Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 21: Piggy Parts!

Arrived at the school at 8am to find this parked outside the back door. This is our week of pork, and we've kicked off our week by butchering 2 and a half pigs! 

Five of these half pigs were laid out at our tables. Before I even got my coffee down, we were already getting our first demo; how to butcher our primary cuts of pork. 

I was a little squeamish thinking about butchering this guy, but I had to put that aside. I told myself, "This is where your favorite pork dumplings come from! This happens all over the world on a daily basis!"

I got through the primary cuts. The secondary cuts were easier. They were just lumps of meat. I cut shoulder roasts out of the front quarter, then I cut short ribs away from the back bacon and thought of my Dad, as those are his 2 favorite parts. I had to stop often and wash my hands and knives as the work gets greasy pretty quickly. 

I sharpened all my knives to a razor's edge in preparation for this day, as the Chefs had asked us to do. All my knives cut through sheets of paper when I was done with them. When our knives hit bone we used this hack saw.

Unfortunately, my pig wouldn't be the only one to feel the blade of my super sharp knife, I had my first knife accident today, (yes in my 4th week!). I was cutting PARSLEY! Can you believe it? My knife was moving faster than my index finger and I sliced off a chunk of my fingernail. Amusingly, my partner showed me he had done the exact same thing 2 weeks earlier! The worst part is, after I fixed myself up, I had to go back through the parsley and locate my missing nail before someone used it was a garnish! Ewww! (I found it.) 

Then with our piggy parts we made a ton of new products, including bacon! (That little brown pool is whiskey!) 

We also had roasts, loins, chops, ribs and ground pork. We had a few legs being processed into proscuitto for next year by a former student, (and we get last year's). It gives you a new perspective on anatomy, when you look at pictures it's one thing, but when you see where pork chops are located, or slice it out the tenderloin, it's quite another. I also spent a lot of time skinning.

We can't use all of the pork we got, so we packaged up the extras and the school let us buy what we wanted, at cost.  

I also had my first "one-on-one" sit-down today. I filled out a course feed back sheet over the weekend and each student sat down with a teacher and went over our performance and progress so far. 

The Chefs divided our feedback into two groups, I had my sit down with Chef C. 

Out of the three teachers, Chef C is the definitely the most demanding. He is French and has high standards, and doesn't let any opportunity pass to correct you. One day I was peeling a carrot onto the chopping block, "Use a pie plate", he told me as he passed. Very logical, as we gather waste in heavy-duty pie plates to keep our work area clean. The next day I was doing the same thing with a parsnip. He just looked at me and put his finger on the wood. I knew. Pie plate. 

He's not afraid to stand on you a bit when you are totally screwing up as well, "What temperature is that at? Is it over-reducing? Did you taste it?" He's also the one who got upset at me that day over the chicken stock.

The strange thing is, I'm growing to like him more and more. By demanding more from me, I self-correct more, I'm on my toes when he's around and I know praise coming from him is well-earned. 

Sitting in the office, he told me he thought I was doing really well in the class and that he really liked my energy. I wrote on my feedback that I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of work we had been doing, and explained that the course is "front-loaded" meaning that the first month is crazy, but it starts to loop back and repeat on itself starting the 5th week, so we'd get a chance to revisit a lot of the work we'd already covered. 

I also wrote about my concerns about the "shelf-life" of people in the industry, and how I wondered if I had wandered into this a little late in the game. He totally refuted that and told me not to think that at all. Opportunities come up all the time where maturity and experience are essential. He really put that to rest for me. 

Before I left, I brought up one last thing. The thing about the chicken and we understand each other now. 


  1. I'm having a Chang Mai flashback.... Do you still think pork is yummy or did it gross you right out?

  2. Besides bacon, chorizo and dumplings, I've never really thought pork was yummy. But I wasn't grossed out.

    At the moment the thought of butter grosses me out. We went through 60 pounds of the stuff doing pastries last week!

  3. Euw, the little pigs' feet are still on. I would have a hard time with this part of the course, but you're handling it really well. I know what you mean about demanding teachers. As long as they're fair, I'd rather have them pushing me to do my best.
    Glad to hear you cut a fingernail, not a finger!

  4. But I did cut through my finger as well, I'll have to wear a bandage and finger cot until the nail grows back in. It's actually very disgusting, no pictures will be posted.

  5. Yeah, I've done that before. A few times, Remember? ; ) But the nice thing is, I've gotten used to the exacto. It's actually been years since I've seriously cut myself. You'll be the same with your knife if you keep at it!

  6. Ribs and bacon may be my favourite, ahh but the whiskey intigues me. Nothing like getting porked on whiskey. Did the booze have anyting to do with the finger incident? Should have a couple of shots to keep the infection away. Or you could look for an excuse of your own.


  7. They rationed out the whisky carefully. But my partner last week did make a mistake with pouring out way too much wine for a recipe. What can you do? You can't pour it back into the bottle now, can you?