Before I had even arrived in Paris, I had already read several horror stories of people’s experiences in the practical kitchens at Le Cordon Bleu, and I knew for sure I wouldn’t be able to make it through without my own failed attempts. After all, you can’t go through life without making mistakes, can you? … otherwise how would you ever learn? Now, even though disappointments in life are inevitable, when you fail at something you love and think you’re good at, it always strikes you closer to the heart than you think and makes overcoming it so much the more harder.
This was definitely not my week to shine. Tuesday we had our first written exam in cuisine. One of the sections tested our knowledge of random culinary terms in French, all of which I had never heard of before and so I didn’t know the meaning to, which made me seriously regret wasting all that time memorizing recipe ingredients and quantities by heart when it wasn’t all that necessary. I wanted so badly to do well on the written part just in case I completely bombed the practical exam, but oh wells, some things just aren’t meant to be. At least now I have a feel for the material on the upcoming written exam in pastry.
Of course not knowing the answers to a few exam questions was nothing compared to the disappointment that laid ahead in practical the very next day. Fish terrine was on the menu, stuffed with batons of salmon and white fish moussaline.
I was the first to unmold my terrine, and Chef Bruno was standing right next to me with great expectations. The terrine came out perfectly and Chef even commented on how it looked just like his from demo earlier. He walked away and as I started cutting into my terrine, it completely fell apart and that’s when my heart sank. My white fish moussaline stuffing looked like a pile of gloopy, watery egg whites. I cut as decent of a slice as I could, which I had to scoop up with my pastry scraper and presented it to Chef Bruno. I’ll never forget the disappointed look on Chef’s face… and I hope never to see it again. He said my moussaline lacked seasoning, since the chemical reaction that takes place between the salt and egg whites along with the fish is what creates a stable mixture. I even added an extra pinch of salt, but I guess what I really needed was an extra fistful of salt. This dish is actually one of the potential dishes on our final exam, and for some reason, I have a gut feeling that I will be picking this dish out of the hat. That’ll just be my luck. Live and learn I suppose. Chef Bruno even tried to make me feel better by praising my beurre blanc (butter and white wine) sauce, but I knew they were just words of pity. I’ve always loved cuisine and cooking, and since coming to culinary school, I felt like I’ve finally found something that I feel truly passionate towards… and to fail at something that I thought I was actually good at was such a blow to my heart, all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and wither away.
I was so bummed after class I decided to skip the student party that night, which I had really been looking forward to since hearing about it from other students… it’s always held at the same place every term with an open bar and great bar food (supposedly the beef sliders are quite tasty). I suppose if I can manage to pass this term, I can go check it out in another few months.
Continuing with my awesome streak of failed attempts (this time in pastry), the next day my puff pastry simply failed to puff =/ Unlike Chef’s Three Kings Cake and twisted straws of puff pastry, which were layered with the flakey dough like it should be, mine just sorta resembled sad-looking breadsticks =( What a shame indeed.
I was seriously determined to make it through our last practical of the week… a dish with sea bream and fennel.
After the words, ‘c’est parfait‘ came out of Chef Bruno’s mouth, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’ve put off studying for the pastry written exam all week in hopes of just regaining some self-confidence. I guess everybody has their off days (or week in my case) and I can’t be perfect all the time, and that’s okay, because even if my mousse falls apart and my puff pastry fails to rise, life will go on and as well put by Anne Shirley, “tomorrow will always be fresh, with no mistakes in it” =)