Category Archives: Chef-students / classmates

My Dear Visited Me in Houston …

(This entry was started on Sunday, 2 November… and never got completed till now … even now seems to be forever…

I wrote the above on Wed, 5 November, and now is already 8th …  This is the longest stretch I have not updated my journal entry, I have 2 other updates but let me finish my wedding cake first – it is due next Tuesday.)


2 November 2008, 10pm

BK called to say he had just arrived into the hotel in Boston, he would be in Boston for the next 2 weeks.  And he would be back for my graduation in 3 weeks time. 


How time flies … We had a chat while he was driving yesterday – even though I miss the familiarity of home and having him around, I already miss the familiar warmth and faces of the many people I met at the culinary institute whenever I thought of leaving Houston in a couple of weeks time.  The strange feeling is that for the many people I got to know in last 17 weeks, we may never meet again.  For a few others, there is always a probability our path will cross again.  I feel sad whenever this thought comes about… 

30 October 2008, 8.30pm, at the Culinary Institute

BK flew into Houston to join me on Thursday 30 October.  When he arrived late afternoon, he spent some time working on an online test which was due by midnight for his product training the following week, he was to score at least 85 points??!!  That evening, he drove me to the culinary institute and I just had to introduce him to my Chefs – both Chef Philippe and Chef Sebastien.  I guess both Chefs have huge influence on me and my work during my learning at the culinary institute.  BK remembered the 2 Chefs by sight from his last visit in July when we first arrived in Houston. 

Earlier in the morning, Chef Philippe asked if I would be attending class the following day.  Yes.  That question never crossed my mind.  That evening, Chef Philippe again told me (us) that if I were to miss class the next day, I could make up the class the following Tuesday with Jill who would miss Friday Chocolate Final with her trip home to Colorado.  I would be in class on Friday, and I was darn sure about it.  BK knew and understood I took my objectives too seriously to miss a single day of learning, and he wasn’t expecting me to take time off either – he had wanted to sleep in at the apartment as it was barely 48 hours after his return from his 2 weeks of reservist training in Australia that he boarded the flight to Houston, with his work objectives to accomplish as well.  That night, I fell asleep while waiting for him to fulfill at least 85 points for his online test by midnight.  He scored 81 and was too tired to try again.

31 October 2008, 2pm, at the Culinary Institute

Sarah asked if BK would be joining for lunch, and if they would get to meet him.  I would like him to meet my classmates too – friends I made and spent the last couple of weeks with at the culinary institute.  Indeed, he came, joined us at the lunch room, they met, we chatted and now he got to put a face to things I shared with him ~ and they were surprised I had only shared good things about each of them … but of course – somehow I view many things positively coz I strongly believe things happened for some good reasons.  BK was wondering who Krystine was – our youngest Bébé in class – and soon she popped into the Pastry Lab with a big smile.

It was BK’s 38th Birthday … and it was Chef Philippe’s 36th Birthday.  They wished each other a Happy Birthday!


~ with the hibiscus bouquet borrowed from Elizabeth ~

~ with the hibiscus bouquet borrowed from Elizabeth ~


31 October 2008, after class

Of course, we have got to go Swirl for yogurt.  Asked Jennie and Rafaella to join, both couldn’t come along – Rafa had pedi-mani appointment, and Jennie said she was too full from lunch??  I don’t like ice cream but I love the taste of the refreshing yogurt (not the tart and fruit range though, except for lemon), topped with a load of palm seed and some pecan nuts … and the relaxing environment…  I just have to bring him there.  Then he went with me to Sur La Table to replace my thermometer…  then back to the apartment for an afternoon nap.  BK has severe sleep debt from last 2 weeks of reservist training.  We finally got up at 8.15pm, oops!… our dinner reservation at Rudi Lechner’s was at 8pm.  Nevermind, we were easy and arrived at 9pm.

Dinner at Rudi Lechner’s was pleasant and comfy, accompanied by live country music.  It is a wonder that the restaurant has been in operation for 33 years and still get good crowds in the evenings.  We had a chat with Chef-owner Rudi – he came out to meet us after we inquired about his tableside dessert.  He asked about my background, and recommended me a book to read for inspiration ~ Bread Alone.  We decided that the next time we visit Rudi Lechner’s, we would only savour desserts, no room for main course.  Tableside dessert will be done by Chef Rudi himself ~ at the tableside!  Order must be place 24hr in advance so that he can plan the slots.  This time, we ate too much of the main (and it was a platter for one?), and had no room for dessert.

After dinner, at the exit, we met Susy, Barry and their son Alex – they were passionate about food and recommended us a Mexican restaurant Teotihuacan and a Mexican Bakery Cafe Rustika.  They told us that even though Chef Rudi came from Austria and serves German food, his restaurant has since adapted his food to American-German since it first opened.  Hmm… the full name of the restaurant is Rudi Lechner’s German American Restaurant?  We planned to keep in contact, as 17 year old Alex may pursue his graduate course in Singapore in the future.

