Sunday, July 25, 2010

Living the dream with a farm to table dinner

I had the enormous honor of working with Julie at Dining details on the desserts for a dinner at Bewise Ranch. I saw the dinner advertised since I get my veggies from them on a weekly basis and I offered to help with the desserts. After some communications we did a tasting and I showed up the day before to start the prep.

I knew that it would take a while to get things done for 150 people, but I just didnt realise quite how long, I spent a long 4 hours working away, trying to find things in the kitchen, making my pastry dough on ice, since it was nearly 100 degrees in the kitchen, and finding that making several quarts of pastry cream is a lot different to a pint or two!

I then returned the next day to make my pies, and assemble the trifles.

The part that really got me was making the peach pies. Each pie had a little fan of chopped peaches arranged elegantly in the tart shell. Since we only had muffin pans, there was a little bit of miniturization required, and I started to rue the suggestion I'd made. Even more galling, they looked extremely 'rustic' at the end of the baking process, and it was a bit disappointing.

I was much happier with the trifles I made. This dessert made sense on this scale, since it was just a case of cutting circles of cake, drizzling with sherry, adding a little compote, pastry cream, doubling up the layers, piping a little cream, sprinkle of praline and a few blueberries and I was done.

Something that made the job more difficult is that I only had a small corner of the kitchen to work in. If I was to do this again, I'd definitely find a time when the kitchen was nearly empty, and then I can spread out and get things done efficiently, and get out of everyones way.

I learned:

  • Commerical kitchens can be very hot in the summer, this adds to exhaustion!
  • Things always take much longer than you expect

  • Scaling is difficult for large numbers, make more than you possibly expect and calculate carefully

  • Making food for people is hard work

  • Some things need fast hands, and some things(like pastry cream) require patience and slow cooking, there is no way to speed things up, remember how much time you're saving by not having to do it twice!!
  • Carefully think through your preparation and make sure that you can produce consistent results, making 1 or 12 desserts is easy, making 150 exactly the same can be hard, also consider making desserts on a different day, they must always be the same.

  • On the same note, precise recipes are important, and must be tested carefully, consider that scaling them up can change results.
  • It is important to consider efficiency, I should have reworked the peach pies so that I could get them done in less time

  • Most of your work in this industry will be doing calculations, working out how to make money out of it, and washing dishes. You'll be surprised how little time you'll actually end up creating masterpieces! I'm not even going to start on the business side of things!
  • Attending some kind of culinary school, whether its the CIA or your local community college actually is useful, in my opinion. You get a handle on how commercial kitchens work, you learn about proper technique, and its much easier to hit the ground running when you do make your debut in a kitchen.

Anyone have any more tips to share?

I certainly will be going back to my day job with a new outlook! It is a fairly serene atmosphere in a lab, we do have deadlines, but for the most part, everything takes as long as it takes, and we just have to be patient and careful with our work.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the kitchen of Dining Details, everyone was extremely helpful and polite and it was wonderful seeing food treated with such respect. The dinner that they conjured up for the people at the farm was absolutely incredible. If I had an event coming up, I wouldnt hesitate to book them right away. Julie also has a company that does childrens meals, Chickpeas, and it was wonderful to see the little packets brimming with delicious veggies and healthy food instead of the insipid sandwiches that I often see given to children these days.


Z-Tawan said...

That's a lot of desserts and you had learned a lot!

Jacqueline Butler said...

Great post Jenny! What a fabulous opportunity...I'm so proud of you for jumping on it and being a part of an event that was so special! Congratulations!! So...when is the cake shop opening up?? : )

Jennywenny said...

Thanks! I'll open my shop just as soon as it becomes profitable enough that I can earn enough to pay the mortgage!!

Meryl said...

Wow, that's a lot of dessert! Looks gorgeous though!