Monthly Archives: December 2008

An Enriching 2 weeks to Year Close … My Attachment in Brief

It has been 18 days since I returned to Singapore, and minus a day since I last penned something on this blog.

In Singapore, it is the beginning of the last day to 2008.  Dec 31 2008.  It is 12.15am now.

It is my intention to continue updating my journal and learning on this blog even though I have uprooted from Houston.  … For the last 2 weeks, I opened my blog everyday (yes, every single day) with the intent to pen down something, then I was too sleepy to continue and zonked out soon after.  Why?  I have been working hard… ha.

I will update the events separately (hmm … the intent is there!) coz each was exciting in its own right.  But since I came back to Singapore, I have been kept on the go, I am happy to be so and intend to continue to be so.

In brief, I touched down Singapore on 13 Dec, started my “attachment” with hotel* on 15 Dec.  Yes, immediately … I considered attending CIAML for the last 5 months in Houston a mental break and a good rest.  I have rested sufficiently and was eager to enter the real kitchen.  (*For my own privacy as well as the hotel and the Executive Pastry Chef (a.k.a. EPC) who provided me the opportunities to do OJT, unless it was shared personally with the individuals in private, the hotel name and individual names will be kept confy in these entries).  My luggage was left unpacked, my box of reference books was apparently left at the post office waiting for my collection.

The hotel group has approximately 2000 rooms.  Sufficiently big to keep the pastry kitchen busy.  There are 4 sections to the central pastry kitchen – one in charge of misen place for a complex consisting of fine French dining, buffet, ala carte, another an Italian restaurant, another for function & banquet, and a section for bakery.  I am currently attached to the first, and will be rotated after a month in each.  There are a total of 50+ staff for the pastry kitchen, about half worked in each swift – but many worked more than 12 hours, I observed.

Oh …. “attachment” means I chose the EPC I would like t0 work with, researched the establishment, felt excited enough to offer my service.   Voluntary, to be exact.  Free, if it was not apparent enough.  To be more exact, I am learning for free, and I am definitely learning in an environment that keeps me positive and learning for the last 2 weeks.  I am happy to have been given this opportunities and made this choice.  EPC emphasized during staff briefing on several occasions – seize the opportunities to learn. 

The section I worked with right now is led by a pastry chef, assisted by a junior sous chef, 2 commis cooks 1, 1 commis cook 2, 1 commis cook 3, and  2 students on mandatory attachment from a local culinary institute – 1 student is a German lady armed with a Masters in Law, another a guy in his mid-30s who career switched from a technical field.  It is also not surprising by now that only the pastry chef, and the guy were about my age.  I learnt a lot from the young team.  I was surprised they were so open with the recipes, so open to share, and I entered with a strong learning mindset, no doubt.  Last week, I received a comment from the Sous Chef that I was “OK” to everything – that was to whatever I was asked to do (yes, so long as it will not harm anyone or the establishment), I am indeed.  My response was For the next 3 months, I am OK to do anything.  Then again, in the last 6 months, I was OK to do anything to facilitate my learning too.  So … if I continue this attitude as I progress, everything would be OK and I will retain my positive approach to living each moment, savour each opportunity that comes along.

I have a strong belief – I can learn a lesson from every situation.  It could be a technical skill, a recipe, the method for a big recipe … it could be a lesson drawn from a negative demonstration (Something I always remembered from Chef Kris’s advice during ServSafe – I may not in the position to make a change to the situation then but I would have learn an important lesson what not to do when I am in control in future), from the working ethics of the colleagues around me, from a miscalculation – never a mistake but always a learning … also all these serve to shape my vision.

The pastry chef asked me yesterday about my plan after 3 months with the hotel… I don’t know, Chef.  I will let you know as long as it becomes clear to me soon.  I only have a vision, and I only need to ensure my actions support the vision. 

In the last 12  working days, we already had 5 staff briefing by Exec Pastry Chef.   The  focus was mainly on Christmas and festive – the orders, versus plan budget, the occupancy etc… admist the updates, EPC shipped in a super huge (weighed 10 kg) Panatone from Italy to share with the pastry team for Christmas, he prepared learning materials on Creams, Christmas Breads & Cakes and their origins, a major fridge and freezer clean up shortly post Christmas day …  He showed a passion to teach and train, he couldn’t reinforce enough – seize the opportunities to learn.  EPC shared that when he first started out, he was allocated to do menial tasks, and wasn’t taught much by his chef then … he resolved to share as much as possible with his team, even the trainees in his charge.  Wow.

