Everyone is obsessed with next week’s assessment. I’d rather not think too much about it but it’s impossible not to when it’s top of mind for everyone else. Lesson 25 is a run through of some of the techniques we have learned and are likely to get tested on. We are making two sauce reductions, filleting and pan frying Terakihi, sauteeing spinach with garlic and butter and making pasta. It seems a lot to do but none of it is new to us. The effort needs to go into getting the reductions down to the right consistency, filleting the fish neatly without any waste and not over cooking it, getting the size of the pasta noodles just right and cooking them al dente, and presenting it nicely on warm plates and on time. Whew!
It makes me realise that I have come a long way. I don’t feel nearly as stressed as I did in the early days. Nonetheless the concentration is intense. One slip of the filleting knife and the fish won’t look good on the plate. I’ve been practising my filleting and I do a good job of getting it off the bone and neatly portioned for cooking. I keep a close eye on the garlic and the shallots when sweating them because they can’t have any colour or it’ll affect the flavour of the sauces. The pasta dough is straight forward and it’s in the fridge resting before the long strips go through the noodle making part of the pasta machine.
So now it’s all last minute cooking. I’ve got the cream sauce on the stove top to keep warm before adding the tarragon just before service. The tomato and basil sauce is all set to go, the spinach is blanched and ready to go into a pan with garlic and butter, the fish is in the saute pan smothered in bubbling butter, and the pasta is in an ocean of salty boiling water. The stove top is packed.
I find plating up the most stressful time of the day. The timing is so important. I have to be fast so that the food is hot but I can’t rush it too much or the plate looks messy. In the past I have forgotten some of the garnish but I am determined today to take a breath before taking the plate to Chef. I have brought in some micro basil leaves which make a nice touch. I’m first to present although that’s not my aim. It has been a good day’s cooking and I’m satisfied with my work.
Shame the next hour or so is spent in the pot kitchen rinsing, washing, rinsing again and drying. We are getting faster at it but there always seems such a mountain of dishes. There are twelve of us today and we have each used at least five pots, including the humungous pasta pot, two frying pans, numerous bowls and utensils, containers for storing all the individual ingredients, and three serving plates. It’s the one thing I am not going to miss.