I did it!
After 600 hours of chopping, butchering, sauteing, braising, baking, plating and so on, I have completed my classic culinary arts training.
Today was a test not only in cooking ability but also time management, pressure and patience. It was truly one of the most difficult tasks I've ever had to complete in my life.
Yesterday—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—I ironically had a dream. I had a vision of selecting the poached cod and chocolate orange parfait pairing from a hat. I remember feeling relieved knowing that the end was almost near. Oddly enough, my vision proved true: That pairing is what I ended up with for the final today. Relief. Talk about eerie.
So there I was, with two manageable dishes and as much of a sense of calm as I could've felt for the situation.
First dish up was the cod. I was moving at a good pace—until it was time to plate. As much as the chefs reminded us about allowing ample time for this, I didn't give myself enough of a buffer. I was a minute late, as were half the people with the same dish. Stressful, but not completely detrimental.
The second and final dish was the chocolate orange parfait. Part of the reason I was late plating the cod was because I pretty much finished the dessert at the same time. Because the parfait contains gelatin, it has to set for quite some time. I didn't want to risk waiting until after I sent out the cod—I'm afraid it wouldn't have been long enough to gel. Instead, it would have been a goopy mess. My instincts were right: The parfait was pretty damn close to perfect. And this round, I was on time.
At this point, it was a waiting game. We cleaned up our stations and listened to a briefing on who the guest chefs were judging our dishes (notables included Michael Psilakis and Aaron Sanchez). Then we headed out into the dining room for our final critique. At least we had a glass of Champagne to calm our nerves.
I was pleased with my remarks—especially the last comment from a chef (who isn't a big dessert fan and is married to a pastry chef). He said my parfait was the best thing he ate all day. I blushed—and it wasn't from the Champagne.
It looks like I will be a tall hat tomorrow.