To sum up my sentiments based on my experience thus far, I am blessed to be contributing in this pastry kitchen, which I believe to be one of the biggest in town.  How the experience turns out is within our control, it is all how we perceive.  I choose to remove my tainted glasses, and see the world with a fresh lens, a renewed angle.

In the midst of my interaction with the team in the kitchen, I bear in mind a key advice which Chef Philippe wrote for me “The Chef is always right” … “The Chef is always right”.  This proves useful.  EPC also voiced the same sentiments how we view our customer – “… Do first, clarify later”.

I hope to uploads some pix before the close of the year to put last 2 weeks in perspective.  I do not work on 31 Dec 2008 … I chose not to.  Chef said I have a choice coz I am a special case – I am not on staff payroll.  I intend to spend my morning having my early morning breakfast with BK before he takes the train to work, a second McD breakfast with my mum and my 3 nieces … then start my own orientation process with the pastry suppliers in town to check out ingredients, home use equipment, home use utensils.

As the last day of the year approach for all my friends in Houston, may we all live a life well lived!  I give thanks that I met you in my life.

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“… To All Singaporeans … A Warm Welcome Home…”

“… to all Singaporeans and residents of Singapore, a warm welcome home… ”  my flight just touched down at Singapore Changi International Airport.  It was 5.50am on 13 December 2008, Singapore time.

It just hit me that I had really left Houston, I was finally home in Singapore.  About 24 hours earlier, I had left Houston.  Was feeling exhausted from packing my apartment for handover and my luggages before I left for the airport, really tired. 

~

My last morning in Houston – I had gone for breakfast at my fav cafe, French Riviera Bakery Cafe for french bread with 2 sunny-side up and a cup of regular coffee, with Sandra.  I realized this shall be the last time we met for a chat for a long time to come, but I believe we will meet again.  On the way there, we passed one of my fav roads in Houston – tree-lined Chimney Rocks between I-10 to Westheimer.  The other being tree-lined Rice Boulevard.

At the entrance to the check-in terminal, my luggages had fallen flat with the cart when I was pushing up the ramp towards the automoatic door – yes, 2 luggages and 3 boxes fell in all directions.  I still managed to laugh, and 2 guys who had just got down from the taxi helped me to pick up the pieces before helping their own luggages.  Ok, that is my last memories of Houston, I managed to laugh at my own boo-boos as I live.

When I got on the flight, I saw a familiar face – I smiled to myself.  He did not see me. …  Hours into my flight after dinner service, and half goggy, I saw the same familiar face coming towards me, smiling.  We had a chat.  And soon, I was served a special privilege – a cappucino with 3 chocolates.  And soon after, I was given additional privileges – bottled water, biscotti, assorted fruits and 2 packets of tortillas chips … I passed a bottle to the Spanish guy seated at the window seat, we were separated by an empty seat between us.  “Do you know him?“, Jorge said to me, he must be surprised by the extras I received as an economy class passenger.  “Yah, he is my uncle!  He is my mum’s youngest brother.”  Yes, my uncle has been working with the same airline for the last 20 years(?), and despite being a frequent traveller on my job in the last couple of years, I have never chanced upon him on the same flight.  On this flight, he was the leading steward serving the business class section.  He had said to me, if he had known I was in Houston, we could have met up the last 2 days he was there.  That was his first trip to Houston with the airline.  But I was happy to see him on the flight.  My uncle wanted to make sure I was comfortable on the flight before he stopped over in Moscow while I continued the flight back to Singapore.  Nice!

5 movies and many songs later … Yes, of the 21.5 hours of actual flight time, and 1.5 hour transit time over in Moscow, I slept only for 2-3 hours.  I wasn’t sure if I was too exhausted to sleep … or I was feeling strange or excited, I was actually going home.  I watched 2 American, 2 Japanese and 1 Korean movies  – my fav was 10 Promises Made to My Dog – heart-touching … about promises made and forgotten as the relationship grew apart, even though this movie was a human-dog relationship.  Despite the random criticism made on the actor (about him being 34 and playing a 19 year old?), on the actress (about the limited emotion expressed by her dried tears at the dog’s deathbed?) etc, I enjoyed the movie – sometimes we should learn to enjoy the plot, and appreciate the meaning behind it all, without tearing the plot and characters apart and judging the flaws from every angle.  Interestingly though, BK was watching the same movie and loved it, on his flight home from Hong Kong to Singapore, he touched down into Singapore a few hours before me.  Oh I also concluded, I am not into Western R&B, more Western pop and sentimental pop as well as select Mandarin R&B and pop, I like some Cantonese songs but I don’t understand the words.

