To wrap up the whole course,
I feel I have to say something about these guys.
Our Chefs - who guided us through cutting flour correctly with our brand new, super-sharp knives on day one, to cooking a full four course meal for industry experts four short months later. Here's the proper attention they deserve!
He earned the reputation as being the toughest chef. On days Chef Christophe was walking the floor, you stood a little straighter, spoke a little quieter and made sure you used a catch pan! When he observed your stove, sauces split, pots boiled over and your hat mysteriously disappeared.
Chef Christophe loves to man the pass where we bring our finished plates for inspection. He enjoys jabbing a thermometer into everything to ensure it's food-safe, hovering over the plate looking for fingerprints, and will even check the bottom of plates to ensure they're clean as well. He never misses to point out a mistake, and always pairs his criticism with a fantastically sarcastic comment delivered like only the French can! We'd sometimes gather after school on bad days and trade the jabs we'd earned, outdoing each other with caustic remarks!
But we actually really appreciated his comments, and sometimes students would wait for him to critique their dish, even as it sat on the table, getting colder, getting rubbery, because we knew he'd tell it like it is. Praise from this man was well-earned and highly regarded.
These pictures give you an idea what Chef Tony is like. Full of energy and enthusiasm, it was many student's first contact with the school and Chef T that convinced them this school was for them, (I include myself in that group).
On cold January mornings, when the sun wasn't up, and according to the drizzle outside, it wouldn't come up - Chef Tony motivated us in a way that is truly remarkable.
I realised that this guy could motivate anyone the day he gave an early-morning, 20-minute lecture on how to boil an egg, and made us laugh, shake our heads a few times and reconsider the hard-boiled egg as a fine dining ingredient.
Every Wednesday, I'd watch him show up at 7am and prepare for our class, teach us all day and then teach a "Serious Foodies" class until 10pm with the same energy and intensity. At the end of the night, he'd share a glass of wine with all the volunteers and tell us endearing stories about his Grandma or reminisce fondly about how difficult it was during his first year the school was open and how he slept next to the dryer on a bench mat.
Chef Tony led us through Italy week during the Olympics. While the rest of the world was focused on ice and snow, Chef T pushed us to think of the sunshine and herbs of the south mediterranean. That was the first week we really had the freedom to create some great dishes. He taught us about grains and herbs and thanks to this man, I'll never eat white rice again!
Chef Warren, keeping it together!
Where Chef T is the inspiration and Chef C is the discipline, Chef Warren is the practical knowledge. He showed us how to put out fires, fix a split hollandaise and save sauces on their way to burning. He saved our demi-glace during the final by finding scraps of beef when there were none, lent us his own personal tools when we needed them and gave us tips and suggestions to make our service better that only years of experience in the field could offer. His after-school tutelage on knife-cuts and advice to "imagine yourself going though the steps" contributed greatly to my own success.
And if he ever reads this, I'll bet there'll be a tear in his eye!
And this concludes my posts on Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver.
People have asked what I'll blog about next. I have no idea, but a summer full of markets, an up-in-the-air teaching gig back in Abu Dhabi and some plans taking shape for September will surely give me some good material.
So stay tuned....