Monthly Archives: August 2008

Loving “Me” Now

A couple of days ago, my good friend Junis sent me a pix of herself titled “How do you like my new look?”.  My response to her was “Oh my gosh, what happen???????????”.  Today she decided to change her look and sent me again “…this one better right?…”  Yes, I agree she looked better in the 2nd pix, my response to her this time was, “Yah this one is closer to your age… hee hee! …”  But she looks so much better and cool in real person (I can’t find a pix of her in my hard disk for comparison?).

Then she wrote, “Try it….send it to me and let me hv a good laugh……. “.

So I did – I tried to yearbook myself back to eras of yester years, had a good laugh and I decided to put it here to warn myself of potential fashion disasters in future when the fashion cycle returns, and share with my family and friends so that everyone can appreciate that I indeed look My Best at This Time, and Now in This Era ;p  After this exercise, I appreicate myself better too – I Love Me NowGod is indeed fair!

What do I think?  I like the style in 1966 and 1996, which was the mushroom or “娃娃” (a.k.a. Doll) head I had in 2007.  I look so matronly in the fashion of 50s, 1964 and 1970 – yet comfortable looking too (oh no!).  My look in 1982 looks so Camilla, so I will give it a miss anytime!  70s and 80s are big No-NOs, I am thankful I was in my growing up years then.  90s?  I am speechless – I am again thankful my hair is always straight, and doesn’t curl even when I attempted to make it so.  I am trying to grow out the the soft rebound that my hair stylist Melvin gave to my already straight hair and have my “娃娃” head again.

As I was entering this journal, the sky showed signs of Hurricane Gustav approaching – the rain poured heavily at 5.56pm, the trees outside my apartment moved with the wind, and now at 6.17pm, the sky is as clear as day.  I have enough stuff to tide myself through the Labour Day Public Hols tomorrow and in case Hurricane Gustav decides to make its way here – I still owe Jennifer the presentation slides on Chocolate.

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The website to credit:  www.yearbookyourself.com

The person to credit for highlighting to me and making me laugh:  Junis Goh 😉

My Final Verdict of a Donut

I arrived a couple of minutes earlier than usual at the bus stop along Ella Blvd yesterday, I decided to pop by Mary Lee’s Donuts across the street.  As in my earlier post, I never liked donuts since a child, I did not like the after taste of sugar in my mouth but I concluded I will try one from the shop one day since I look into it from across the street every morning.  As I entered the shop, I was surprised to find them doing a brisk business serving a breakfast crowd.  From where I stood across the road, I never knew they were so many people munching donuts in the early morn.

I looked at the trays of donuts in front of me,  I did not like those dusted with sugar, and I also did not like the coloured butter cream icings, so I asked for 2 original donuts to go.  I chomped on one immediately before the bus came, the taste was nice, maybe lightly scented with vanilla essense or extract.  It had an off-white tinge to the flour mix and a slight crumbly texture which is full bodied to each bite.  It was different from the donuts I had in Singapore, it appeared like a cross between “hum ji peng” (a local sweet dough fritter in Singapore) and bread.  The bus came, the sweetness stayed in my month for a long while.

My verdict on Donuts:  I would recommend Mary Lee’s donuts to anyone because I think it will appeal to the taste buds of many.  Personally, I am glad I gave it a shot … I still won’t miss donuts if I don’t have one, I still dislike the lingering sweetness even though the sweetness was not apparent with each bite for a Mary Lee’s donut.  I will go for something else at Mary Lee’s though, I overheard someone ordering pancakes that morning, I love plain pancakes, belgian waffles and french crepes anytime – with a huge dose of maple syrup, yes just maple syrup – no ice cream, no fruits.  Or crepes with a citrus sauce and sprinkle of sugar … yum, bring it on anytime!

Gimme a Break Sometimes

It is okayThat is fine It doesn’t matter …  I realised I say a lot of these words in class and in many situations.  My classmates made me aware of this.  (edited 31/08: They were trying to guess when I meant it when I said which???  It is very simple, I mean it all the times I said it, no second guess needed.)

My classmates know I don’t curse or swear, at least not in school or in Houston, except for the occasional “oh sxxx”, even then it was an expression to express disgust at myself for making a silly mistake or an expression in jest.  Sometimes it was used to replace words like “Oh gosh”, “alamak” etc.  Other than that, my English vocabulary in swear words are extremely limited by choice.  Elizabeth was amused when she overheard me sprouting words occasionally – maybe 2 times … ha – and she said she found it cute even when I said it???  A school environment is not as brutal as corporate life  – maybe brutal is too strong a word but some things happened at my ex-company and affected my ex-boss so this word is apt for now as my friend cum ex-colleague has accurately expressed in her email – daily happenings in the culinary institute do not frustrate me as much, in the shoes of a student, it may be a different perspective altogether when one sees it from the point of a chef-instructor, a staff or even the boss.

