Recently I asked one of our students, Sally Gardner, if she would write a two part blog on her experience of the first half of the term. This is part one and Sally has promised to send me part two after she has completed the course.
Here is Sally’s view from the kitchen:
Wow! Well I can’t say it’s what I really expected from the first few weeks of my cookery course at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School! I seriously underestimated the challenges I would face: excitement, exhaustion, success, disappointment, relief…none of us had any idea what truly lay in store. I think we all thought there would be more of a gentle jogging start to get into the pace and routine, but we were wrong; we hit the ground at a full sprint!
Looking back on that first week, the main task we had to master was writing our daily Time Plans. Whilst it seemed rather overwhelming and a lot of work to do at the start, especially when you were feeling shattered and exhausted with all the new experiences, it has become such a vital crutch for each practical cooking session. A successful Time Plan must be clear and easy to follow, when in the heat of the kitchen. You need to have a realistic appreciation of how long tasks are going to take you, not forget about the time it takes to weigh out and collect all your ingredients, as well as chop, slice and dice. You must ensure you have read thoroughly and digested the method from the recipe, highlighting potential areas for mistake, yet not write so much down that you get lost in reading it, when you really need to focus on the cooking. Because you have to conceptualise the process by reading the recipe in detail, it’s almost as though you’ve cooked it before, which means you can concentrate on trying to get the right result rather than worrying about the ‘how’, when you’re in the throes of juggling the various dishes for the day. There is no definitive ‘one way’ of doing it, but I know that even at this stage, halfway through the course, I’m still making changes and adapting my time plans to be more effective; I’d like to think that’s because I am getting more confident and capable in the kitchen; therefore, able to be more discerning about what to include and also more reflective about my potential pitfalls, so ensuring I account for that in my time plans.
Another challenge of the first few weeks of the course was the pace of each cooking session and the frustration with not being able to produce ‘perfect’ dishes because of the time constraints. I’d like to think I’m not naïve, but I hadn’t quite prepared myself for how much had to be achieved in each session. I’ve always been somewhat pedantic in my approach to tasks, so have never been the fastest, but I hadn’t fully grasped the pressure we’d be under to get all the dishes ready for ‘service’ time. Similarly in the Demonstrations (‘Dems’), you begin to fully appreciate the skill of the teachers and how easily they manage the many dishes, all whilst teaching and giving us tips. After a few occasions of trying to recreate the dishes in our practical cooking sessions, you realise that what looks easy when they do it in the Dem, is often not quite as straight-forward as it appeared; as a result, you quickly learn to absorb as much as possible, scribbling notes all over the recipes to help you when you have to produce the dish. Dems are an opportunity to see how it should be done, ask questions, get ideas for presentation of the dish, and the most important part…you get to taste it!
Even though I have always loved cooking and believed I was a relatively competent home cook, it came as a bit of a shock that I was having to produce several quite advanced dishes all in the space of two and a half hours (on average) and get them ready all at the same time, rather than pottering around my own kitchen with the radio on, before sitting down to enjoy the meal with friends. However, just like anything in life, it’s amazing how quickly you start to adapt and find ways to succeed; in fact, I’d say that the feeling of triumph when you can call ‘SERVICE’ at the correct time is right up there! Hopefully, by the end of the final half term, the triumphs will come from more substantial successes, but for now, I’ll take them where I can!
Sally Gardner – 3 Month Intermediate Certificate Student March 2015