The Pass. The Judgement day of plates.

The Pass. The Judgement day of plates.
Bring the finished plates up to the pass for inspection.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Secrets to Sorbets and Ice Cream "Unrevealed".

It's the 4th week of school and things have been picking up speed. This week our focuses were on ice creams and sorbets. To start, we have learned acknowledge that to make a proper sorbet, you cannot use a universal sorbet syrup. This, of course, doesn't mean the universal sorbet syrup is ineffective in sorbet makings. But to achieve the proper texture, richness and creaminess of a fruit sorbet, there is a specific formula for each individual fruit or flavour. And this rule also happens to apply to ice creams and gelatos.
What is this magical formula to achieve the perfect sorbet or ice cream to you might wonder? But all I can say is... Keep on wondering! Because it's a secret. I have sworn secrecy to the master who has passed on this knowledge onto me. However, I will give you a hint, what this formula will help you achieve in your sorbet or ice cream making, is your prefect balance of fats, sugars, flavours, milk and other ingredients you might have in your mix. Why is this important? Well, for one example, too much fat in your ice cream will inhibit flavour notes to be detected by your tongue, since it will be covered by icy cold fat.

So throughout the week we've spent our time carefully weighing out each of the components for our various ice cream cakes and sorbet cakes. Understanding how much solids, liquids, and fats are in each ingredient then inputting the numbers into our formulas to create proper mixture to freeze. We also got to use and understand the difference between natural stabilizers and emulsifiers, which are crucial in making these frozen desserts.

We've made an Ice Cream Bombe that was comprised of extra fine sable dough, vanilla parfait and raspberry coulis. All in cased with a rich chocolate ice cream with the creamiest consistency. Then it was 'Vacherin Glace', which in simple terms, is a cake with apricot and raspberry sorbet layered in the middle. And lastly, we made chocolate-caramel ice cream cake with caramelized hazelnuts and wood grain chocolate rim.
Hazelnut Dacquoise, chocolate ice cream with caramelized hazelnuts in the center, caramel ice cream on the outside and dark chocolate spray

Next is the Sorbet cake, also known as 'Vacherin Glace'. In our filling, we have a raspberry sorbet ontop and apricot sorbet on the bottom.

As decor. We made italian meringue and whipped cream. So much sugar and so fattening!! .. But so good? Check out the color of the apricot sorbet. It's so gorgeous! So vibrant!
The very last cake. One of my most favorite ice cream cake of all. Chocolate ice cream on the outside, vanilla parfait on the inside and raspberry coulis to balance all the sweetness. A vanilla parfait is much like a frozen mousse, but perhaps a bit denser. This particular cake was a 3 day work progress. First we had to make the raspberry coulis and allow it to set it in a half stainless steel sphere mold in the fridge, then we made the vanilla parfait. When the raspberry coulis was solidified, in goes the vailla parfait then it was off to the freezer. Then we made the chocolate ice cream mixture, cooled it down quickly and allowed it to set over night in the fridge for better flavor development. The last day, we spun the ice cream in a $30,000 ice cream maker and assembled the cake. It was quite the effort and very time consuming, however, all the hard work and patience had finally paid off when we got to dig into our glorious frozen desserts. It made everything we had done through out the week while worth it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Special Catering @ "Be Primitive" Asian Art Gallery.

Last Saturday we worked a special catering dinner for a party of 75 guests at a very unique art gallery called, "Be Primitive". This particular art gallery was quite an expensive one, with price tags ranging from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars. The owners have a collection of all sorts of weird, intriguing, ancient and cultural art pieces from around the world, but with most of its focuses on the theme of Asia. There must of have been hundreds of pieces of wooden to metal statues, paintings and furniture. And if you point at anyone of the art work, the owner would tell you where it's from and the fascinating story behind it.

When we arrived at the art gallery, I was looking for a kitchen to drop off my knives and belongings, but to my surprise... There wasn't one! Chef Daniel had failed to mention to me that we had to setup our own kitchen inside the art gallery with plastic tables and portable induction burners. Ohhh Boy....

