I don’t even know where to begin – that’s how much of a whirlwind today was. It was quite an important day, as it was the first day we were told to wear our complete chef whites, bring our knives, and were placed into our respective kitchens for the week (There are 3 kitchens and a demo kitchen in the school, and we rotate to a new kitchen and are assigned a new partner every week.). It was great to see everyone in their chef whites brandishing the accoutrements of cooking (non-skid shoes, aprons, knife sets, etc.). It made it seem more official. We started out with a brief introduction to knife skills and how to sharpen a knife using a steel (The key thing to remember is that a steel keeps sharp knives sharp…don’t let your knives go dull!). We were also instructed on how to properly lay a place setting and serve a table (serve from the left; clear from the right…oh, and always serve wine to the right!), and various salad leaves and herbs.
After that, we were whisked away on a tour of the kitchens and larder room and showed the rota list. Every day, each student is assigned a duty that they have to perform either at the school or in the kitchen. For example, my duties this week are to: feed the hens, wash the serving ware and larder sink, and help to prepare the tables for and serve the lunch. It’s kind of nice that we all have to pitch in to keep the place in working order. It really gives the place a community feel and that we are all contributing to it. Then, we split up into our groups for the week and collectively prepared our lunch, which consisted of a carrot and mint soup, penne with mushroom a la Crème, green salad (n.b. Europeans typically eat salad after their main course…something I never realized, despite living in Ireland three times…shows you how much salad I ever actually eat here!), rice pudding, baked apples with brown sugar, and a basic brown soda bread (my favorite!). By the time lunch rolled around, we were all starving and wolfed down the lunch we prepared (I’m pretty glad that these chef pants have a drawstring waist!).
In all honesty, it all felt a bit hectic and overwhelming today. There was just so much information to process. I know that once we get into the swing of things, it will be fine. I think it stems from having to adjust to a hands-on approach to learning – a style of learning that became obsolete in my life since my college and law school days. I’m so used to learning things in a linear fashion and mostly by taking copious notes and regurgitating them or writing about them for an exam. This is a complete 180 for me.
Tonight, I chilled out at home with my housemates with some tea and leftovers. My housemates are a really sound group, and we all get on really well (That was a very Irish way of saying my roommates are very cool and we all get along!). There is Zoe from Surrey in England; Zara from Limerick; Luca from Verona, Italy; Jen from El Paso, Texas; Neil from Dublin, and Matthew from London. Zoe, Jen, and I sat at the big kitchen table and made our respective orders of work for the dishes that we are cooking tomorrow. An order of work is basically a detailed play-by-play for every recipe you prepare and the time it takes to prepare it. Tomorrow will be the first time we get to cook on our own in the kitchens, and I’m not sure what to expect. I hope it goes somewhat smoothly, so that I don’t lose all confidence in my abilities. I’m not cooking anything that is terribly complicated or exciting (I was assigned an onion and thyme leaf soup and a winter fruit salad with sweet geranium leaves), but who knows what will happen once I step foot in the kitchen? All bets are off, and the knives are out (literally not figuratively!). 🙂
Here are some random shots I took including the back door of my cottage, my new chef’s outfit, and the Ballymaloe mascot dogs.