As our entire group gathered outside the practical kitchen fifteen minutes before exam time, I think all of us felt a bit anxious to get it over and done with as soon as possible. I was actually quite nervous about the pastry exam, since baking has proven over time to be risky business for me. I’ve always been taught not to put all of your eggs in one basket, which seems a bit ironic now because that’s basically what we’re taught to do in pastry… we combine all of the ingredients together, shape it or pour it into a mold, and then pop it in the oven and hope for the best… seems like such a gamble every time.
Before we headed into the kitchen, we each chose our fate by taking a colored token, which would indicate which recipe we would have to make. It was a tossup between the Saint Honore, Puff Pastry (Three Kings Cake), or the Dacquoise. My colored token indicated the Saint Honore, which seemed like a good choice at first, but then when you think about it, there’re so many things that could go wrong… from piping the choux pastry too big or too small, to burning the caramel, to over-beating the Chantilly cream, and of course, even if you perfected all of the previous elements, before you can say you’ve finished, you still have to pipe the cream beautifully using a special Saint Honore pastry tip. I definitely need to work on my piping skills =P At the end, all of our Saint Honore cakes looked so different, despite using the same recipe ><
The next day, we had our practical exam for cuisine. Going into it, I was pretty confident that one of the two dishes would be the sea bream with fennel, since Ben had assured us it would be on the exam, as it has been every single year. That narrowed down the other exam dish to likely either be the chicken or the duck. Once again, we lined up outside the kitchen and grabbed a colored token from the liter measuring tin. Just as I was looking down to check the color of my token while proceeding into the kitchen, I saw out of the corner of my eye loaf pans and ducks… I turned around behind me to hug my friend, hoping that she’d protect me from the dreaded fish terrine. I looked at my yellow token and before Chef Bruno even told us which color corresponded to which dish, I already knew in my gut that the fish terrine would be my fate. Just my luck, right? Shit happens, indeed.
Chef Bruno handed me my number to place next to our finished plate… ‘lucky number four,’ he says, to which I respond with a light chuckle, but deep inside I feared for my life, being that the number four in Chinese culture is a horrific number, sounding the same as the word ‘death’ in Chinese. Trying not to think about any possible shortcomings, I took out my knifes and tools, stood in front of my station, took a deep breath, and started to prepare my fish. This time around, I made sure to add a fistful of salt and an extra handful for good luck =P
We were all cooking up a storm and so concentrated at our stations, I think Chef Bruno had high hopes for us. I so badly wanted to prove to Chef Bruno that I could make a freaking fish terrine, and boy, did I show him The moment of truth came when the time came to unmolding… like I said, I have my qualms about the whole ’set it and forget it’ method of cooking =P As I unmolded my fish terrine and cut into the first slice, I breathed a sigh of relief. I never thought a fish terrine could be so beautiful. I was so proud, and I think Chef Bruno was too =)
At last, all of us made it through to graduation! Held at the Winter Garden, the ceremony was indeed the event we’d all been waiting for since day one.
The chefs from basic cuisine and pastry presented us with our diplomas and afterwards, we headed to the upstairs demo room for savory hors d’oeuvres and irresistibly sweet petit fours ( I seriously couldn’t help myself and had to taste every single one =P)
The Winter Garden looked a bit sad and lonely all empty now, but in a mere week it will be filled with students once again, scrambling to and from class, relaxing inbetween, and mooching off the free-for-all table =P Until then, it’s school break and I need a vacation! Provence and Italy, here I come!