Setting up the our kitchen from scratch.

We first had to unload bags after bags of ingredients out of the car.

After an hour and a half later, we finally started preparing our foods.

Because we were behind schedule, I didn't have time to take out my camera to take some pictures during our earlier preparations. But just a quick short summary, we had 4 h'ordeuvres to prep ranging from vegeterian spring rolls, to hamachi tartar wrapped with rice paper, and a skirt steak grilled with a cumin rub. Then I had to butcher a fairly large piece of fresh tuna, then I had to cut them into small cubes (brunoise) for our tuna tartar course.

After about an hour and a half later, we were pumping out our first course of the night. 

All plates were set, wiped and ready for our first course.
Soup of Corn with basil, ginger, lemon grass infused and shrimp garnish

Cream of Asparagus, Leek and Potato Soup was the althernative option.

Next up was the tuna tartar that I had prepared.

Tuna Tartar with brunoise melons, cucumbers, avocadoes and Tomato Water
Right before the waiters picks up the plate, we lift off the white pipe to reveal the layers of color.

As we follow with the main course, it was lamb racks with roasted bok choy and spicy vegetable fried rice. I couldn't take any picture of this dish because it was a hot plate and we had to be fast with our serve to keep it as hot as possible for our diners. So following on to desserts.

There are two dessert courses. The first dessert course was strawberries coated with sugar, sprinkled with raspberry infused semolina crumble and a scoop of white chocolate lime sorbet. It was served in a beautiful martini glass and it was delicious. The idea of a semolina crumble with infusion of fruits or berries was brilliant.
Macerated strawberries with raspberry infused semolina crumble and white chocolate lime sorbet 
The desserts are inspected again for any finger prints or imperfections. Everything needs to be prefect. And as you can tell, we've already set up plates for the last dessert course that will be following shortly after.

The last dessert course consisted of a complex layering of different types of flavorings, textures and techniques. I couldn't remember all that was in it but I remember it had a layer of green tea mousse, peanut butter crunch, chocolate pound cake, vanilla sponge and etc. It was just heaven on a plate. I have never seen dessert like it.

Chef Daniel plating this master piece of dessert.

I don't know what this dessert is called, so I am just going to name it "Heaven"

And to finish off the night, we had plates of varies types of chocolates for our guests to try.

Chef Daniel is amazing with his chocolate work and in the next few months, when the weather is colder, I will be working with him doing some chocolate work. That is something I am looking forward to and I know I'll get to see where he draws his ideas and inspirations.

After all the guests are served and happy, it is time for us to relax and enjoy a few drinks on the host.
 Cheers everyone! (Btw, I'm just drinking water... in a fancy class. )

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cooking Vs Baking

The constant battle between cooks and bakers have been raging since the dawn of the kitchen. There have been rumors shouting back and fourth between the two sides. The cooks would yell at the bakers, ' those who do cannot cook.. ~BAKE! '. And the bakers will yell back, ' those who cannot bake.. ~COOK! '. 

But really, it is not a matter of who can or who can't, but rather who is willing and who must. As cooks, we have a habit of gauging everything with just the tips of our fingers, and that includes checking the color of our meats, whether it's rare, medium rare, and etc, to the grains of sea salt that we season our foods with. It is never about measurements with an instrument that tells us what degree of temperature a meat is at, or how many grams of salt we measure on a electronic scale to sprinkle into a Caesar salad. We just use our finger tips and our senses as tools of measurement. To bakers, we, cooks, may seem like wild, untamed beasts that chaotically throw around ingredients into a pot or pan and pray for it to taste right, but keep in mind, even in chaos there is some kind of order and most of all beauty.

However, the story is much different with the world of bakers. With baking, it is all about precise measurements and patience. For a baker to be successful in his career, he or she must master and love the arts of measuring everything single little ingredient to the gram. Not because there's a law that states you must, but if you don't, the outcome may be a disastrous one.  Since baking is a form of science and balancing equations. Math. I hate it. But bakers must know it and understand it. The difference between balancing an acid to sucrose(sugar) will give you the right kind of invert sugar that you require. That balance can only be done properly be all means of precise measurements. It takes a lot of patience out of bakers to carefully knee, roll and sometimes even refrigerate and wait for the dough for whatever reason over and over again. Often, the process can be not rushed and the steps not must be skipped. But like people say, " Good things come to those who wait ".

