Chapter 24: Week 22: Constant errors

We’ve just had our second ‘examen blanc’ – mock exam – and I got 14.5/20 for the practical, which was OK. I was aiming for 16, but lost at least one and possibly two marks because I turned in my tricornes late – choux buns baked on a small tartlet base of pate brisé (pastry) filled with sauce mornay (cheese sauce). They were late because I put them in the oven at exactly the right moment to pull them out and have time to stuff them, but some asshole put her buns in the oven after me and left the oven door open. They were fine after 10 minutes, then she put hers in and when I came to take them out 10 minutes later were still unfinished, so I was 10 minutes late presenting them.

She, the idiot who did this, thought the whole affair extremely funny and told me not to take it so seriously. So I treated the whole thing as a slapstick comedy and put the remnants of my sauce mornay in her handbag. There – now that’s funny! And she only got 8.5/20, serve her right.

14.5 was top equal mark, two others got the same. I fell down a bit on ‘presentation’, as in talking about the stuff I was presenting as if to a potential client; School Chef discounts my charming English accent automatically, which isn’t fair – it’s a great selling point.

No, really.

Anyway. This week we did sauté de poulet au paprika (oh, you can work that one out yourself) in the morning and tiramisu in the afternoon.

Now, I know a thing or two about tiramisu, let me tell you; when I worked for Frank all those years ago (well, two) at the Grange de Labahou (my first restaurant) I made two dozen tiramisus a day, and they sold like hot cakes (or cold cheese, which is what they are). So I was looking forward to a gentle cruise when Chef made us start with a Genoise, which I hate making. I cannot as usual and for the life of me, make the damned things rise. He examined my batter and pronounced it overcooked, so I made a second batch which worked fine – although Pascal, my schoolchum, made his rise twice as high.

Then we made an appareil   bombe, which is egg yolks montés with heated sugar syrup – heated to 120 degrees Centigrade so don’t try this one at home, children. It worked in the end, but what a bloody faff.

Then whip up some cream.

Then mix the cream and appareil à  bombe.

Then slice your genoise horizontally twice and stack it up in the mold with mix between, chill the whole thing in the blast freezer and decorate with piped remains of the mixture.

Still, it gave me a chance to practise my piping skills after f-ing up 36 little chocolate tarts the other day at work. I didn’t let the choc mix warm up first, so ended up with 36 chocolate squidges instead of 36 chocolate swirls.

In fact I seem to make a stupid mistake every day recently; I left the mixer running while trying to warm up some butter and then had the whole machine waltz across the floor, spreading goodness (as in cake mix) all over the floor; yesterday instead of thinly slicing up some kiwi fruits I cut them, as Chef described it, into ‘Escalopes’; I forgot to put the baking powder into the cakes I was making, although did remember before I put them in the oven so was able to re-mix them after scraping six dozen madeleine cases clean. It goes on, and yet Chef still wants to employ me as a Commis. We’re testing two new potential plongeurs next week over Easter. Which is a good thing, really, I need to move out of the plonge if only because I have a hankering to end a shift not completely soaked to the skin.

Last Friday I worked most of lunch just in the kitchen, cranking out 37 covers with Chef. Which was fun and I coped, but because there’s only two of us it’s really hell on wheels (well, from my point of view anyway; for him it’s a stroll in the sun with a fag-and-coffee break). I kept up with the orders and remembered how many to turn out and plate up (not difficult, with only two starters on the lunch menu). I do have difficulty with things like cutting up tomatoes (and kiwis)into slivers of exactly the right size, which is, I’m hoping, an experience thing. I used to have problems keeping up with orders, but even listening in from the Plonge I can keep up now.

We’re still looking for a new Second de Cuisine; we had a young chap lined up but he decided to stay where he was one hour after he was due to sign a contract with us – we were just a bargaining chip, in my opinion.

Apart from Work, Delphine and I went to Saintes Maries de la Mer for a couple of days last weekend, staying in the very nice Hotel Méditerrannée (delete rs, ns and es as appropriate). I had fish soup and moules frites two nights in a row, which was nice, and amusing to see how they’re done now I know how to do them professionally myself; the first moules were excellent but the soup was tinned and thinned with too much water; the second soup was very good but hadn’t been écumé – skimmed – enough during the cooking process, leaving a film of oil on the surface. The second lot of chips were too well done, and the moules hadn’t been cleaned properly – there were bits of beard all over them.

Nice little town though, a real end-of-the-world place which will disappear one day if global warming isn’t nonsense after all.


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