Friday, September 25, 2009

Ending/Beginning


I never really wrote about graduation from the Culinary Management program for two reasons, really. 1) The excitement of having a new baby was just too much and 2) graduation just didn't feel very exciting. The ceremony was very nice, but uneventful. But, fortunately, the blog is not ended on this off note, for starting in a couple of weeks, I am going back to culinary school....this time, on the other end: teaching!

A month or two ago, I interviewed at a public high school in Brooklyn looking for a teacher to head up a weekly culinary program for a group of 10-15 students. Starting in early October and going for 12 weeks, the curriculum will be based on CCAP materials, but I will have a free hand to structure the class in terms of content, recipes, pace and style. We'll be starting with knife skills, safety, and tastings of staples (funky cheeses, anyone?) and tackle some projects, like a big Thanksgiving meal for a large group of community members.

Next week, we'll be interviewing kids who applied for the program, and classes kick off the following week. I'll be blogging the classes here, and as I prepare lessons, I suspect I'll be referring to my notes in this blog to help get things together.

Today, I was at the school to drum up a little interest to increase our applicant pool. I manned a table in the cafeteria, and presented two trays of brownies for sampling. One were some seriously crappy brownies bought from the supermarket, the other made the night before in my kitchen riffed off this recipe (forget the walnuts, replace extract with the scrapings of the real thing, fold minimally instead of mix in the flour and let the batter rest to absorb the flour and prevent gluten formation.) The kids were happy to see brownies, as the lunch served looked both relatively healthy and like the kind that is more prepared and shipped in rather than cook-cooked. I laid out a little chart (above) listing the ingredients of each brownie, and showed how despite using a lot of expensive, organic ingredients, the homemade were STILL less expensive than the packaged, industrial stuff.

The overwhelming consensus were the homemade were really good and Lil Debbie's really whatever, but I guess I set the bar pretty low. This was my first opportunity to talk to the kids at the school, and it was a lot of fun vibing off their bubbling energy and some of their enthusiasm for the program (and my brownies, he he.) I guess I initially had some trepidation about interacting with the kids -- I ain't hep n' happenin' with whatever these young whippersnappers are "down with" nowadays, but it all seemed pretty natural and smooth. Will this be a "To Sir, With Love" minus the accents situation, or perhaps "Lean on Me" minus the redemption?

I remember in c-school, we had a few hours with a 'career advisor', and we went around the room announcing what we wanted to do with our futures. I think I said something like, "Cook superior pizza, have my own place eventually." I think it was Dora the Explorer, easily the worst cook in the class, the dirtiest working, who barely spoke English (she spoke Portuguese, which meant even the Spanish speakers couldn't really communicate with her), she actually said that she wanted to teach culinary. Yes, there was some eye rolling. Who would go to c-school just so they could teach? He he he. I guess I should eat my eye-rolling about now. I have a new baby, I can't do the 70+ hours a week for little pay that I was doing at L's restaurant, at least until the baby is a bit older. For now, I think this will be a good outlet to keep a finger in a working kitchen, keep my skills sharp, and heaven forbid, maybe learn a bit from these kids I'll be shepherding.

On a final note, here is one bit for those who've followed for a while. This is a video that was part of my PowerPoint presentation for my final project in management. It really didn't have much to do with my project, but I had been telling Louis stories all year, and this was an opportunity for a bit of entertainment to close out the class.

video