We scale and label every single ingredient to the gram before we start a recipe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The great culinary experience ..

" The great culinary experience is all but selfish. It is an experience that will drive you out of this world, and bring you the utmost high of a life time. It is also an experience that will pound you down to the core, where weren’t it not for true love and passion of the culinary arts, one would most definitely have thrown in the towel. Whichever the case may be, the culinary experience often leads to the humbling acknowledgement that food and cooking were meant to be shared. To be enjoyed amongst the company of friends and loved ones. " -  Jack Lee

Pate de Fruits (水果沙軟唐)

Today, we finally got to start the first week in the art of candy making. We will be responsible for making 4-5 candies a day. They vary from caramels(焦糖奶糖) to French nougats(法國牛軋糖), Pate de fruits(水果沙軟唐) to lollipops(棒棒糖) and marshmallows(棉花糖). It is going to be an exciting week with Chef Della.

In Taiwan, 水果沙軟唐 is very popular and they come in an assortment of flavors and colors. Today, one of the candies we made was a 'Passionfruit & Apricot pate de fruit' which in translation is "百香果&杏桃水果沙軟唐". We used the passion fruit puree and apricot puree from a brand called "Capfruit", as they are one of the many sponsors of the French Pastry School.

Although the main focus flavor was passion fruit, apricot puree was added to balance out the sourness of the passion fruit puree. When it comes to making candy, balance in flavor is very important, too sweet or too sour is not pleasant.

The school is fortunate to have all the right equipments to work with candy. We got to use guitar cutters to cut our pate de fruit into prefect little squares. It would be very difficult to achieve the prefect shape if you were to use a knife to cut the sticky candy. Believe me, I've tried and I almost wanted to kill myself because it was sticking to my knife and the shapes were not prefect squares. This just goes to show, having the right tools for the right job is a forward step toward perfection.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Best Candy Caramel I've Ever Had.

These caramel candy made by the French Pastry School are the best caramel candy ever. Unlike most caramel candy that are too hard or too chewy and they stick to your teeth, these don't. They are the complete opposite. These caramel candies are soft to the chew, compacted with milky caramel flavors, and they don't stick to the side of your teeth. In fact, they pretty much melt away in your mouth after a couple of minutes. -That is if you even managed to keep it in your mouth that long before you chew it all away.
A close up of the caramel candy.. Don't you just want to eat it?

A sneak peak at Chef Scott working with sugar.

It's always fascinating to watch a chef work with hot sugar to create beautiful pieces of delicate art. Pulled sugar is type of confectionery art that is practiced by many all around the world, and it's technicals theories and hands on skills takes years to master.

I had the opportunity to catch Chef Scott working with pulled sugar one morning before my class started. Chef Scott was kind enough to allow me to observe by his side while he boiled the sugar solution and then  proceeded to add the color dye into the boiling sugar. He was testing a new coloring agent to see how it would turn out.

(Chef Scott working pouring hot sugar onto Silpat)
I noticed all the brand of equipment he was using, like the SILPAT made in France. Silpats are very durable when it comes to working with hot substances.Like the green colored hot sugar that Chef Scott is pouring onto the mat. Silpat are 100% non-stick and can withstand a maximum temperature of 480F/248C degree, and they are also freezer safe as well.

If you happen to buy a Silpat or already own one, there are a couple of pointers you need to watch out for in order to prolong the usage of these wonderful, non-stick, heat resistant silicone mats.

1. Silpats should always be stored flat! Not folded.

2. Never use knives, or anything sharp to cut or clean on the Silpat. You will damage the surface.

3. Do not use Silpat over direct flame, stove tops or even on the grill.

4. Always use a soft sponge with a light soap detergent to clean the Silpat, and rinse with water. Then wipe dry with clothe.

