Thursday, March 02, 2006

Well, it's done. Though I still have my externship ahead of me, the in-school part of my training at ICE is over. This Tuesday marked my last day of school as well as my graduation. Here's how it all panned out:

In the morning, I had my last practical. A practical is kind of like a test except, instead of being a written test, you are graded on your cooking skills. This is given to each student in addition to a written exam. In our final practical, all recipes were thrown out the window. We were given one protein that we had to use and, from that, produce one entree based on nothing but our own imaginations. From that, we were graded on our technique, plating, taste and creativity. The stickler is that we would not be told what the protein was until the morning of our practical. From all clues, it seemed that our protein would be chicken, a really easy meat (truly, if someone can go through cooking school and not be able to butcher and cook a chicken, something is wrong). As it turne dout, we were wrong. When I was in the locker area, a classmate of mine ran up to me. "It's rabbit!", he said, "she changed the protein at the last minute. It's going to be a whole rabbit." Everyone got freaked out. Though we'd done chicken a dozen or more times, we'd only done rabbit three times in the program. So, it was a bit of a added challenge.

What did I end up doing? Braised rabbit served morrocan-style (with tomatoes, eggplant, olives, etc.) on a bed of couscous.

How did I end up doing? Not as good as I'd hoped. Though, really, no one did as well as we'd hoped. The grading was harsh and everyone was shocked about how points were taken off for the smallest things. Anyways, I got an 86. On the upside, I completely nailed my last project paper (a menu of my own design, which I shall post shortly).

After that, I headed home to meet my mom and Joe, who had come in for my graduation that evening. After grabbing some lunch at Russo's and hanging around the house, we all headed back to school for my graduation.

The graduation ceremony was very informal and quite nice. There was finger food, wine and beer being served and everyone had brought their family and friends. It was a good time and bittersweet to see my classmates for what will be the last time for many of them. Genevieve's posted some pictures here. If I can, I'll add more shortly. After some mingling, our head of student services came up, gave a short speech, then our last Chef instructor came up and gave another short speech. Finally, we were each called up, given our toque (funny chef hat) and a copy of Larousse's 'Gastronomique', a huge culinary encyclopedia or ingredients and techniques.
I'd made dinner plans for after graduation, so after saying my goodbye's to everyone, we headed out.

For dinner, we hit a restaurant I'd been wanting to try called Zarela's. It's owned by Zarela Martinez, whose cookbook was very influential to me while writing my project menu. As we entered in, the sound of the place was staggering loud. I thought it would get better as we were led upstairs to the maining dining area, but instead it went from really loud to just plain noisy. Since we'd already had some food beforehand, we all just settled for entrees only. I ended up getting a pork shoulder pibil, served in a banana leaf package with fresh tortillas in a basket. It was extremely good and, if it not for the horrible atmosphere (and the slow service), I'd not hesitate to go back. After that, we were all pretty tired and headed home.

The next morning, Genevieve went out to work and Joe, my mom and I all went to a nearby diner to meet Joe's brother, who lives just a few blocks form us. His brother, Jerry, is a really fun guy with lots of stories, so breakfast went by quickly. After breakfast, we departed from Jerry and headed into the city to see the sites. I showed them Times Square and Grand Central station, where I work, before having to head home to grab some lunch, turn around and head back into work.

And now...
I start at my externship on monday. I am all sorts of emotions. I'm nervous and excited about the externship. I'm happy to be done with school, but sad that it's over so quickly and I'm worried about what the future holds for me. I'd made these plans: move to New York, go to school, find a food job. I've done all of those, so the question I keep thinking to myself is: what now?

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