It's been exactly a week since I started culinary school and already I've caught on to a few simple realities of the kitchen: 1) never question the chef, 2) waste nothing (even vegetable trimmings can be used in stocks), 3) communicate and work as a team, and most difficult of all... 4) learn to take heat.
Yes, this last one is meant to be both literal and figurative.
Of course we have to learn to literally take heat in the kitchen... especially with so many fires going at once. Today we were each blanching orange zest/boiling simple syrups for our orange salads, boiling milk for mousse, sweating leeks for soup, and baking cookies in the oven.
More importantly, however, we have to learn how to take heat for our pathetic first-time attempts at concocting these dishes.
As a perfectionist, this is not necessarily easy. It's one thing to try and master one dish at a time at a leisurely pace. It's another to try to master 5 dishes from scratch in a confined workspace with limited supplies, limited time (usually 2-2.5 hours), and no recipes. (That's right... no recipes. More on that in a later post). So with all of us scrambling, competing against the clock, bouncing between workstations, all while trying to make perfect and uniform cuts, cook to perfect states of tenderness, reach perfect consistencies, add the perfect amount of seasonings, monitor temperatures, plate beautifully, and -- most importantly -- make it taste spectacular-- the end result is sometimes (oftentimes)... less than perfect. Think Iron Chef atmosphere but without the stellar results.
Basically, we make a lot of mistakes. And as a result, we're continuously being corrected (in a very constructive, encouraging way -- not in a fiery, fear-inducing, Hell's Kitchen-y way). But in my opinion, mistakes are good. In fact, I would go so far as to say mistakes are ideal. Sure, they aren't preferable and definitely not enjoyable, but ultimately they're the quickest path to learning. If you burn your leeks once, you're more likely to take care not to burn them a second time. If your soup is too watery, you'll know to add less stock or allow more time to reduce it. If your dish is too salty, you'll be sure to add salt gradually next time.
I've spent the week trying to adopt this mentality (since I better start getting used to it now). My goal is to embrace my mistakes (as opposed to dwelling on them like I normally do), learn from them, and improve. After only a week of mistakes, I already feel progress. Imagine how amazing my skills will be after a year of mistakes... nay... a lifetime!