Last night I got to do something really fun.
Any guesses as to what that was?
How about now?
You may have already seen me tweeting about it, but last night I got to audit a culinary school class at Stratford University!
Culinary school has been something that has been percolating in the back of my mind since I was still an undergrad, although it definitely took a backseat to other things once I graduated. Since seeing fellow blogger Amanda take the leap and follow her culinary dreams (as well as a few encouraging comments from family members) it’s something I’m starting to look back into.
Honestly, when I asked if I would be able to observe a class I expected them to tell me no. Who needs someone standing over everyone’s shoulder while they’re all trying to learn? But Stratford agreed and was more than helpful in arranging for me to audit an evening Fundamentals of Baking class, taught by Chef Logan.
It started off in a classroom where the 8 students in the class had to take a quiz to review what they had learned the last time. Time spent in the classroom was very shortlived, however, and after passing out the recipes that they would be working with today, we hopped over to the kitchen! On the docket?
Sour cream pound cake. Mmm.
One thing that I would have to get used to if I did decide to go to culinary school?
Holy heart attack. The butter. Butter in the cake, butter in the icing, butter, butter, butter. It probably sounds really lame, but one of my serious hesitations about whether I’d want to take this leap revolves around the fact I’m not sure how my weight loss would fare in a situation like this.
Fundamentals of Baking is one of the core culinary classes that all students have to take at Stratford, so the class was a mix of Baking & Pastry concentration students as well as Culinary Arts students.
Chef Logan told me that each chef instructor is different, and structures their class differently. Some might have more time spent in lecture, but she preferred to do her demos in the kitchen. The evening classes go from 6 PM to 10:30 PM, so best to make use of that time! And even though I was just observing and not actually handling any food, the time still flew by. The first part of the class was spent with each student baking an individual pound cake.
Which I didn’t actually end up getting to taste because I left just before the very end of class (while they were all cleaning, so I didn’t want to be in the way.) I’m sure they were delicious though!
Don’t be sad for me though, folks. I got to do more than my fair share of decadent eating! After the pound cakes were in the oven, the class set off to make cream cheese icing for the carrot cakes they had baked the class before! So I did, in fact, learn something new even just as an observer.
Like how to properly layer and ice a cake!
Start by slicing the top off of your cake for an even surface (the top part is henceforth labeled your “yum-yum”, and is
yours mine for the snacking!)
You then eyeball slicing your cake into thirds (I need one of those spinny-cake-platter things like whoa) with a serrated knife, and ice the middle layers individually.
Another thing I learned? You use the bottom of the cake as the top of the cake by flipping it around! That way you know that your cake top will be perfectly flat. Who knew?
The final prep-step is to give your cake a very thin crumb coating. This is a super fine coating of icing that’s sole purpose is to fill in any extra cracks and trap all loose crumbs on the cake’s surface. That way, you won’t get crumbs in your final layer of icing at the end! You have to put your cake back in the fridge at this point for all the icing to set, so I didn’t actually get to see the final stage of icing. I did, however, get to see how marzipan gets made, and enjoy watching the students make decorative carrots out of it.
Marzipan = almond paste + confectioners sugar + light corn syrup. I tried a tiny little ball of it (I don’t think I’d had marzipan since I lived in Poland!) and it was so sweet I almost died. But hey, it was almond-y, so I survived. 😉
Don’t worry, along with all the carrot cake, icing samples, and marzipan nibbles, I still worked in some kind of nutrition:
Hehe. Carrot cake… and a carrot! Tina, aren’t you proud?
All in all, it was an awesome class, the students were all really fun and welcoming, and Chef Logan is awesome. She was a career-changer (in government contracting, no less!) when she decided to go back to school to pursue a culinary career so her experience really resonated with me. Honestly, from reading other bloggers‘ experiences with culinary school, I was expecting to be totally rattled and overwhelmed, and for my desire to go myself extinguished but I have to say, I feel like it’s the opposite. I feel like perhaps the culinary classes might differ from the baking classes as well in terms of general hecticness, but everyone I talked to in the class just seemed so, well, happy. And while I’m not in any position to be going in the NEAR future by any means, this experience has definitely put the whole kit and caboodle back on the table.
Have you ever considered going to culinary school? Or considered starting a career in the food or nutrition industry? Are there other people out there that, like me, are torn between the food-side and the nutrition-side (i.e. culinary school vs. becoming a registered dietitian)? That’s where my mental struggle still lies. Last night’s experience was so eye-opening, and was definitely encouraging, but it’s still so hard to convince myself that this is a leap I could potentially take.