Category Archives: About Chefs, Pastries & Bakes, Recipes

Japanese Pan @ ABC Culinary

One of the highlights of my recent visit to Osaka, Japan was to meet up with Sachiko.  Where would you like to go?  I can spend time with you on my off days on 3, 6, 9 April.  Sachiko wrote in her email exchange with me prior my travel.

I got to know Sachiko along the streets in Adelaide in 1997.  Both of us were travelling alone ~ she on a 6 month working holiday (ie. work while travel) in Australia and New Zealand, and I was on 2 week holiday in Adelaide.  Since then, we visited each other’s country and home and had travelled within Japan and around Singapore together.

I would like to make Japanese bread!  I told her I would like to visit a Japanese pastry kitchen but since it was not going to happen, I was going to learn to make bread instead.  I found a culinary website by ABC Culinary, it conducts casual classes but I couldn’t understand the content in Japanese.  So Sachiko made the enquiries and we registered ourselves for Japanese pan (pan = bread in Nihon-go) making class for 500 yen.  500 yen?  Is it just demo?  500 yen is equivalent to US$5, and I was doubtful.  Yes.  Sachiko confirmed it cost only 500 yen and the session was hands-on.  The promotion price was meant for first time attendees at ABC Culinary Studio, as an incentive to understand their courses and join their membership and sign up for certification courses.  All the classes were conducted in Japanese, Sachiko told me she would translate for me.  Ha!

On that day of lesson, we were to bring our own apron, a pair of indoor slippers and a towel.

The Topic:  Mayonnaise Egg Pan and Cranberry Pan.

abc-culinary

We met at Umeda branch of ABC Culinary Studio.  We were introduced to our Instructor, Yamaguchi-san.  Actually both of us didn’t catch her name, I translated her Japanese name in kanji from the photo.  It turned out that Yamaguchi-san speaks Japanese, English and Italian, and pretty fluent in them even though she humbly pronounced her insufficiency in the foreign languages.  It was interesting because Sachiko had picked up Italian language too, spending a half year in Italy a few years ago to learn the language.

The group ratio was 1 instructor to maximum 5 students.  In our session that day, there were only 2 of us.  All the different sessions for bread and cakes were ongoing at the same time in an open concept.  One working table was shared by 2 sessions.  Initially I was surprised, then I realized it was possible because the Japanese are generally considerate in their manners and behaviour. 

The recipe was in Japanese, so Sachiko helpfully translated for me loosely over dinner later.  I had also taken some notes during the session so it helped.  The steps were simple – mix all the ingredients together, knead well, 1st proof, roll into balls, 2nd proof, form the shape, 3rd proof, into oven done.  Over the 2 hours there, the proofing time was a time for coffee break, chit chat and washing the equipment used.  I was joking to Sachiko that I felt like a Japanese housewife instead of a student.

I shared my observation with Sachiko – I noticed the instructors and students acted in manner so different from the speed and actions in the kitchens I am familiar with, whether at CIAML, at home or the hotel.  Take for example, the act of egg washing the final bread dough, the action was meticulously slow and looked nice.   Sachiko told me that in their society, they are conscious of what others thought of their actions and behaviour.  We both agreed though that as long as we are doing right in principles we do not really need to bother too much.

At the end of the session, we each ate 2 breads, and got to bring back 3 others in varieties.  It was an interesting way to interact with a friend other than the meals we shared together.  I also learnt a basic Asian bread dough to make, bake and eat all within 2 hours.  Cool!

My Fascination with A Simple Sponge Cake ~ Castella!

I have this fascination with a simple sponge cake I found in Japan.  It is Castella or to the Japanese, Kasutera (カステラ).  It is Portuguese in origin but the Japanese made it popular … or rather it originated from pão-de-ló, a portuguese cake.  Most of the castella cake businesses started in Nagasaki, a port town in Kyushu, and which was naturally influenced by imports from foreign ships in its early days.

~ Original Castella Cake from Fukusaya ~

~ Original Castella Cake from Fukusaya ~

 

 

In my first few weeks at CIAML, I asked Chef Sebastien about this cake.  I guess Castella is not popular outside Japan.  The other country where Castella is popular is Taiwan, since the country was previously occupied by Japanese for years in her history.  I wanted to know how the cake can be so evenly baked and cut.  I passed Chef a cd containing a pix of the cake, and a summary of some information I found on the net, and I believed he has not viewed the file on the cd yet.  Ha! 

During my recent trip to Osaka, I bought one from Fukusaya for BK and myself, and another bigger one to bring to the hotel where I was last attached to.  To many, it was just a 蛋糕,literally mean Egg cake.  Oh well, it is.  It is a sponge cake made of  sugar, flour and eggs, and starch syrup(?).  The original version is honey-flavoured.  Now it comes with Matcha flavoured and Cocoa flavoured.  Most of the pastry team at the hotel gobbled the cake before a second look, while a few appreciated the cake for the texture, taste, and simplicity.  Do you have the recipe?  The Pastry Chef asked.  I believed it is widely available on the net, it was the precision in baking resulting in a evenly flat cake and the packaging that made this cake special, at least to me.

I simply love it ~ a simple, honest and perfectly baked moist piece of art.   

 

Castella evenness

~ Castella evenness ~

It is a perfect cut!

BK and I shared half the cake over supper one night with hot milo, a local chocolate drink.  Then I got to finish the rest for breakfast over the last 2 mornings, because I got to wake up later than him to have a leisurely breakfast.  A light sugar crunch on the bottom, a subtle honey flavour, a light evenly fluffy texture, with a perfect flat brown top.