5. Never cut up the Silpat into little pieces. Don't ask why. Just don't it!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cocktail party on a Saturday Night.

So I had the opportunity to work with Chef Daniel on a private cocktail function last Saturday night. We catered to a crowd of VIPs who were too rich for my understanding of richness. Long story short, here are the pictures of the food we made and served. My favorite was the lamb chop and the lemon tart made with a recipe by Pierre herme. Butter, butter, and more butter. It's good though- that's until it gets to your heart, that is.

Okay starting with my favorite. Mini Lemon Tart with the biggest black berry I've ever seen.

Tomato Water with brunoise of cucumber and watermelon. Served in shot glass.

Classic French Macarons. We had a few different flavors, but they were all gone before I could take a picture.

Chocolate BonBons. Each with a different unique flavour inside. My favourite was the Cilantro Hazelnut praline filling.

Another winner dish of the night. Southeast Asian Lamb rack with sweet chili plum sauce.
The lamb racks were cooked perfectly and so moist and tender, I had to take a close up shot.

A simple self serve line with beet cured smoke salmon, 4 types of cheeses, dips and sauces.

Pickled yellow and red beets with goat cheese spread and toasty crustini. Chive garnish.

Another Southeast Asian influenced dish. Chicken lollipop with special sauce. It's a secret to me.

There were two other dishes that I didn't get pictures of, but one of them was another winner of the night. It was a tuna tartare tossed in a spiced mayo and wrapped with rice paper and basil or mint, I think. It was served like a maki roll and it was delicous.

There's just something about wearing a chef uniform, clean whites, blue aprons and kitchen shoes that makes me smile. With every sparkle of an idea, followed by notes of  harmonic flavors, and onto the sizzling pan. I am my own creations in the kitchen I dominate. I am free.

Cocktail party night. The Homies.

Chef Daniel from Mayana Chocolate. @
Me in the middle from the French PS. @
Two veterens from Charlie Trotters. @
Our super nice dish washer dressed in black and always had a smile on his face.
It was a fun saturday cocktail party night. Lots of good music, open kitchen operation and we were rocking out sexy Southeast Asian platters one plate after another. We had spicy tuna wrapped with rice paper, chicken lollipop with sweet chili plum sauce, cumin spiced skirt steak burgers, and much more! Not to mention the desserts, classic french macarons, lemon tart with the BEST lemon cream filling I've ever had and some of Chef Daniel's specialty chocolate Bonbons. Will update with the pitures soon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010



The SEVEN Most Important Words:

The SIX Most Important Words:

The FIVE Most Important Words:

The FOUR Most Important Words:

The THREE Most Important Words:

The TWO Most Important Words:

The ONE Most Important Word:

The LEAST Important Word:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The first day of French Pastry School & Orgasmic Croissants.

First day of Friday Pastry School…. And here it goes…

One of the things I knew I’d have to get adjusted to before even attending this program was waking up early enough to attend school. And yes, I made it on time today. Thank you every much, I think I deserve some kind of treat for today's effort. =D

OKAY! So the first day of school was beyond awesome. First, we had the director of operations, Franco Pacini, speaking to us about the school and their goals. I swear this guy, Mr. Pacini, is something alright. There’s just something about the way he presents himself in front of a crowd of some 70 odd students that just captures your attention to the fullest. He’s quite a witty joker combined with the personality of a motivational speaker, almost like Tony Robbins, except he isn’t as buff and is the French Pastry School version.
I have to say, reading these master chef’s profiles on a piece of paper or online on some website is totally different from meeting them in person. They are way better than I had expected. Being in their presence and hearing them speak of their experiences, and listening to their advices on the first day of school, I already felt honored to be there. (But then again, I did pay about $22,000+ on tuitions) BUT that’s not the point!! It kind of hit me in the midst of our introductions that, sitting in front of me, or even just in the room next to us, are some of the world’s BEST master pastry chefs and world pastry champions.

Note the key words “MASTER” and “WORLD PASTRY CHAMPS”. You dig??