At the arrival hall at Singapore Changi International Airport, I wasn’t sure if BK would be receiving me as he arrived home only a couple of hours earlier.  We planned such that he would be around when I arrived home, I told him I did not want to return to an empty home.  I only realized during the transit in Moscow that my pre-paid SIM card from US did not work outside US.  At the arrival hall, I was surprised to be received by my family – my Dad & Mum, my bro & my sis, and BK of course.  “You had just washed your face?” as BK gave me a hug.  Huh?  No… I perspired profusely the moment I came out into the arrival hall.  It was the high humidity that hit me the first thing.  A big adjustment from snowing Chicago and snowing Houston.

~

The first thing we did when I got home – changed and went for a local breakfast – plain fried bee hoon (akarice vermicelli) with fried chicken wing and fried egg, and a local kopi (aka coffee with condensed milk).  Next thing was to wait for my appointment with a chef while BK went for his music lesson.  Then back home for a nap before dinner at my parents’ cum bro’s place.  Wow all my family were there for dinner – mum cooked curry chicken while my bro bought a variety of local food.  Not sure if it was the travel and jet-lagged, was feeling bloated and sluggish.

Sunday noon.  I had woken up after a good sleep.  Meeting Dad for brunch with BK.  It was our routine before I left for Houston.  Oh, brunch for Dad was at 1pm ;p  … 

BK will be leaving for Beijing late night.  I will be home alone… and kept busy.

(to post pix later … firstly, can’t remember where I put my camera cable… secondly, I need to sleep, woke up to say bye to BK before he left for airport to go Beijing, and going back to sleep soon for The Appt tmr!)

Bringing My Little “Precious”(s) Back to Singapore

My last night in Houston ~ a place I called home for the last 22 weeks.

Sitting in my apartment, knowing I have a couple of hours more to pack my luggage before dawn breaks.  And tonight, Houston is snowing, the temperature outside is 1 deg celcius.  Am I not blessed… Houston snows approximately every 4 years and tonight it is snowing… my last evening in Houston.

I just got back … from sipping warm coffee near a cozy fire place, with nice company on a snowing winter night … hmm when I wrote this, I thought it was so beautiful, yes it was indeed, and I know I am indeed so blessed.  No more words needed. 

I have been staring at my apartment for a while now.  I put the valuables to one side so I remember to pack them, and my precious to another coz I will never leave them behind or trash them.

Leaving with me tomorrow are 7 little rats or mice I have received in Houston – 3 of them are of the same breed but have different shades, and a cartoon book.

rats-bkThis mousey was from BK when he visited me in Houston on 30 Oct.  It was his birthday the following day but I received the present instead.  This mousey flew in with him from Singapore…  Before this, we were apart for 17 weeks since the day he left for Singapore on 5 July 2008 after settling me in Houston.  

rats-psrThis mousey was from a special couple … interestingly I wondered why someone would make a cheese knife in the form of a mouse and gave it 2 ears and a long tail??!!  Isn’t it such a wonder…  a symbol of my friendship with the special couple which began less than 10 weeks ago.  And this mousey will certainly reside comfortably in my precious collection and will go nowhere near my car boot sales. 

rats-jennie-lThese mouseys were from Jennie.  She gave me 3 as the 3 symbolized the friendship between 3 friends who met in Houston – Jennie is Indonesian Chinese who has adopted Houston as her home, Rafaella from Brazil and I from Singapore … guess who the fair one represents, who loves to show her left profile?  The amazing thing was we were not even from the same batch but we graduated together and we shared many a moments together in the last 20 weeks. 

rats-liz

This mousey was from Elizabeth.  On the second last day of school – 26 Nov, she gave it to me before class started, and she said she found it over the weekend and she hoped I would like it.  Of course, and no doubt about it!  Liz was my first partner on my Day 1 at CIAML on 7 July 2008 … and knowing I am double her age and I would usually give in to her, she knew she could try many things on me 😉  Then she helped me matter of factly on many occasions.

rats-misshu

This mousey was from Missshu, who shipped it to me from Sydney.  It was the first mousey that accompanied me through a couple of weeks in Houston while I worked on the laptop.  What made it so special was she got this for me during a time when beautiful things were happening to her.  And she now knew what I meant, when I told her last year – when it happened, you would know it … with your heart!  

joys-book1

This mousey cartoon book was bought over amazon.com, when I was researching on sugar flower books for my wedding cake.  It detailed the traits of persons born in the year of Rat through the journey of Ralph the rat who rescued his friend using traits others frowned upon.

