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That’s All Folks!

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I’m done, finito, fine…ok, you get the picture.  On Friday, I passed my Culinary school final and on Monday, I graduate.  It was absolutely crazy how nervous I was.  I got there at 5pm in order to take a written test and draw our final dishes from a hat.  There are always a few dishes I really wanted to get and others I really DIDN’T want to get.  I guess the heavens were shining down on me because I drew the two dishes I was very much wanting.  My final dishes were to be Striped Bass with Mustard Greens and Sacher Cake.  I wasn’t thrilled about having to do dessert but  I knew I could execute the Bass dish well so I was content.

We were then given 5 minutes to write down anything we wanted before heading in.  No recipes allowed in the kitchen so I used my five minutes to write down the measurements for the cake.  You just can’t wing it with pastry so I know I needed to know the amount of grams for the chocolate, cake and filling.

Once I was in the kitchen I just got into the “zone.”  The zone is best described as head down, mind focused and working as fast as you can without getting sloppy.  In the kitchen are two chefs watching your every move.  That means if you mess up, they see it.  If your station is a disaster, they see it.  If you start to hyperventilate, they see it.

I had to present my first dish at 9:20.  So, around 8:30, the “freak out” starting bubbling up in my stomach.  I was so hot and still had so much to do.  My knees were sweating for God’s Sake.  I didn’t even know knees had sweat glands but apparently, they do.  The chef came over because I just one of those people that has a hard time masking the freak out.  She wasn’t happy that I had so many components for my dessert out on my station while I was filleting my fish.  So, she instructed me to put the fish back in the fridge and finish the dessert.  I was not a happy camper.  As I’m finishing up the dessert, all I keep thinking about is the fact that my fish is still not filleted and I have to have a complete dish on the tray soon.  But, you have to do what you’re told.

The tears are starting to well up and a melt down is on the horizon.  Somehow, I get the dessert done in 10 minutes, grabbed my fish and filleted the heck out of it.  I mean, there were four, perfect portions in front of me and I was ready to start cooking them.  Thank you Jesus.

The fish, I must say, looked beautiful.  I was so happy with the crispy crust and the moist center.  It was a Hail Mary moment and I knew I could do it.  I got my fish on the plate, with the greens, puree of celeriac and apple and delish shallot sauce in time to be at the door at 9:19.  Go Anna Go Anna Go Anna.  I was really happy and just ready to hand off the dishes and head back to plate the dessert.

I handed my dishes off to be served to four judges and ran back to the kitchen Forest Gump style.  The dessert was pretty much done but the chocolate glaze was just not setting up.  Meaning, it was still soft on the cake and I needed it to be hard in order to decorate the top with more chocolate.  Then, my pastry bag tip kept failing me.  The chocolate was coming out too fast and too thick.  The minutes were just flying by.  I really didn’t think I was going to make my 10:09 time.  It was 10:07 and my ice cream was still not on the plate.  I had to write on the top with the glaze still soft and the decorative writing ran a bit.  But, I got out the door on time.

On to the judges…we had to sit and listen to the critique from four judges.  I was last…of course.  They were nice to everyone but found little items on each dish to critique.  Finally, my turn.  The first judge looked at me and said, your fish was my favorite of the night.  Perfectly cooked in every way.  The other three nodded their heads.  The last said, I gave you all tens and I never do that.  He continued, “If I got that in a restaurant, I would go back.”  Not one criticism.  Wow, tears of joy in my eyes.  I did it.

Now on to dessert.  “Cake was moist, nice plate…but, your glaze was not set so the design was a bit smeared.  Seems as if your glaze was not set up”  Ok, I’ll take it.  She was absolutely right.  It wasn’t perfect but at least it tasted great.  For me, success.  I gulped down the champagne they handed us and just thought, wow I DID IT.  I’M DONE.

I can honestly say that this past year has been one of the hardest of my life.  So little sleep, so much stress and so much to juggle.  I could not have done it with the support of my loving family.  So, to me, this success belongs to me, my kids, my husband and my parents.  Together, we made a huge dream for me come true.

I can’t wait for the next chapter, next challenge of my life.  I look back on this experience with so much love and happiness.  I hope every dish of food I prepare from here on out, reflects that love.

As I always say, Food is Love and I Love Food.

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