Some classmates even knew that they can fool around with me and get away with it – eg taking the cookie cutter away as her own when I reached out for it, pulling away the paper towel while I was waiting for the long strip to clean out my stuff – they know such things don’t bother me.  I found such incidents amusing sometimes. I usually see the lightness in such situations – thing that doesn’t hurt doesn’t bother me – oh even it hurts, things that don’t kill me make me stronger as the saying goes.  So far the only time my face changed that very instant was when Jillian took a broom to knock against my pant when she was sweeping and was kidding with me – thought then I gave her a shock.  Jennie was present and she thought it was some Chinese superstition about a broom bringing bad luck.  Nay, none of that, I just don’t like my uniform to be messed with.  After that, I would tell anyone “It is okay!”, “It doesn’t matter!”, “No worries” … “… as long as you don’t mess with my uniform”… Hee

In my past life, I took life very seriously, I couldn’t allow myself to slack – I believed it was developed from years of training, responsibilities and competition in school days – a great 10 year of it! … and again responsibilities and race against time in corporate life.  I guess I still have a darn serious outlook but I have since lightened up a lot.  This was apparent to my friends who knew me from early years – especially ex-team members, not so for many who just knew me or know me superficially, some would still think I am very uptight.  I am conscious of this and still working on it – sometimes certain actions on my part still feel awkward but I guess practice makes perfect.  I wasn’t sure then if it was an expectation of myself, an expectation of what I thought others have on me, or a real expectation of what a few have of me.  Now I do enjoy a light atmosphere, a lighter load on my heart and my mind.  But from how I see it, a lot is still happening … in my mind.  The more I read and know, the more I know I don’t know, so I work harder to know more what I should know.  In my current life in pastry, there are many things I have to learn from scratch, and I just have to work harder to know, understand and apply – so really my mind didn’t have space for many things else.

When there is so much going on in the mind, I let many things passed especially when they don’t warrant my energy or attention.  Sometime I will get involved especially when I can help – to be a listener, a mediator, or recommend a good read, or just contribute my laughter and play.  Many times, I would just step away to clear my mind, exit from mindless chatters, become a passive observer when group-ness is warranted, shut up when I can’t be of help to make things better or just act blur.

Sometimes I really just need a break, it is difficult to explain or I don’t bother to.  Really I still don’t know why people take time to make comments or say things, especially in my name, to another and even made me look silly and turned around to me in all seriousness they were just kidding.  Again I find this “无聊”, but I couldn’t find an English word to express the emotion correctly.  Usually I would walk away, take myself out of the conversation or next … before my face shows a change of colour.  My face does tell a lot more than I speak, I realise.  Not sure if I should do something to that.. ha.

Something happened today – it is trivial or plain “无聊” and I have no better reason than Gimme a Break, Please

“Just shut up”, I said to Robert at one point during class today.  No, I didn’t raise my voice, I hardly raise my voice except when I laugh.  It was 1.20pm and I was prepping for lunch.  I knew he was just kidding but I guessed it was not the right moment, at least for me.  Chef Sebastien turned around and asked “What did you say?”, I repeated I told Robert to shut up.  That is not a nice thing to say, Chef said, looking up from the apple strudel he had just placed on the cutting board.  I knew too, because it didn’t feel right and doesn’t sound like my intention.  Robert tried to lighten the mood by saying “You know, Joycelyn, I am sensitive”, and I said “I am sensitive too”, Chef looked at me a second time and I guess he knew I was just stepped on the wrong foot, or my tail if I have one and I believe he excuse me for this rare expression of my state of mind.  Just minutes earlier, I was cutting the bread for lunch as Chef of the Day, and I was using a half size cutting board, then I realised there was the apple strudel and was a little frus with myself I have to transfer to a large size cutting board – yes, really a trivia.  Robert helped me to collect the board, and he said to Chef in jest, “Chef, Joycelyn said she prefers to use a small cutting board”.  In my heart, I knew he was joking as we usually did, in my mind the trigger went off, from my mouth out shot “Just shut up”.  Usually I would laugh it off and say “No, I didn’t say that”.  Such trivia would usually escape me, “in one ear, out the other”.  Anyway, I apologised to Robert after and told him I didn’t mean to be curt, I just didn’t like things to be said when I am doing stuff and especially words which never came from me.  I would usually brush it off as “无聊” and laugh it off, I couldn’t find a word to express the right emotion then, so “Just shut up” came and sounded totally off balance and inappropriate.  Anyway, there is still no excuse, and my apology is sincere.

