By Ron Yan
I survived my first week at culinary school.
It’s been absolutely amazing. Tiring, but I look forward to each 5-hour class. I am very confident in my cooking skills, so I have no problem with the pace of the class and the new information. But I have to stand up for the entirety, including the break, so buying good quality black non-slip shoes was very important. I have class every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night... which also means, I can’t go out on Saturday nights because by the time I finish class, it’s 10:45pm. Then it takes me 15 minutes to pack my stuff and change from my uniform back into my street clothes, and I don’t get back to my apartment on Roosevelt Island until 11:45pm to midnight, depending on how long I have to wait for the F train.
The most important thing that I’ve learned this past week was taillage, methods of cutting. Learning to cut vegetables the French way is challenging. In the French system, there are certain sizes and shapes reserved for each kind of vegetable (carrots, turnips, potatoes). For instance, carrots are commonly julienned. Julienne carrots are very thin sticks with a measurement of 1-2 mm (width) by 5-7 cm (length). Jardinière are similar to julienne except that they are thicker and shorter, 5mm by 4-5 cm. There are others that we practiced: macédoine, brunoise, émincer, ciseler, paysanne, and chiffonade. When I first read about it in my textbook, I didn’t think that much and the importance of it.
There are three purposes for taillage:
1. To ensure that food will cook evenly at the same rate
2. To enhance the visual appeal of dishes
3. To allow more than one person to prepare items for a specific recipe
I could see the aesthetic part of the cutting but I didn’t really think about reason number 3. Duh. It’s not just me anymore in the kitchen when I start working in a restaurant.
Anyway, before my education at The FCI, whenever I made bisques and chowders at home, I did chop my squash and potatoes into small dice but their sizes weren’t completely uniform. When I made New England Clam Chowder (view the recipe) the first time, cooking took kind of a long time. And last night, it only took 30 minutes. I was impressed.
Ron has lived in Beijing, Toronto, Hong Kong, and the state of Texas (Plano and Austin) before coming to The International Culinary Center to study in The French Culinary Institute's Classic Culinary Arts program. He is inspired by the cuisines from different cultures and loves to travel. When Ron is not Yelping or passionately learning new skills and techniques in class, he is updating his food blog, Cooking with Strawberry Tsunami.