By Ron Yan
I’ve been meaning to blog but things just got crazier and I got busier and then procrastination kicked in. But I’m glad I finally have time to write. I have so much excitement right now. I finished Level 2 of the culinary program on Tuesday, December 27 and I am psyched about starting Level 3. For levels 1 and 2, we are taught the French techniques and we cook a variety of meats. In level 3, we will be cooking under time pressure and we will be working in a simulated restaurant kitchen setting.
I wanted to focus this post on how much I look forward to watching Top Chef Season 9 every Wednesday. Now, I actually understand everything that the competing chefs talk about and all the descriptions under the dishes that they make. Before coming to The International Culinary Center, I was a home amateur cook and during that time, I felt I was on the opposite side of where the competing industry chefs were on the show. Now that I’m about to start Level 3 and I’ve been in school for three months, whenever I watch Top Chef this season, I feel I am a part of them. I understand their jargon, and their concerns about not sending their best dish forward. I also have a better understanding of some of the dishes that they’ve cooked because I cooked them myself in class!
Just as an example of jargon, at home, I used to say, “green beans,” but in school, we say, “haricot vert.”
And how cool is that this season of Top Chef, it’s in my home state of Texas! ATX pride! It’s obvious whom I’m rooting for to win this season.
In the first episode of Season 9, the first group of chefs had to butcher a pig. The terms “primal” and “sub-primal” were tossed around and take a look,
It looks exactly like the picture in our textbooks except it’s cuter!
I heard that we would be breaking down a pig in Level 4 during our charcuterie unit. It’s a good thing that Chef Janet was our Level 1 sous chef so we got a feel of what is expected for butchering. One of the contestants got sent home because he incorrectly broke down part of the pork chops that also had the tenderloin attached with it. He wasn’t even allowed to cook.
In the sixth episode of Season 9, three minutes in, I shouted out with glee! Mother sauces! A mother sauce is a base for other sauces: béchamel, velouté, espagnol, hollandaise, and tomate. Their challenge was to make a new sauce that stems from their mother sauce. Whenever I watch this season of Top Chef, I feel like it is an interesting review session for me. It was surprising that none of the chefs used a roux. A roux is a thickening agent and in school, we always mix equal amounts of butter and flour together. In the third and sixth episodes, one of the chefs made a génoise cake. We made that in Level 2!
I feel so inspired that I'm going to start my menu project (culinary students create a unique menu with beverage pairings, recipes, illustrations, and food costing) now. I have my eye on the award that will be given during graduation for the best and most creative menu project!
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.