Sometimes, like it or not, admist my smiles and laughters, I just need a break ~ yes, a mental break.  At least gimme a break sometimes. Today, I was like a car that needed refuel.  It may not be the specific incident or who that I mind, it is just that I am short on energy then to be nice about it.  Then over lunch April asked me why I looked so serious when I am always smiling.  I didn’t respond to that but later I made an effort to joke that it was her … hee.  I guess I just need a break back into my shell, and the weekend came at the right time, a long weekend at that.  (I am still clueless why Monday* is a public hol, I didn’t bother to check, I am glad it is a break!)

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* 31 Aug and 1 Sept:  Got it! Labour Day.

A Feast for The Eyes

“I get a 2 day break from you …” Chef Sebastien said to some of us on Tuesday.  For Wednesday and Thursday he would be crossing over to the cuisine lab to prepare for his Thursday Chef’s presentation over lunch.  He had chosen to present Mexican cuisine.  Chef’s wife Jamie, who is Mexican and also a chef, would join him in mise en place and cooking over the 2 days.

During these 2 days, Chef Kris would take over our pastry class.  Chef Kris is Director of Culinary Arts and a Cuisine Chef.  We wondered what Chef Kris was going to teach us, he promised restaurent style desserts and enticed us with some recipes he had planned for us when he visited our class earlier, we were excited. 

Chef Kris in Pastry Class

Our class usually starts at 8.15am, Chef Kris wasn’t in the class yet, he was preparing some ingredients for the desserts we are making.  Chef Philippe asked us to kick-start with chocolate tempering, which we found use in plating later.  No cutter in your tool bag?  No…   We got a little restless, believed Chef Kris did too as he was used to the fast pace in the kitchen.  The chocolate wheels took some time as there was only 1 circle cookie cutter to move around 4 teams.    The rest of us decided to volunteer for the other recipes while waiting for the cutter to come round and things started moving a little better.

Chef, … cups and tsp?

Chef Kris had emphasized building components for dessert plating.  Jennifer and I decided to work on genoise cake for Tres Leches Cake.  “Chef, we don’t know cups and tsp … can we use our own recipes which is by weight?”  Ha, Chef Kris’s recipes came by cups and tsp measurement and we were initially disoriented.  So how many recipes do we prepare?  Chef Kris said “a big tray, about halfway”.  Tray?  But usually we go by round cake tins?  We quickly took our initiative to estimate the number of recipes needed.  Chef Kris passed a measuring spoon and cup to another team who was also confused by the measurement.  We decided on 6 recipes estimated by the number of cake rings needed to cover the tray.  We started whisking over a double boiler till fluffy and ribbon-like, cooled in mixer and folded in the flour.  “Oh, no pink?”  I had not added pink to the genoise recipe, Chef Kris had wanted bright pink for the Mexican Tres Leches cake to go with the Mexican theme of Chef Sebastien.  “It is okay, we’ll have half pink and half vanilla, it is nice, I like it”  His style is very adaptive, make-do, and move-it move-it – he will add some words of encouragement to get us going instead of having us being stunned and clueless.  We must have terrorized him on the first day. 

Whisking All the Way

The cake took 30 min to bake, it filled only 1/3 the height of the big tray.  “I want to have cubes, I need the whole tray to be filled”.   It was already 12pm, the cookie cutter just got to my group, the chocolate then had became very brittle and it was just impossible to cut triangles from it.  We decided to work on the full tray of genoise cake, this time, we decided to go all the way with the recipes so that the whole tray will be filled.  Total of 16 recipes we decided!  I bumped into Chef Sebastien along the corridor, he suggested 10 recipes instead – I convinced him that it is better to have more than sorry.  So we starting whisking again, 4 recipes each per person by Jill, Elizabeth, Jennifer and I.  Alas!  The 16 recipes managed to just fill the tray to the brim.  Great!  It was close to lunch time when the cake went into the oven.  The tray of genoise cake took a full hour and a couple more minutes to finally get done.  By then I had opened the oven and stuck the knife into the cake umpteenth times.  When the day ended, Jennifer and I only remembered we have whisked the whole day, tired and uninspired. (Oh! Forgot a pix of the huge genoise cake)

Day 2 with Chef Kris in Pastry

Today, things felt different.  We moved faster and things started taking forms, besides some mise en place that was completed day earlier, we were also more used to Chef Kris’s style.  We volunteered to prep churros, “Chef, no eggs in the recipe?”  Chef Kris quickly confirmed the recipe will be prep like choux without eggs.  The churros turned out yummy, fried and dusted with cinnamon sugar, better than a choux paste recipe I tried before in Singapore.  He pointed out the secret lies in the addition of lard!  In the mean time, another team prep Kahlua ice cream – oh it was so delicious even though Chef replaced Kahlua with rum & mocha extract.  Love it!  By lunch time we would have Cajeta flan and Tres Leches cakes ready.  I liked the flan with a tinge of citrus lime taste, it was less eggy than the flan we did a few days earlier, Chef Kris advised low temperature in the oven.  The cake was too sweet for me even though the texture is nice.  A day earlier, he passed me a pecan praline candy to try, Like it?  No, I really don’t have a sweet tooth.  Don’t like sweets and in pastry class?  I guess I just need to memorise the taste even if I don’t like the sweetness.