And the packaging ~ yes, you can trust the work of Japanese packaging.  Meticulously wrapped and boxed to keep the cubiod cake intact.

~ part of the packaging ~

~ part of the packaging ~

img_9716_1

~ Castella box ~

I didn’t manage to take a picture of the full packaging, I was all ready to taste a huge mouthful.  Then another.  And another.

 

~ Matcha Castella from Bunmeido ~

~ Matcha Castella from Bunmeido ~

I searched in my digital pix collection and found a pix of the full packaging of a Matcha flavoured Castella I bought last year from Narita Airport, Japan.  I was transiting at the airport enroute from California to Singapore, and found the matcha version from 文明堂, or Bunmeido.  The Bunmeido version was pre-cut, also evenly. 

It is definitely not going to be my last bite for this simple sponge cake.  It was perfect-o!  My fascination continues

Christmas Cheers from the Pastry Kitchen

I stayed up to post these pix and update my journal entries… fell asleep at my laptop halfway … now wide awake at 3.10am in the morning.  Will complete this entry and catch a few winks before I wake up for another new day in the pastry kitchen.  Look forward to each day, as always – it all begins in the mind.

This is my first time working in a real pastry kitchen, and I enjoyed the busi-ness and cheers of the Christmas season as a pastry staff in a hotel pastry kitchen ~ these pix paint a thousand words …

christmas-buffet

christmas-decor

I joined the pastry team during the time when they were in the thick of action prepping for Christmas.  There were lots to do and learn.  I minimally learnt at least a new recipe each day, and the Sous Chef ensured that, somehow.  I am thankful, indeed.  I enjoyed working with the team very much – very giving in spirit, and it was not limited to the Christmas season, for sure.

Christmas buffet started from 1 December 2008 – buffet plates were decorated with coloured sprinkles, sugared snowman, sugared Santas, sugared deers, chocolate stars, chocolate Christmas trees, snow powdered “snowland”, Christmas colours of green, red, white, even gold, … Merry Christmas tags etc – and the last day these decor were used was on 4 Jan 2009.  New year buffet menu started on 5 Jan.

Chocolates were done in the chocolate room, by a dedicated staff.  A staff will be allocated to the chocolate room on average 6 month rotation basis.  Chocolate decorations were always ready when we needed them, we just need to pick and choose from the chocolate drawers in the various cabinets in the chocolate room.   The staff will see to specific chocolate order request too.  Pralines were not done in the hotel, but ordered from a luxurious French chocolate brand.

panettone

During one of the chef’s meeting with EPC called regularly in the pastry kitchen – usually in the afternoon about 3pm when 2 shifts are present – EPC rewarded the pastry team with a Panettone specially flown in from Italy.  A full 10kg load of Panettone … wow.  EPC shared that we do not have the fresh yeast in Singapore to proof a Panettone of such volume.  Light and airy.  In the past, I might just eat the breads and cakes, without thinking that each had a name and not realizing these were available only during Christmas.  I started to be aware and pay attention, and take interest.  At another chef’s meeting, we shared a medium size version.  The small ones were retailed as Christmas items.  Took a pix with EPC, he said I could share the pix with my friends 😉

log-cake-piping

One afternoon, I was asked to help out at the Banquet/Function team with Yule log cakes.  I was happy to get the opportunity even though I was just scratching the lines on the buttercream for the logs, coz Christmas only happened once a year and these tasks were not done on daily basis.  The team was hard at work till Christmas day as no order was rejected.  Possibly due to a slow down in economy, up till a few days before Christmas, orders for the Christmas items were below plan as well as below that of prior year.  Kudos to the effort by the sales team, and the pastry team working behind the scene, the final tally of Yule log cakes sold was at least comparable to previous year. 

christmas-celebration for kitchen team

On 23 Dec afternoon, a Christmas celebration was organized by the Director of Kitchen for all kitchen staff – both hot and pastry kitchen.  Definitely a good spread cooked by the main kitchen for all.  For once, wine and champagne were allowed during working hours.  We took turns to celebrate as the pastry kitchen were still in the thick of prepping for Christmas.  Took this opportunity to have a pix taken with the pastry chef as well as the Director of Kitchen.

christmas-in the pastry kitchen

christmas-fun-time in the kitchen

I worked on Christmas day for the first time in my years of working, and voluntarily so, to experience the Christmas brunch crowd and the special brunch spread that we prepared.  I realized most staff in the hospitality industry worked during the festive as these are critical business period.  The pastry team had a Christmas celebration in the pastry kitchen on the eve or rather at the wee hours of Christmas day.  I was not present – my family had a Christmas gathering at home, and I chose my working hours to end around evenings on a daily basis so that I can spend time with BK after his work.  On Christmas day, we celebrated a staff’s birthday with an ice cream cake made by the “ice-cream man” in house – yes, like the dedicated staff for the chocolate room, the pastry team has a dedicated staff for the ice cream room, also on a six month rotation basis.  For those of us who were not present during the pastry team Christmas eve celebration, we received our exchange of gift through lucky draw.  For the gift, which each of us was to contribute a gift no less than S$13 and it must be unisex, I received a belt, which the pastry chef wore it for fun and joked that it was a wrestler’s belt.  Lots of laughter that day.

Christmas …  It was a great time to start with the pastry team indeed.  Definitely a busy time – lots to do and learn, with volume and repetitions – yet only over a limited period after which menu were changed for the new year and again, more to learn … it was a fun time too!

Ain’t I lucky?  I am indeed thankful …  Cheers.

fruit-tarts

Colourful Fruit Tartlets for One of the Private Functions

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.

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.