The conclusion of the book ~ People born in the Year of the Rat are ambitious, clever, and thrifty.  They are nimble, optimistic, and sensitive.  But sometimes they can be competitive and possessive.  Though they may be nosey and a little thin-skinned, rats are truly resourceful and trusty pals.

Traits can’t be generalized based on birth year alone, it takes a character to become who he really is.  Be.

Along the way … I met and made friends who shared significant moments of my life at this point or another and friends who continued to hold me dear even tho’ I decided to relocate to Houston and now I am relocating back to Singapore… and I truly believe this friendship will continue to hold us dear through the distance, wherever we are.

You know what, I am ready to go home.

Tipsy Turvy @ Chocolate Academy, Chicago

Day 1 ~  My head spun, and I had a bout of sinus and a night of throbbing headache all the way till this morning when I returned for Day 2;

Day 2 ~ My stomach couldn’t take it anymore and I sat in class stoned for the last 2 sampling.  I drank 2 bottles of mineral water.  Now it appeared I have upset my gastric and I am feeling some discomfort back in my apartment.

…  And the interesting thing is:

This could aptly describe my last 2 days in a Chocolate-Wine- Scotch pairing workshop at the Chocolate Academy by Barry Callebaut in Chicago.  For a start, I am a non-drinker;  I loved my 70% cacao dark chocolate and disliked the milk counterpart.   But I enjoyed myself, as almost always.

Back on Sunday 7 Dec, I flew into Chicago for the 2 day workshop on Monday and Tuesday.  The original plan when I first signed up for this course was that I was just stopping over in Chicago en route my UA flight back to Singapore.  Yes, leaving Houston for Singapore after completing and graduating from the Culinary Institute Alain and Marie LeNotre on 21 Nov.  And Barry Callebaut had just opened the Chocolate Academy in September 2008, the first Chocolate Academy in the US, and the 12th around the world.  But alas, I confirmed the course, but could not confirm my UA flight for the Chicago-Narita leg and Narita-Singapore leg till last week.  I decided to ditch the flight plan, fly back Singapore direct from Houston on Singapore Airlines instead, which mean I will fly back to Houston after my workshop in Chicago, and fly out from Houston to Singapore the following day.

I arrived into Chicago on Sunday, the temperature was sub-zero, about -7 deg celsius.  That evening I went for a walk along the river, I was dressed warm with a layer of cashmere, a sweater, a woolen coat and a windbreaker, completed with scarf and gloves.   But my ears were freezing … BK had brought me my woollen cap that didn’t match my coat, so I refused to use it, and I didn’t bring to Chicago ;~  Hee.   That evening I slept at 8pm, accumulated sleep debt again but it was good 8 hour sleep and I was wide awake at 4am.

I arrived at the Chocolate Academy @ W Chicago, a few blocks from my hotel.  I was met by Dora, she is the business manger and coordinator at the Chocolate Academy – Dora graduated from the French Pastry School and had previously worked in a number of hotels.  Then we were introduced to the instructor for the workshop – Chef Paul Feaver from Canada.  He had flown in the day earlier as well. 

Chef Feaver’s Introduction.  Chef Feaver lives in eastern Canada, and he works as a GM and chef at a restaurant.  His professional life revolves around being a GM of a restaurant business, and chef in charge for the restaurant,  instructor and ambassador for the Chocolate Academies in Canada and Chicago, and spend time researching and developing ideas and materials for new courses – he called it crazy schedule but he clearly enjoys the adrenaline rush and like he said or he will get bored.  He is the creator of this course, and this is the first time the course was ever conducted by the Chocolate Academy, so he encouraged us to ask him loads of questions, shared with him how we want to move along etc.  Depending on response, he may be creating advance follow up to the course but that could take at least another year – pairing choc with tequila, with beer etc.  And why chocolate and wine?  It was created by fluke – like all creations and discoveries, isn’t it? – he was at a trade show and the booth next to his was serving wine, he tried some with choc – some worked, some didn’t – and this was how it all started.  Then, he has been learning wine for the last 11 years already.  In his professional life, he was blessed with a 5 month break from restaurants and kitchens … where he spent time learning, and put things together.  He never liked Maths and Chemistry but now he enjoys them in a whole different scale.  Cool!  If our education system can be taught the same way, but again we may not be ready to appreciate the depth till we discover we are ready one fine day.  Now he get paid to enjoy what he likes.