Research Assignment on Chocolate

I love this pix of my classmates & me in the resource centre!

~ I love this pix of my classmates & me in the resource centre! ~

For the next 2 hours before lunch, Chef Kris needed to leave Pastry Lab to teach the assoc class.  He gave us an assignment on Chocolate which Chef Sebastien will grade on per team basis on a score of 100, to be completed in powerpoint, with 5 min presentation per team over lunch the following Tuesday, and each team will cover a different area in chocolate.  Jill and Amanda decided on the origins in plantation of cocao beans, Jennifer and I on harvesting to chocolate paste production, Elizabeth and Quin on components of chocolate and types of chocolate, and Sarah and April on ways that chocolate can be used.  We would spend the next 2 hours researching in the library.  It was pretty interesting scanning through the articles… halfway through I was reading Chocolatier magazines even though they were old editions – great stuff.  Oh I still prefer to be in the Pastry Lab during school hours any time.  Then we saw the lunch menu … and we were waiting eagerly.

Mexican Lunch is Served…

Lunch today was a Mexican feast planned by Chef Sebastien and his wife Jamie, it was sumptuous, more than a food tasting session.  I enjoy Mexican food, I was acquainted with Mexican food when I worked in a Mexican restaurant during pre-college days, I had then helped in mise en place before the restaurant opening hours, and was a server during its regular hours.  What we had today was more varied than the few I knew.  During the lunch presentation by Chef Kris, I learnt that the food varies by different regions of Mexico.  I had Mexican rice, a turkey tamales, some chipotle beef with a tortilla and pork skin in green sauce … I was really full but I still manage to finish a flan, a spoonful of Kahlua ice cream and a bite of Tres Leches cake.  Lunch was different today.  We ate heartily indeed.

The Cheerful Pastillage

When we got back to the Pastry Lab, Level 3 class next to us had rows of pastillage completed for the Gala dinner the following week.  They were so colourful and cheerful – it is just impossible to feel otherwise when you looked at them – they augmented the sugar high in me.  A nice touch before we left class for the day.

~ A Perk-Me-Up!~

~ A Perk-Me-Up!~

Last 2 days had been a different and an enjoyable learning experience.  Looking forward to resume pastry class with Chef Sebastien tomorrow.

Hey, I Can See Through the Peep Hole

“200g powdered sugar, 200g corn starch … 2 … cream of tartar …”  I was reading off the whiteboard in Level 3 Pastry Lab.  I was peeping through a little hole formed by the thumb and index fingers …

It was after class and after lunch, I was chatting with Jennie and Rafaella, both are in Pastry Level 3 class.  You lost your reading glasses?  Jennie asked.  No, I am just short sighted.  But yes, I misplaced my new pair and I just can’t find it, I crushed my existing pair in my tool bag, and the nose bridge piece dropped off and needed repair.  Most of the time I can’t see far, I can only make out the shape or outline of whoever or whatever is in front of me, sometimes I didn’t bother to see (oops), very selectively I can imagine what I see.  So don’t bother to smile at me if you are a distance from me, I told them.  Rather, you can smile at me but do not take offence if I don’t respond appropriately, and I tend to look rather serious when I don’t smile.  I told them whenever Chef Sebastien wrote on the board, I had to be up next to the board to read and copy them.  Once Chef Sebastien stood in front of me and asked, “Can you see me?”   Of course, Chef, I just can’t see details or words from far!

You can do this!  Raffaela said excitedly.  Raffaela is a sweet Brazilian lady, one of the 3 ladies from Level 3 Pastry.  She held her fingers to her face and formed a hole with her thumb and index finger.  Raffaela is short-sighted too but she can usually make out what Chef Philippe wrote in class.  I tried … ha it worked!  Erhh… you did this in front of Chef?  Oh no!  She explained that the class is small and they usually can see what Chef Philippe wrote on the white board.

I was so amused.  The words on the white board became readable to me just by peeping through the small hole.  The science of focused vision or the science of peeping?  No, I won’t be trying this in any of the chefs’ classes any time soon.

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ps:  Please excuse me, Raffaela, I just have to post your pix as my keepsake coz I really find it very adorable – Raffaela was focusing on the peep hole and she did not realise her picture was being taken then.  Obrigada!  Azéharamo aypo-mia!