Mise En Place

10 Jan

The first day I arrived at The French Culinary Institute, I received my monogrammed uniform and a beautiful knife set with a carrying case.

The group of ten students gathered in a large kitchen and met the two head chefs who would be our instructors for the next five weeks. After quick introductions, we jumped right in and learned some of the most important French culinary terms.

Poste De Travail: work area

Mise En Place: everything in place

Taillage: methods of cutting vegetables

Day one was primarily dedicated to practicing knife skills, becoming comfortable with our new 30 piece sets, and learning the terms for each cut. I never knew there were SO MANY WAYS TO CUT A VEGETABLE.  Although it’s a hurdle right now, I love that I’m learning some French terms in my classes. Foreign languages and cultures are absolutely fascinating to me and any time I can learn more about them is time well spent.

 After butchering my first few slices of zucchini, we were called back up to the front to learn two methods of cooking vegetables: à l’anglaise and à l’étuvée. One demonstration later, we were given a time limit to complete an aesthetically pleasing dish and present it to the chefs for constructive criticism. The school believes in a Total Immersion approach by providing a realistic environment and replicating the rigors of the restaurant industry.

…Translation? They throw you right into the fire. In my opinion, this is the best way to learn. From my summer living in Spain, I realize that our own skills and abilities tend to extend much further than we give ourselves credit for. So next time you’re doing something outside your comfort zone and you’re doubting your abilities, when the choice is to either sink or swim, you might just surprise yourself.

Feeling like I was a contestant on Top Chef, I put my new knife skills to the test to swiftly create a Medley of Market Vegetables with Coriander. After burning my first batch of tomato fondue and re-cooking the pearl onions, I was finally satisfied with my dish. I plated the vegetables in an interesting design and walked up to the front to take my punishment. Holding my breath, I was surprised to hear that, being an over-salter, I had actually under-salted the dish.  I tasted the food and was very proud of my day’s work, but I agreed–it definitely needed salt!

I had an incredible first day of culinary school and left the building grinning from ear to ear. I can’t wait to learn more and expand my cooking repertoire as these five weeks unfold. Stay tuned! :)

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10 Responses to “Mise En Place”

  1. Robin January 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Hi, I loved your comments about culinary school! I have always dreamed of going to a cooking school one day and being able to have dinner parties with great food, I’m impressed. Keep us posted on your progress!

    • glamfabulouscity January 14, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

      Williams Sonoma offers great and affordable classes. I took one for $75 that included a meal, cooking demo, and the “How Easy Is That?” Barefoot Contessa cookbook. My first dinner party was held in my tiny apartment, but it was relaxed and the theme was ‘comfort food’, so I think everyone had a fun time!

  2. Jeff January 11, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    You look gorgeous in your cooking outfit! I can’t believe how quickly you pick up languages. You have had so many cool experiences already in life, and many more await!

    • glamfabulouscity January 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Thank you! :)

      I LOVE languages…whenever I’m learning them I feel like I’m being handed a secret key to unlock another door of experiences.

  3. Tasia Kisscorni January 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Great pictures! I love that you are doing a blog — like Julie & Julia. Did you read that book? If I were taking that course, I would eat everything in sight! I am looking forward to following your exploits! I LOVE sardines (and anchovies). You are going to have such wonderful experiences! Tres jolie!

    • glamfabulouscity January 26, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

      I didn’t read the book, but I did see the movie. I feel terrible telling my English teacher that! I bought my mom the original book though, so when I’m back in MI I’ll be trying recipes with her.

  4. Kathy January 24, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    The classes sound great!I think it is really cool you get to bring the food you make home! Is the class just on French cooking or do they go on to others? I loved Foreign Foods when I included it in my Advanced Foods classes. I learned stuff too Keep us up on what you are doing in the class! Kathy & Rod

    • glamfabulouscity January 26, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

      I absolutely LOVE that we can bring the food home! Jeff and I have been trying foods that we don’t eat often (or at all) and it’s been a lot of fun! It’s all French, which is interesting since it’s totally different from what I ate in Spain…thankfully!

  5. kristy January 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Oh my god, you look so cute. I love your monogrammed uniform and yay for Total Immersion!! I believe that’s the best way to learn as well.

    So when you cookin’ me dinner woman?! =P

    Kristy Eléna – Full Time Fabulous
    Vogue Gone Rogue
    Twitter: @kristyelena

    • glamfabulouscity January 26, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

      Thank you!! I agree–Total Immersion is the only way to go. Believe me, they really do throw us right into the fire there too. It’s certainly for the best.
      I’m cooking when you move here of course & for my next dinner party you attend :)

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