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Back in April, around the time I switched the blog over to being a full time food blog I began looking for some cooking classes to take because both I love cooking and I also wanted to deliver you the best blog recipes I could so I wanted to improve my skill set. Last year I took a class at Well Done Cooking Classes (seen on The Little Couple) here in Houston called A Night In Florence. It was a great class, both fun and informative and we made a killer Florentine steak. I had just intended to take one class when I visited their site again, but I saw that they had grown and expanded to feature an 8 week cooking school with a Culinary Certification at the end. I knew I had no intention of making the huge time and financial investment of culinary school at this time in my life but this 8 week program was perfect! I talked it over with Ian and we made the childcare arrangements and investment and I signed up. I counted down the days until class started at the beginning of June!
I was as nervous about starting cooking school as I’ve ever been about anything in my life- but a good kind of nervous. Like when you have a interview for a job you really want. I’m not going to lie, I was intimidated putting on the chef jacket and walking into class not knowing who would be in class with me. What if they were all working in restaurants or were private chefs and I was “just” a food blogger. Well, there was no need to be nervous. There were 8 of us to start the class (one later dropped out) and we came from all walks of life- a few college students, a military wife, a few professionals, and another food blogger who I didn’t know before the class but became a fast friend. We began with the basics like what knives a chef or great home cook should have (chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated like my Bobby Flay’s above or similar ones here), covered prep work before cooking “mise en place” using prep bowls which has made my cooking SO much more efficient, and I discovered my new friends the Elton John onion goggles which has changed my life (My eyes are super sensitive to onions.) They issued us our black jackets with our names on them and we became official culinary students ready to learn and cook. And boy did we!
What We Made:
By the time I finished cooking school this week, there was no fear in the kitchen left in me. You name it and we tackled it. We made beautiful souffles (IMHO a heck of a lot of work for something that was good but not that good), I used my knife skills and scaled and fileted a fish just like I was on Masterchef, we flambeed, and we made dough and pasta from scratch. Each week was a different topic such as soups, sides, seafood, etc and we prepped, cooked, and plated recipes in teams of two. We had a text book and reading and videos to watch before each class. One of my biggest improvements over the 8 weeks was my knife skills. I started class as an SNL skit waiting to happen but at the end when the instructor complimented my knife skills I almost wept with joy.
The Final Exam:
At times it felt like the 8 weeks flew by because I simply loved what we were doing, loved learning and the new skills I was gaining. At other times I was exhausted from the two late nights per week and keeping up with home and family, the blog, and my classwork. It was also harder on the kids especially Ethan than I thought it would be though he finally got adjusted the last few weeks. Whether I was ready or not though my cooking program came to a bittersweet end this week with the final.
We had to come prepared to make two sides, a from scratch sauce, and a main entree that we would be assigned the night of the final- which scared the hooha out of me. I did NOT want to make homemade pasta or risotto. There is a reason those things give people grief on the cooking shows. I studied them anyway, along with done temperatures for the meats, practiced my two sides that I selected that would go with pretty much entree, and found a killer balsamic butter sauce with an easy to memorize recipe.
I felt a little more comfortable when they told us we could bring some of our own ingredients, but didn’t rest completely easy until I was assigned eggs. I can do eggs! I made a delicious omelet with Gruyere and pancetta, asparagus with the balsamic butter sauce, and rosemary oven roasted potatoes. (I will be sharing all of these recipes over the next week or so.) We were graded on writing the recipes out from memory, how clean our cook station was, plating, and taste among other things. I almost fainted when I got my score of 90! The omelet was just slightly over done but my biggest ding was for time. I didn’t go over but ideally a chef should be cooking more than one thing at once- you won’t survive in a restaurant or on a cooking show if you don’t- but I only focused on one thing at a time. It gives me something to shoot for!
I took away so much from this class- an amazing group of friends who love cooking as much as I do (You definitely bond spending 8 hours per week for two months together!), some great new recipes and skills I can’t wait to share, but the biggest things I took with me are a confidence in what I can do and also to never be afraid to try in the kitchen. I made it through a long, tiring but fulfilling 8 weeks and didn’t burn or cut myself. What is my plan now? I will take more individual classes after a break and possibly take advanced culinary certification in the future. For now, I’m just doing to share what I’ve learned with you and enjoy being home putting my babies to bed and watching Deadliest Catch on Tuesday nights again.