Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day One of Meds

Oh, stupid me. I spoke way too soon about Meds being simpler than I thought.

We were behind before we even walked in the kitchen, and it only got worse.

But first, an explanation.

Days 1 through 4 focus on the Middle East. There are six main dishes on this menu, with two students per dish. Another student is sous-chef (they keep everyone on task, informed, etc, and expedite during service), and another is tournant (doing extra jobs, prep, etc). The remaining five students worked on the mezze - hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), cacik (cucumber-yogurt salad), tabouleh (bulgar wheat salad), falafel, dolmas, msoura (carrot salad), and manti (delicious lamb dumplings).

The main dishes were: shrimp chelow (sauteed shrimp in a spiced sauce with Persian rice pilaf), chicken tagine, Bisteeya (chicken pie), mujadra (rustic brown rice and lentils with caramelized onions), kilic sis (grilled marinated hamachi skewers), and a lamb and pumpkin stew. All the dishes were served with rice pilaf or couscous, swiss chard, and accompanying sauces such as harissa.

Paul and I were on the vegetarian dish - mujadra. It's a peasant dish made throughout the Middle East. Rice and lentils, cooked perfectly, then seasoned and topped with caramelized onions. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, first we had to make a vegetable stock to cook the rice and lentils in, before anything else. Chard had to be washed, dried, stemmed and torn, and later sauteed to order. Lebneh (thick yogurt with olive oil and garlic) was mixed. Pita dough was made, and after rising was divided, weighed, preshaped, then rolled. The bread was baked in a 550 degree deck oven. Lima beans had to be soaked, then peeled one-by-one for frying later. Nothing difficult in the least, but getting it all done in 90 minutes with only two square feet of work space per person? A little trickier. In fact, no one was ready for demo at 10:30 - NO ONE!!! - and family meal (our lunch) simply didn't happen. The doors opened and students started ordering, and Chef hadn't even tasted our food or showed us a plating demo! Not good. In fact, the most popular dishes/teams got swamped within five minutes, and Chef closed the doors right after. As a class, we had only sold 33 plates, a pathetic third of what should have been. Two teams couldn't serve because they weren't ready in time, or their food wasn't right.

And no one kept up on their dirty dishes or cleaned the kitchen fast enough. But tomorrow should hopefully be a little better, since we all know the layout of the kitchen (walking into a new kitchen blind on the first day is bad enough), we know our dishes and have a better grasp of the timing and how things are done, and we'll be more mentally prepared. Then again, Chef has been known to mix it up a little by randomly switching everyone to a new dish....
Not tomorrow, please!

Today there were 19 in our class. We'll see about tomorrow.
Oh, and 16 out of 19 failed for the day.

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