to go. We gently pulled urged him to push the presentation forward. It’s tough to do when you know that the students are getting so much out of the presentation, but you could easily spend days going over this subject. Anyway Tim really knows his stuff and is fascinating to listen to.He left me a 3 lb rock of Nepalese pink salt and one of the herb and spice posters he created. Nepalese salt is being used by chefs like David Burke who are having it cut into tiles, baking them in the oven and cooking raw food on them tableside.Next Chef Lexie was up with a spun sugar demo. Spun sugar and pulled caramelized sugar is what can give major wow factor to desserts at very little cost.We finally got underway with the menu around 11:30. Today Garde Manger made a beautiful cheese crepe soufflé served with a tomato coulis and basil oil img_0110.jpgHot line served a pan fried filet of Tilapia served with sauce grenobloise, which is a derivative of Beurre Noisette. Beurre Noisette or Hazelnut Butter is an à la minute browned butter pan sauce. Once you add lemon juice, parsley and capers it becomes a sauce Grenobloise. img_0112.jpg We served the fish over a bed of wild rice and lightly dressed baby red romaine. We topped it with blanched whole garlic cloves. This dish would be at home in any French bistro.img_0111.jpgWe paired these two dishes with a nice Vermentino from Sardegna.And for dessert we had a hazelnut soufflé glace or frozen soufflé. This a basically a frozen mousse. This time molded in a nice pyramid shape. I could really feel the power coming off the plate. img_0113.jpg This dessert needs a “laser” coming out of its peak.Another great day.

Week 2: Thursday

This program goes at a very fast pace and consequently there is a lot of information covered in a short period of time. On this day roughly 2 hours are devoted to the lecture on methods of cooking. This is an absolutely essential topic and really if one could inject a student with all the accumulated practical hands on trial by fire knowledge a chef learns throughout his career on this topic alone and have them understand it in 2 hours the school would close its doors. However, as Paul Bocuse once told me in person this is a craft that can only be transmitted by a mentor to his/her apprentice by direct example and closely supervised repetitive practical application of technique.Any Culinary school that teaches mostly by demonstration and expects the students to join the workforce with this type of superficial education is potentially doing more harm to the industry than good. This intimate type of mentorship can only can only happen in a school with a student to teacher ratio of 8 to 1 maximum and ideally 6 to 1. I have been lucky to be involved with small schools that take this ratio to heart and have the integrity not to compromise this ideal.
The menu for this day was

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  • Pepper and fennel crusted salmon with madeira sauce and soft truffle infused fat laden polentaimg_0082.jpg
  • Lemon lavender tarts for dessert (sorry Chef Lexie no pictures, I’ll try to do better from now on)

All this accompanied with another lively number from the languedoc. a viognier called l’crocodileimg_0075.jpg

Viognier is one of my favorite white varietals. At its best in its homeland of Condrieu in the northern Côtes du Rhone where it is the only varietal permitted. When I drink a Condrieu, I am instantly transported to the terroir and am flooded with the taste memories of endless tastings with the noble winemakers on the terraced slopes of this blessed wine oasis. Pierre Gaillard and Francois Villard are winemakers that have left a deep impression on my palette.I am so glad that I didn’t stay in advertising. Vive la cuisine!!!

Week 2: Wednesday, Fazzoletti

Now that you have seen a typical day. Let’s focus in on the rest of the menus for week two. On Wednesday the 16th. We had Anchoiade and Brandade for appetizer and Scampi Provençale with fazzoletti.I have fallen in love with the pasta recipe found in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook which is the following:
  • 1 3/4 cup AP Flour
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Milk
This dough is filled with yolk fat and once well kneaded makes beautiful pasta. On this day we rolled it fairly thin then lay down some Italian parsley and covered it with another sheet of pasta. We then ran it through on a larger setting and gradually took it down until it sealed the parsley into the pasta.
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We poached the sheets in simmering water. Each of the students sautéed the scampi à la minute. the resulting dish looked like
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We made a broth out of fish fumet, tomato and saffron and topped it with Fleur de Sel or as we call it in my family “magic dust.” It was paired with a rosé from Corbières an A.O.C. from Languedoc France.We finished our meal with a fruit filled Vacherin. One of our students who is from New Zealand was in heaven as the fruit filled meringue is very much like a Pavlova. Justin told us that Pavlova is perfect anytime of day. Good on you mate!

