I wish I had taken a photo of my face when I heard our assignment today. We were given a stack of papers with recipes for the following:
Pan-fried trout with toasted garlic
Brennan’s red-wine and mushroom sauce
Basic simmered rice
Roast Cornish game hen with wild rice stuffing
Country Braised chicken
Tomato concasse
Teriyaki salmon with pineapple-papaya salsa
We were told to get with 2 other people who would make up our team for the day. We had a short lecture on plate presentation and garnishes, mostly warning us not to arrange our food to appear as a smiley face or a “phallic symbol” which the chef described as sunny side up eggs and bacon (sounded more like “breast symbol” to me–but then I’m a psychotherapist and studied Freud.) Then we were warned that any garnish which was not a food used in the recipe would be “flicked” off the plate at the presentation window. The presentation window would be open for 1 hour at which time each of the 4 teams would bring their plates to be evaluated.
We had about 2 hours, give or take depending on the presentation time, to figure out how to prepare 4, yes 4, plates of food consisting of the entree and side dishes. We had to decide which side dishes went with which food and we could look in the “par stock” (foods available in the walk-in or pantry) for other side dishes, and decide how to garnish the food. Additionally, our plates were to be hot at the time of presentation.
I thought I was nervous, but one look at my partners and they too had the deer in the headlights stare. Before we began, however, we had the pleasure of practicing cutting up an onion, potato, and carrot in 5 minutes. This only added to the nervous energy in the room.
Somehow we managed to fix all the food required, although we were criticized for the following:
rice–not done enough and no seasoning (trying to cook rice on the stove on low heat proved to be a big challenge as the flame kept going out)
salsa piled on top of seared fish–not good, put the salsa to the side
fish served skin side up–didn’t we know that even a skinless fillet has a “skin” side where the skin has been? (no–I guess not) don’t serve it skin side up
lemon zest on zuchinni–somehow there was a lot of bitter skin in the zest which tasted bad
red wine sauce on the cornish hen–don’t put the sauce on top of a nicely roasted thing, put in underneath
too many sprinkled herbs–we didn’t need to sprinkle cilantro and parsley on everything
We did get some positive comments on our creative use of vegetables, french fries with our pan fried fish and use of teriyaki glaze on the seared fish, so it wasn’t all bad.
I learned a lot and plan to read up on food presentation and practice at home.

I really enjoyed working with my team, Robert and Penni. We managed to get everything done on time with no drama.

Exhausted, but still went grocery shopping after changing out of the uniform and enjoyed a dinner at Sushi Axiom (no COOKED FOOD) and a very nice appletini.

Tonight I’m cooking Singapore chicken-rice. I watched an Anthony Bourdain episode in which they traveling to Singapore and sampled the chicken-rice, their national dish. It sounds and looks wonderful–chicken simmered in ginger, garlic and onions served with rice cooked in the chicken stock and dipped in dark soy, chili sauce and other citrus soy sauce. I’ll make some stir-fried bok-choy as a side dish.