More about Chef  Feaver ~ He is from New Finland(?), the most eastern part of North America.  He is of French, Scottish, and English origin (think I missed another part to this).  He spent 22 years in Opera, and 22 years in the industry, and … by 11 Dec he will be turning 38!    He said, go do the Math.

Six of us attended the sessions:  Jill and Lori from Pair Chocolates – they are already pairing chocolate and wine in their business working for their company but were at the session to learn more;  Eric, Assistant Pastry Chef from Hyatt Orlando;  Neil – a wine enthusiast who would like to own his choc and wine business;  And Rieko – a choc business owner who previously attended the French Pastry School and now supplies luxury chocolate to airlines, corporate and  sales.  Had a chance to speak at length to some of them … inspiring indeed.

What we learnt during the 2 days?  Nosing and tasting, more nosing and tasting, and more …  The first thing in eating is nosing, as the smell goes over the tongue first, Chef Feaver said.  The hardest is getting over something we personally do not like but it is not all about Me?, it is about the consumers we are serving.  In learning, Chef Feaver reinforced there is never a failure, never a mistake if we learn from it, it is always a learning process … quoting Thomas Edison in his discovery of light bulbs – we will learn the ways not to do to make it work.  In the process of teaching, he shared that he does not know everything, he is learning continuously from his students too, so he is also a student at the same time, he will continuously learn or he will get bored.

The 5 Primary Elements of Tastes.  1.  Sweet.  2.  Salty.  3.  Bitter.  4.  Sour.  5.  … and he excluded Rieko and me from the question he posed to the class as Asians has the taste in our culture.  Huh?  The 5th basic taste is Umami– a Japanese term – a fresh, cleansing taste … Chef Feaver said it is a clarifying taste, the process of blending things together, a negative spice …  To me, I have always accepted as part of our cooking and I never thought it was unique to Asians and I must have heard of this term but I don’t remember it.  Now I do.  He gave us a secret ingredient – a negative spice – to neutralize the taste if we add too much of one component in our recipe (so it shall remain a secret here!  I am not telling unless you are my worthy friend ;p).  Like Rieko, I enjoy and will continue to experiment with pairing Asian ingredients to the basic recipes I have learnt.  It is fun.

Day 1.  After a morning of theory on Chocolate and profiles of specific grapes … Chef Feaver said “Let’s go for lunch now, before we come back and … drink!”  To laughter.  And it was the beginning of more laughter the whole afternoon through and a hilarious session.  For choc-wine pairing, we were to pair both choc and wine profile that balance and equalise.

“Nose the wine, nose the choc, then eliminate, then tasting them, it will be more accurate” … ‘Don’t make it too complex in taste” … “Always pick choc, then pick the wine” … “First sip to cleanse, second sip to taste” … “2 ways to clear and refresh your senses – 1. coffee beans.  2. … smell yourself” (oh!! … Reason being that our body smell is something we are used to and is neutral to us, so when we smell ourselves, it makes the mind go blank and relax, which numbs and clears our senses from other smells … interesting!) … “if you are serving a flight of wine for tasting, always starts from mildest to heaviest … if you put champagne, that is the first thing to taste”…

By 5th testing of white wine, and 1 more to go … I was sniffling.  Chef Feaver said the wine must have set off my histamines and my sinuses started acting up.  I was feeling cold, my face flushed.  “You ok?”  Chef Feaver asked, and the class laughed.  Neil, seated next to me, asked me to drink more water.  In getting our response to a question he asked, the Chef said to the class, “What did you see in front of me?”  I see *Stars!… to more laughter, he was expecting us to say “chocolate”.  Then we have 3 red wine tasting to go, the first one must have set off an allergic reaction – my skin showed red pores, and my skin started to itch.  Chef Feaver identified that I may be allergic to the sulfide, the preservative which is not present in white wine or melalactic acid, which is present in red wine.  Other than these differences, the white has no stem, no seed, and no skin added.  

For someone who doesn’t like milk chocolates, you are doing pretty well.”  I think my mind is confused, chef… more laughter.  He explained that our concept of milk chocolate come from candies … he would let children eat directly from a bag of chocolate anytime – will not set off any hyperactive reactions etc, choc being 10x more antioxidants to red wine and berries.  During the pairing session, I tried 3 types of milk chocolate – Ghana Milk (Cacao Barry 40.5%), Arriba (Callebaut 39%), Java (Callebaut 32%), still can’t say I like them on its own compared to the dark chocolate but I do like specific wine and milk chocolate pairing.  I actually enjoy them.

