Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT
The grand finale at cooking school. What an amazing banquet of talent. Small tasting portions is my new preference now. I learned too much of a good thing causes “palette fatigue.”
Phew that is done. I finished my week long Stella Culinary Boot Camp where we were trained to cook like professional chef’s. I thought I was a good cook BEFORE this – well what I did not know about cooking was amazing. For our final project, my teammate (Barb Sleeper) and I created a theme around “Mom’s Magic.” This was a spin off of the name of whatever Barb would find in the fridge to serve her kids for dinner as they were growing up. (Her grown children now want her to come live at their homes and cook for them – what a change of events…).
With our final project, our goal was to bring out the nostalgia of Mom. To do that we choose to make a Chicken Noodle Soup and Waldorf Salad. We started with my already legendary chicken noodle soup and then brought it up a couple notches to the required four star restaurant quality.
We started with making the bone broth our way – that meant lots of roasted bones with the skin on it. And minimal spices and veggies – just peppercorns, onions and celery, absolutely no carrots as they over power the delicacy of the broth the way I make it. And no other herbs – same reason as the carrots. (This was not the way they do it at cooking school). Plus, I simmer the bones for at least 24 hours – it pulls out more flavor.
Technique builds the flavor – not lots of herbs and veggies. After my boot camp, I now feel confident to speak with authority on why I do my chicken bone broth how I do it. What made this one so much better than any I’ve done before – the quantity of the chicken parts we put into it. As a class we learned how to debone chickens yesterday so we had 12 carcasses. We made ten gallons of chicken broth – we used all of in the making of our chicken soup.
With the ten gallons of bone broth – we took five gallons and reduced it to two gallons (talk about flavor). We then made our own noodles. We used conventional semolina with sprouted grain flour, lemon zest. pepper and chia seeds. Thank god for my great executive assistant who came through with the sprouted grain flour – the school was not able to procure that. She brought it up from the Whole Foods in Reno.
We set up the dough the night before, and then became a noodle factory as part of the prep (this was our most fun part of the grand finale – we felt like we were in an episode of I Love Lucy). I was a little concerned about the dough and we got back up egg noodles. I usually mill my own flour for the noodles – but the dough for these was the best I’ve ever made. We did a practice round on the noodles with a small pan of bone broth and lemon juice. We learned they released quite a bit of starch, so we were not going to cook the noodles right in the soup like I’ve done in the past. We took the rest of the bone broth (five gallons), tossed in lemon juice, and cooked the noodles ahead of time. (BTW – this is a GREAT way to make noodles – they tasted incredible by themselves).
The day before, we had already prepped the celery, onions and chicken meat that was to go into the soup. So we had extra time. When we looked at the entire menu of what everyone else was preparing, we thought we needed more veggies. So we decided to make my Mom’s favorite – a waldorf salad. We whipped that out in under 15 minutes – now being the professional chefs that we are.
Every team had fifteen minutes to finalize their creations and present to the group. Our final prep was so simple – we decided to serve the noodles separate as there were some gluten free folks in the group. It soared – we knocked the broth out of the park and the massive dosing of onions, celery and dark chicken meat sent it to the moon. The General Manager came in later to help himself to the banquet – said off the cuff – wow these noodles are just like what my grandmother used to make. And YES – score – that was the exact sentiment we were shooting for. As we learned in cooking school, it’s not so much the flavors you create, but the emotions you evoke with what you serve.
Isn’t that the same pretty much with everything? How do you feel based on what you just experienced? With completing this cooking school, I feel confident I can share more of my love in even more unique ways. I can do the small things with great love – like serving love in a bowl (aka – chicken noodle soup).
Kate’s comment: you mention evoking emotion from flavors – and I think this is where the line gets blurred between food and art. Because if you can make people really feel something from food, doesn’t that elevate it to art? Sometimes, when I eat REALLY good food, I have to get up and dance. I know it sounds silly, but I experienced this with you with the bolognese we made before you left Haines. It even had fennel in it, but I had to get up and dance it was so good. Food can be art – this is that “food serves more than one function” aspect that has become my mantra. If you don’t feed the soul, it will starve.