A typical Day at Cook Street

I usually arrive at work at 7:45am. The HX bus drops me off less than a block away from work. By the time I get through the doors the place is in full activity. The pastry kitchen led by Chef Lexie has been working since 7:00 am, prepping breakfast, firing up the wood burning bread oven and making dough with the students. Chef Dale is busy running around the kitchen double checking his food needs for the day and doing his rounds of the walk-in. Many of the students are already there once I arrive. I pass through the front doors, pause the Ipod and prepare for the day.img_0057.jpg
The great aspect about commuting on a bus is that not only do you reduce your carbon footprint but you can also catch up on reading or prepare for a day’s lecture. That is as long as you are not struggling to find space to work in your cramped seat because a 300lb woman has settled in beside you (though in all honesty the skinnier people take more liberty with personal space than the already self conscious overweight people).I usually gather my group of students around to check in on their progress. They have already set up our Hot Line Station as requested and have our equipment Mise en Place set up for the day. We are ready to cook. A quick check in with Chef Dale to see if there any special needs for the day and I return to get the students started with a knife skills project. This might include Mirepoix (onions carrots, celery and sometimes leeks) for a stock being made on the garde manger station.
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After We achieve these various daily tasks then I grab a cup of coffee and meet with the rest of the chef instructors to go over the daily game plan and any other issues of the day.Breakfast is set out by members of the pastry station and all dig in. Lecture casually starts around 8:45am.Lecture is delivered by one of the Chef Instructors and covers a variety of culinary topics pertinent to the student’s chronological development. I should mention here that the program is very accelerated and intense. There is a lot of material that must be covered in a short period of time. In many ways the program is very similar to the program I taught while I was Director of Professional Programs at Culinary School of the Rockies in Boulder except that it is a few months shorter.

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Lecture usually finishes around 11am and then we break into our respective kitchens and start to cook the lunch for the day. I have a great new group of students and we have a lot of fun putting together our part of the daily menu. Every day a different student is appointed as the Chef du Jour and leads the group through production. The students are usually fraught with anxiety the first time they are in charge but quickly grow accustomed to the responsibility.

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Meanwhile the weekly bread baker is busy pulling out loaves from our wood burning bread oven. We eat freshly made bread starting on day two of the program. The weekly bread baker is also responsible for doing an assortment of other breads during their stint as bread baker. Ultimately they are responsible for producing the daily allotment of baguettes.

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At roughly around 2pm we are ready to enjoy the first course of our instructional menu.

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On this day the menu is Foie Gras with duck confit and slowly cooked cabbage with a lingonberry sauce. My team on the hot line is next up with pan fried chicken supreme on a saffron roasted garlic sauce with wilted spinach.

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Everyday we have a wine selected by our in house sommelier to match the food we have made. It is a complete experience and very European in approach.For dessert we finish with

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chocolate sorbet with white chocolate ganache and chocolate macaroons. Every meal ends with a critique of the elements of the menu by the staff and students and a sensory evaluation of the wine paired with the meal.We end the day and the students clean their respective kitchens. This is a fairly accurate description of a typical day at Cook Street . I will try to give a day by day account of some of the menus we create and wines we taste. Hungry for more?

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Hello and welcome to the new food blog “a lamb before thyme” I have recently started a new job as a Culinary Arts Instructor at Cook Street School of Fine cooking and I wanted to, among other things, give a brief account of my day to day job. I will share plenty about my cooking philosophy, provide recipes and pertinent food and travel tips. I am still very new to the blogosphere and hope to learn as I go. Any constructive tips are welcome.

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