By the end of the session on Day 1 … “Chef, I can’t hear you…” … “Chef, whatever you say, can you say it again?” … I was no longer thinking … and I guessed I repeated the requests a couple of times, to more laughter.  I will, and next time I’ll record it, referring to the sames classes he will be conducting again twice in April.  Jill joked that she wished she could put me on candid camera or YouTube.

Then I noticed that other than the 6 + 3 + 1 wine glasses we each had a set and used, there was a carafe left untouched at the end of the session.  I asked “Chef, why did you give us a carafe?” … It is meant for you to spit in it!Huh? None of us did, we had tasted and drank the wine.  Referring the the Choc-Scotch session we would be having the next day – “I would need to repeat more times for tomorrow“, more laughter.  Chef, I would not be here tomorrow though I will be physically here… again more laughter.  As Chef Feaver does this as part of his job – wine tasting and pairing, he usually noses the wine and chocolate for pairing elimination and decision before he actually tastes the wine and chocolate for confirmation. 

The class laughed a lot on the first day, I was not sure if we were drunk, or we were happy and enjoying the session, or we laughed in reaction to words said … a combo, I guessIt was hilarious!

At the end of the class, I was already stoned.  I had walked closer to the chef to take a closer look at his full name to research on him, I looked at his chef jacket, then I looked at it again.  He laughed, it appeared that I had to repeat my actions twice to focus.  Then I took another 10 minutes to get dressed into my warm clothes, my head throbbing.  I decided to walk back to the hotel, the cold air did some good to clear my head.

Back in my apartment, I was sneezing, my head was still throbbing.  I had wanted to update my journal entry … I couldn’t think, … my eyes were puffy from the sinus reaction.  I knocked out, sitting in front of my laptop.

~

Woke up at 5, then 6, then finally at 7 … my head was heavy, and I just felt I need to sleep more.

Day 2.  More questions.  I asked about wine as a filling in choc … use fondant with the alcohol … suspension and syrup to reduce alcohol % … ganache … buttercream … gelatin etc.  I have to read more on this, as I don’t quite get the chemistry.  Chef Feaver also introduced us to Choc-a-latte, which we can use for sorbet, cream, liquid etc – it is a thick liquid form of chocolate.

A morning on theory of Scotch.  My eyes were still having a handover from the previous day.  All Scotch are whisky, and not all whisky are Scotch, Scotch being whisky produced in Scotland, just like how champagne and cognac were named.  In US, there is an “e” in “whisky” which made it “whiskey”, identifying its origin in US.  In Canada, there is a whisky called Rye(?) – the only whisky made from 100% rye grain. … The biggest markets for whisky are China and Japan.  Hmm.

Chef Feaver demo briefly on chocolate tempering before we proceeded to have lunch.  I got to see for the first time the types of machines available in the chocolate lab at the Chocolate Academy – Tempering, enrobers, robot-coupe vacuum machine, cutter.

After lunch, more nosing and tasting of Scotch … and nosing and pairing with the “right” chocolate.  “Right” being subjective, though an ideal pairing will enhance the taste and feel and there is usually one that has the best fit.  The nosing of Scotch hit the sensory hard, some sting my nose, my eyes teared, one shot to my head … and tasting, I didn’t like the burning sensation as the liquor triggered down my throat, and literally I only tasted with the tip and my tongue and I hardly swallowed.  There were 8 Scotches but 9 whiskys, I stopped at #6 … even though I thought I did pretty well in the nosing, tasting and choc-Scotch pairing initially … my stomach was burning and I didn’t feel very well.  Ate more bread, more chocolate.

The class was very enriching with loads of information.  I have so much to learn.  At the end of the session, we were each presented with a certificate of attendance, a tour of the store, and our choice of 1 x 2.5kg pack of chocolate – nice, my choice – Togo (Callebaut 61.3%), a dark choc balanced with a light gingerbread taste and a goodie bag of more materials on chocolate, machines and molds.  Nice!

~

Before I left for the day, I had a chat with Rieko, I would have loved to visit her business and learn from her.  She spoke to me briefly about the chocolate machines she uses too – she had preferred the machines which were French made, but the after sales service were limited in the US, so she uses Italian made.  Then Dora arranged for me to have a machine intro session with Chef Jerome Landriau.  Chef Jerome is the technical advisor for the Chocolate Academy, he joined the Chocolate Academy direct from Paris.  During our brief introduction and conversation, he introduced me to the use of the machines and their applications in the chocolate business, and the best way to learn is to learn from a great confectionary shop which uses the machines to produce the chocolates in quantities and possibly move to another for a few months, he provided me a contact to learn more about chocolate in Paris. 