Alright, so cut to the good stuff. We were told that there were croissants baked for us at the end of the class, and that we wouldn’t find any other croissants that tasted as divine as these. Sure. I get that from almost every baker, chef and store owner I’ve been in contact with or worked for. And most of the time, they’re just alright, nothing orgasmic or firework-like. However...These croissants baked at the FPS were something else...

When I picked up the first croissant with my fingers, IT FLAKED! No jokes. It was so flaky on the outside, IT FLAKED. Picture this: It’s as delicate as freshly fallen snow, yah, try picking that up off the ground. This was a great first indication of a good croissant. As I proceeded to guide the finger delicate croissant into my mouth, I felt the outer layers of crispiness crumbling in my mouth and if I had exhaled, flakes of perfectly baked croissants would fly out like gentle snow flakes. And as I began to chew, I discovered layers and layers of soft, moist, buttery richness and right then, before I could finish my first bite, I was hit with a moment of silence.

“Awws shiiett...” I thought quietly to myself. By having THIS particular croissant, this wonderful, perfect, godly created piece of mastery, I knew the FPS instructors were right. And I had hated them for it. I was never going to enjoy another piece of croissant any where in the world that would come close to matching this orgasmic mouth & brain F--K. If I somehow died at a young age, *knock on wood* I hope to die with a mouthful of these croissants. Yes, I have no shame. They are just that good. Hell, I’d even make love to it...But seriously, that’s another story.

Monday, July 5, 2010

BACK OFF! Get your own sandwich!

This commercial never fails to amuse. It's just THAT great.
Practice it! you might need it one day

Charcoal grilled chicken capraese with Cilentro Mayo

Another beautiful Sunday evening with some welcoming breeze blowing through our balcony padio. On a day like this, espeically on a Sunday, I want to end the last day of the week off with a light and easy supper.

With the left over charcoal grilled chicken breast that I bought from Whole Foods the other day, I used it to make a simple grilled chicken capraese. Along side with a cilentro mayo, which was made with the cilentro & lime pesto sauce mixed with a spoonful of mayo. Then pieces of toasted ciabatta bread would top everything off.

School starts tomorrow and having to just finished off this delicious dinner, I feel excited and happy. It's going to be great. I can just feel it.

I'll show you mine, you show me yours!

My knife set and other kitchen tools. Sexy sexy! I used some of these knives for years, and as you can tell one of the longer knives has a shorter width compare to the knife beside it because it has been sharpened enough times. Sooner or later, it is going to become a sushi grade knife.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lockwood Restaurant at The Palmer House Hilton, Chicago

Great food, great atmosphere and a price that won’t burn your wallet.

Had the Wild Mushroom soup, the lobster dog with saffron & ginger sauce, and the Sous chef came out to have a nice little chat with us and treated us to his signature dish. Fresh Ahi Tuna, with spiced aioli and Japanese riced tempura! Then followed by a tour of the kitchen.

Amazing stuff ! Thanks Chef ~

Saturday, July 3, 2010

italian ciabatta bread with olive tapenade, and caprese salad

We had no plates and no real utensils, except plastic forks from the restaurants. This is a italian ciabatta bread with olive tapenade served on a paper napkin, and caprese salad in stainless steel mixing bowl. A comedian once made a joke about how he was raped by the prices of this grocery store called, "Whole Foods". I thought it was pretty funnny at first, until tonight... I shopped at Whole Foods and I GOT RAPED.

I bought just a handful of goods, and the bill was nearly hitting $40s !!! #&#*^$ GRR
I could have gotten the same amount of stuff at Food Basics in Toronto for 20 dollars or less.

Anyways!! Anger aside.. here's my version of the caprese salad.

Fresh buffalo mozzo cheese.
Plum tomatoes
English cucumbers
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
Pesto made with cilentro & lime juice.

The spin off of this classical italian dish, if you haven't noticed, is that I used pesto made from cilentro and lime. The basil was just chiffonade into the final salad to heighten the freshness.

Cilentro & Lime pesto. Brilliant or what?!