The twat in the hat

I am not a hat person. I’m not even someone who should be in the same room as hats. It’s not that I don’t like them, they just don’t like me. Whatever the hat, I can guarantee that if I put it on my head I will look like a fool. This was reinforced today when I arrived at Tante Marie and was given a hat to wear (not optional). I’d post a picture, but the pain is too fresh. Anyway, I shan’t dwell on the matter, as the first couple of days at Tante Marie also brought plenty of far more interesting things to talk about.

The train that I have to take to get to the cookery school is the train that I used to take to school every morning. So having left school 5 years ago, getting that train (along with all the school children) suddenly makes you feel incredibly old and also like you haven’t really achieved anything in 5 years.

The first morning was largely taken up with admin stuff. We (there are 20 on the intensive cordon bleu course – split into two classes) were given our chef's whites, knives and enormous recipe files and then the principle, Andrew  Maxwell talked us through how the course would work, school ‘rules’ etc.

We were then cooked lunch by one of the other groups in the school (spiced butternut squash soup, soy and ginger glazed ham, and chocolate roulade – it’s a hard life at cookery school). In the afternoon we had our first demonstration class from one of the teachers where we were shown several things that we would be cooking ourselves over the next few days. Relatively simple dishes, but chosen, I presume, because they covered some core things that you have to start to master early on. So this included things like brown stock, white stock, an orange wholewheat cake, béchamel sauce (then used to make tagliatelle al forno).  Although I had visited the school and so had seen the set up before, it’s very strange watching someone cook in front of you as if they’re on  stage (with a large mirror angled on the ceiling so you can see exactly what’s happening from above as well). I’d like to say that the main thing I took away from this demonstration was a wealth of knowledge, and whilst it was very informative, I think the main thing I came away with was the knowledge that the chairs are so desperately uncomfortable that I’m going to have to look like an idiot and start bringing a cushion in to sit on during the demonstrations. I kid you not. Anyway, that was about it for Monday so that was it. We were sent home and told to be prepared to cook the next morning.

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So today we were thrown straight into the kitchen. The school uses both gas and induction hobs so that you become used to cooking on whatever is available to you. I’ve never used induction hobs before, I consider myself a gas man, but they were incredibly good, heating pans up really quickly and evenly. I think I just have bad memories of the electric hobs at university firmly ingrained on my mind. Suffice it to say, these are a world apart. The only problem I have with them is that I constantly felt like I was going to break it by putting a pan down too hard and cracking the top, and I’m told that if the pan moves too far off, then they can turn themselves off which could be awful if you don’t notice it.

The things we were cooking (stuff we’d had demonstrated yesterday) weren’t too difficult to make, but given that none of us knew where anything in the kitchen was, there was a lot of time spent opening drawers and looking disappointed.

Have you ever seen a salad that looked more like a lettuce? I think not.

In the morning we made savoury stuff that we would be eating for lunch (the tagliatelle al forno) and then in the afternoon we did baked goods that we could then take home, namely scones and the orange wholewheat cake, which is much nicer than its name might suggest. Here’s a picture of Callum with what’s left of it if you need further convincing.

A happy chappy

On that note, I am off to decorate my hat. I figure that if I make the hat itself look like hair, then people will just think I have stupid hat shaped hair, which in my mind might be slightly better than people looking at me at thinking, look at that twat in the hat.