When I left the Chocolate Academy, it was snowing heavily.  There was apparently a weather advisory issued for schools this afternoon.  The heavy snowing weather was a good experience for me though, yeah I was out there only for a short time since I hopped into a taxi after a 5 minute wait, couldn’t say I liked to have my head wet once the snow melted.  Got back to the hotel, rested a little to make sure my stomach was ok, and I went out to catch a quick dinner.  This time round, it appeared to be raining lightly instead.  The cold didn’t bother me much, as again I was layered comfortably except for my head.

Then I knocked out soon after and woke up at 11pm.  Now is 4am, and I hope to catch a wink to enjoy the bed a little before I wake up in an hour to pack, have a good waffle or biscuit meat pattie & egg breakfast before I leave for the airport at 7.15pm.

I am glad I made the trip here.  Being in downtown, even though I didn’t move around much, I enjoyed the walk, the weather, and the experience here.  Trust I will be back another time to actually experience the place and the pastry business.  One negative though – the drivers here are worse than those in Houston Ha.  I am looking forward to be back in Houston, my last chance to pack everything into my baggage allowance and intended excess baggage, clear my apartment and be all ready for my flight home to Singapore.  Yes, and hopefully a relaxing breakfast date before I leave Houston for home.

Reading Life’s Journeys … (completed)

I spent most of my time reading ~ even when I am shopping, munching pastries and sipping coffee, lazing about in my apartment, waiting for BK to finish his wind-surfing during weekends while in Singapore, in between actions …

This is a simple book that caught my eyes yesterday, found it in a half price book store at Rice Village:  Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers… by Fred Rogers 

Selective phrases resonate in me –  which I strongly believe in in living my life , and some which set me thinking ~ which I will hold them dear to live my life.  These 2 I did not separate…

Foreword by Joanne Roger

1.   …  always allowed each other to have own space … but even when we were apart, we were connected ~ pp4.

2.  …  had a heart that had room for everyone, and … fascinated by other people’s journeys ~ pp5.

3.  …  “we” and “our” – … so much a part of my ongoing journey ~ pp6.

As late Fred Rogers shared:

Who You Are Right Now

1.  … that I’m more able to accept myself as I happen to be, rather than as somebody thought I should be ~ pp 13.

2.  … the discovery of “who I am” in each of us – the “who I am” in relation to all those whom I meet ~ pp 14.

3.  … we all need to feel that we can bring the whole of ourselves to the people who care about us ~ pp 16.

4.  … if we can allow ourselves to be gentle with ourselves no matter what our feeling may be, we have the chance of discovering the very deep roots of who we are ~ pp 25.

5.  … “~ (need to refer again, can’t understand what I wrote too)” Quoting Dalai Lama ~ pp 26.

6.  … “I can do almost anything, but I’m still myself, I’m still myself, I am still myself inside…” Quoting song I’m Still Myself Inside  ~  pp 28.

7.  … people can like you exactly as you are  ~ pp 29.

8.  … nobody else can live the life you live… we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to life  ~  pp 31.

9.  … we were never made to feel that we had to be somebody that we were not, yet we were always encouraged to choose to be the best of who we were at the moment ~ pp 35.

10. …  there’s a part of all of us that longs to know that even what’s weakest about us is still redeemable and can ultimately count for something good ~ pp 36.

11.  …  And one reason we feel shy is that we’re not sure people will like us just the way we are ~ pp 37.

12  …  It’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are.  Of course, it’s the opposite that’s true:  What we are determines what we do! ~  pp 44.

13.  …  people of all ages have deep feelings, and if we have the patience to wait through the silence, it’s often astounding what people will tell us  ~  pp 45.

14.  …  some of us must have forgotten how nourishing silence can be … whatever it’s called, it’s time away form outside stimulation, during which inner turbulence can settle, and we have a chance to become familiar with ourselves  ~ pp 47.

15.  …  “L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” ~ The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery  ~ pp 54.

Loving and Being Loved

1.  …  anyone who has ever been able to sustain good work has had at least one person – and often many – who have believed in him or her.  We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others  ~  pp 65.

How true.  With my persistence held strong, I made one attempt after another … I ventured new grounds ~ all ‘coz someone believed that I am better than the self I judged, all ‘coz I heard “you can do it”… Joy

2.  …  as relationship matures, you start to see that just being there for each other is the most important thing you can do …  ~ pp 68.

