One hundred fifty-eight days ago I stepped into kitchen 601 at ICE and learned how to hold a chef’s knife for the first time. This morning, I made seared rack of lamb with homemade pasta tossed with mint pesto and roasted tomatoes in exactly 90 minutes and without a single recipe in sight. I served the dish to Chef Sabrina and breathed a sigh of relief. Module 5 practical exam – done.

From Italy to Asia and Mexico to France, the last 10 lessons have featured a tour of the culinary globe. We transitioned from the world of pastry and baking into Module 5, where Chef Instructor Sabrina Sexton welcomed us with an arsenal of recipes from top contemporary master chefs. We began with one of the Italian greats, Mario Batali, and a lesson plan that included his Fennel-Dusted Sweetbreads, Monkfish Piccata and Spinach and Goat Cheese Gnocchi (images 1 and 2 above).

The lessons continued with menus prepared by the likes of Ming Tsai, Rick Bayless, Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. Each day offered an inside look at the personal styles and favorite tastes of some of the world’s top chefs. One of the high points of the week was Thomas Keller’s White Truffle Oil-Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout, which was served in hollowed out eggshells (images 6 and 7 above). How far we’ve come from sautéed chicken breasts!

But the biggest highlight from the past two weeks was surprisingly not tied to the menus of contemporary master chefs, but rather to the menus we created spontaneously in three days worth of Market Basket lessons. We were told a protein and several ingredients that we had to use to make a dish and then were off to the races.

Day one’s ingredients included scallops, spinach, shitake mushrooms, bacon and cherry tomatoes, all of which had to at some point be incorporated into two original appetizers. Day two’s protein was poussin, which was used in two original entrees. The week culminated in today’s Module 5 practical, which featured rack of lamb. It was the most exciting and most exhausting three days yet, as we paired months of learned skills with our own imaginations.

I never realized how much a person could learn in a 5-month time span, but looking back on my first days in ICE’s Culinary Arts Career Program provides a perspective that’s otherwise lost in the chaos. I didn’t have a day’s worth of formal culinary training before I came to ICE. Now, I’m three weeks away from stepping into a professional kitchen for the first time.

Coming up next: Hors D’Oeuvres, Charcuterie and The Grand Buffet

A look back:

Lesson 1: Mise en Place

Lesson 5: Medium Dice & Mirepoix

Lessons 6-10: Fabrication & Stocks

Lessons 11-14: Meat Fabrication

Lessons 15-19: Classic & Contemporary Sauces

Lessons 20-24: Soups & Sauteing

Lessons 25-32: Frying, Braising & Beyond

Lessons 33-37: ‘Tis the time to tourne

Lessons 38-42: Now we’re cookin’

Lessons 43-49: France, Italy & China, here we come!

Lessons 50-54: Food as Art

Lessons 55-59: Normandy, Alsace, Provence and Beyond

Lessons 60-70: Trying to Contain Myself

Lessons 71-80: Pastry and Patience

Lessons 81-90: From Poaching to Plating

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