Check Please #HoneSweetHome

I love to quote my Belizean jam-roll-baking, coconut-tart-filling Auntie Donaldine when she says “Ting done! Pah-ty Ooova!” Advanced Culinary came to an end, with our graduation ceremony this past Friday. Chef Andre Ward, a Certified Pastry Chef and Certified Executive Chef and recently retired SFC (Army) with quite a resume was the guest speaker. Service members from across the branches were present to get their diplomas

Joint Effort. No matter who you are, or what you spend your days doing, it is likely that you begin to own it and take pride in that thing that makes you you. That is no different for members of the military. Sure we have our complaints and our objections to the way things are done on the DoD side of things but almost all of us have some sort of pride to be a member of the Armed Forces, or at least the time we put in. And then among the forces there are benign rivalries between branches then duty stations, then departments or divisions. But here, we playfully celebrated those things that distinguish us and recognize that we are all here to cook. There wasn’t one that I recognized who admittedly did not want to be there.
Lessons Learned. I shared in an earlier post that I didn’t learn too many new things. But I was challenged to hone such skills as fundamental knife cuts, deboning chickens (for our Weisswurst-stuffed chicken ballotine), and the life-applicable time-management- forever a work in progress, no matter how skilled I become. Some things I was indeed less familiar with were tempering chocolate and these cool looking lace tuiles.

Our test ballotine…

Up until recently a tuile was something I understood to be a thin and crisp cookie or cracker, usually baked and then formed while still warm and pliable. These lace tuiles though, you may have recognized when splattering pancake batter into a sizzling pan; my dad was infamous for these. He’d have loads of butter in a screaming hot pan and pour his pancake batter in. The edges would run, sizzle and splatter, leaving these crisp and crunchy networks of butter goodness protruding from the pancake.
Lace tuiles are kinda like that. Except they’re intentional, a mix of 9 parts water and one part flour. I tried to use them for my salad during our classes 7 course meal to culminate the course, but I didn’t quite master its execution, as simple as it was. I did get to see it pulled off on top of a ragout.  (I’ll get you a picture soon.)

Nonetheless, it seems I did something right, and that I am indeed a culinarian, at least by this course’s standards. I was named the Honor Grad of my group, #2 to the Distinguished Grad. (I’m not telling you how many were in the class!) It stings just a bit because she’s one of the army’s optometrist. This Guam native from day one has sworn, “I’m not culinary at all! Seriously, I don’t cook.” She fooled no one and her confession slowly became, “I mean I cook at home, but I’ve never worked in this setting,” until she proudly received her certificate naming her the Distinguished Graduate. Shout out to SFC Gault.

Forever a student. All in all, I humbly recognize as I hope you do, and as Chef Ward reminded us, I am forever a student. Woe to those that arrive at a point that they stop learning. Keep your eyes open, your ears attentive, and your mind patiently awake, considering that what you know, as Chef McGreggor loved to say, may not be thee way, but a way.

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