3.  …  the best gifts are often wrapped in the most unspectacular way … isn’t it the “heartsurprise” that lingers in your memory and serves to nourish you from year to year?  ~  pp 69.

4.  …  there is something so comforting to realize that life goes on one way or another – even when those we love are way beyond our sight  ~  pp 71.

(con’t from my break…)

5.  …  coz deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves.  What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then  ~  pp 73.

I hold this close to my heart ~ I smiled when I saw the smile from her eyes from the small wins in class, I smiled wider when I knew how the wins made her day – I was happy and I scored a bigger win too.  It is definitely more satisfying than the solitude of winning all alone.  Joy

6.  …  every human being has value … through living each day as it is given to me, I’ve learned that.  It cannot be “taught”, but it can be “caught” from those who live their lives right along with us.  What a privilege to be able to look for the good in our neighbour!  ~  pp 76.

7.  …  we speak with more than our mouths.  We listen with more than our ears  ~  pp 79.

8.  …  feeling good about ourselves is essential in our being able to love others  ~  pp 86.

9.  …  it’s so great that people can be in a relationship with each other for the now and not a whole lot of baggage from their past and a whole lot of anxiety about the future to the present moment  ~  pp 90.

10.  …  there is a close relationship between truth and trust  ~  pp 93.

11.  …  where would any of  us be without teachers – without people who have passion for their art or their science or their craft and love it right in front of us?  What would any of us do without teachers passing on to us what they know is essential about life  ~  pp 94.

12.  …  the receiving in life to me is one of the greatest gifts that we give another person.  And it’s very hard.  Because when you give, you’re in much greater control.  But when you receive something – you’re vulnerable  ~  pp 97.

This is one area I need to continuously work on.  I love to give, and it is more natural to me …  By being a poor receiver, I made things awkward for the giver sometimes.  I have improved, I learnt to smile and say “thank you” for each compliment, each gift, each blessing… I learnt to let the giver know I truly appreciate the gift.  Joy

13.  …  all of us – were created by LOVE.  Love with a capital L.  And we spend our lives trying to recognize that we truly are lovable and capable of loving  ~  pp 100.

BK and I believe in living our lives with Love.  Love drives us crazy sometimes, or do we call it passion?  Love resonates in us like a rhythm, it moves up and down  … it gives the heart beat to every friendship we value, every action we took.  Joy 

14.  …  if you’re trusted, then people will allow you to share their inner garden – what greater gift!  ~  pp 101

Guided Drift

1.  …  there’s often a tendency for us to hurry through transitions.  We may feel that these transitons are "nowhere at all" compared to what’s gone before or what we anticipate is next to come.  But you are somewhere … you’re “between”  ~  pp 106.

2.  …  isn’t it mysterious how so many wonderful things in life come to us seemingly without our planning?  We start travelling down one street, and we find ourselves interested in something we never expected on a side street; and as we explore it, the side street becomes the main road for us  ~  pp 107.

I came to understand, from each present position I set my future, I only continue in my present position.  But if I start moving along and explore beyond, I find new inspirations, meet new people who share my journey, break the rules and savour the present moments.  Joy 

3.  …  “what do you think that means, ‘ the past is prologue’?” … I think it means, “Man, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”  ~  pp 110.

4.  …  when you can actually integrate what you’ve learned with your own personality – when you can actually use your education to be who you want to be, to choose out of that mixed bag of explorations what you want to call yourself.  That’s when your education adds an extra measure of excitement!  ~  pp 115.

5.  …  there is much more to independence than learning to master new skills.  One fo the most important parts of independence is learning to form new relationships with other people  ~  pp 120.

6.  …  there are time when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don’t seem to help  ~  pp 122.

7.  …  it may be that the most important mastery we achieve early on is not the mastery of a particualr skill or particular piece of knowledge, but rather the mastery of the patience and persistence that learning requires, along with the ability to expect and accept mistakes and the feelings of disappointment they may bring  ~  pp 123.

8.  …  try your best to make goodness attractive.  That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given  ~  pp 136.

9.  …  we don’t always succeed in what we try – certainly not by the world’s standards – but i think you’ll find it’s the willingness to keep trying that matters most  ~  pp 139.

10.  …  in fact, no one gets to be a graduate without the investment of other people:  people who have loved you all along the way  ~  pp 147.

I believe in living my life journey and in sharing this journey with all who trust me – I have been inspired by great individuals and in turn I seek to continuously inspire & give.  Joy