1 November 2008, 10am


We had just celebrated BK’s birthday with a home-made cake, yup 1 day late since I fell asleep the night earlier.  We planned to go to Matt Family Orchard, only persimmons were in season.  It was about an hour drive to Tomball.  We picked a total of 33 persimmons, and I only contributed a precious 1;p  The tool used was a long bamboo with an attached metal basket at the top end.  We were supposed to push upwards, not downwards to prevent injury to the tree  It looked easy but I left all the picking to BK after a tedious one… and a ripened fell as well and splashed me with its pulp … ha!  The weather was warm compared to the week earlier, so I wouldn’t say it was exactly comfortable picking the fruits.  But it was a great feeling picking fresh fruits.




Once done, we had intended a trip to Spring, but I could see that BK was tired and sleepy at the wheel, so we decided to return to Houston to enjoy Coco’s Crepes @ Gray Street.  We had savory crepes this time, and sat al frescoNice.  We love to nua (laze about, do nothing) at pastry cafes … rather it started that I love to do that, and he got influenced by me (I guess he chose to join me and soon grew to like the feel … and the company as well ;p) and we enjoy cafes with casual atmosphere where we can empty our mind and get inspired ;p  Back at the apartment, it was own time own target.  habaneroWe skipped dinner … not really, we replaced a cooked meal with “junk food” – Tostitos tortilla chips + Spicy Mango habenero sauce, recommended and given by Krystine… Yum!  BK said the the “junk food” recommended by Krystine was yummy!

2 November 2008, 9am

BK left for his flight to Boston at about 3pm.  That morning, he joined me at Rustika Cafe, a Mexican Bakery Cafe.  With him around, I could try more things.  He liked stronger tasting and richer food and he had a Mexican seafood lunch – the red snapper with the sauce tasted really good, the mexican rice was not the usual I like with tomato base.  I ordered mushroom tacos, it came with a nice salad.  I also tried spinach empanada – the crust was just so so.  Usually on my own, I could only try one thing and I reserve that for pastry.  I read while he was supposed to be reading his notes for his product training … but he was surfing the net for F1 updates instead :~  It is quiet time for us as usual in pastry cafe.  It is nice to have him around, the only side effect is I eat and munch too much!  The few days he was here, I deviated from my dinner of veggies for Texan cheesesteak, German meat platter etc … I told him I will cook the next time he is here, ok … at least once or twice … it is difficult for me to digest the type and portion of food when we eat out.  But it was enjoyable … I tend to munch more too! 

Before he left, he tasted the sweetness of his labour – persimmons.  Hmm, they were sweet surprisingly, just like the orchard owner Matt told us … I never liked the fruit coz I thought they have a bitter taste…



A week has passed since he left, I was too pre-occupied with finals.  See him soon in a week’s time … which also mean my graduation week … the feeling is so mixed – it is indeed possible to be happy and sad.


On A Sweet Note

Tuesday, 21 October 2008 

The pastry buffet was served during lunch today.  Within minutes that lunch was served following the presentation of the cuisine and pastries, the dessert table was almost empty.  A total of 180 dessert petit fours were prepared for the dessert buffet.  Woh ~ 

The dessert buffet was part of resource project for Pastry Arts Level 2.  I still remembered I was amazed at the Pastry Buffet which was prepared by the previous class of Jennie, Rafa, Nicole and Abigail about 10 weeks ago …  I can still vividly picture the desserts which were served – velvet spray on Jennie’s, a chocolate cup in Rafa’s, a layered cake by Abigail, and macaroon & choc mousse in a cup from Nicole.  I was in level 1 then, and with full admiration, I wondered then what would mine be, and I was defnitely cluelesscould I achieve that within weeks?  I wondered indeed.  It is sort of an incredible feeling looking at all the creations we had today … it is a definite beginning for all of us.

We started researching the project about 3 weeks back.  It all started with a visit to the resource centre, explored the links on the ciaml pastry blogspot as well as the pastry magazines Chef Philippe recommended.  The first objective was to find an idea we fancied and discussed with Chef on feasibility … and developed the ideas based on the season, the design, the temperature, texture and taste.  Chef advised that since these are petit fours which should be eaten in a few quick bites, we were to create volume to the pastries.  I enjoyed coming up with ideas within the boundaries of briefing provided by Chef.

Back then, my first thought was to experiment with Matcha (green tea), a popular Japanese flavour, and the green pastries will add a dash of colour to the pastry showcase.  I had seen a picture of a matcha opera cake from a Japanese bakery in Paris on the website.  Matcha is an acquired taste, and not many bakeries in Singapore do good matcha cakes, I have had one which I thought to have a balanced taste and it was from Sun Moulin Bakery.  My first impression of the design I fancied was approved by Chef.  I ditched the matcha idea for a safer taste – mango mousse with dark chocolate.  Last week when we submitted the plan to chef, I couldn’t decide if I should go ahead with mango or bananas with dark chocolate.  Chef’s recommendation was that bananas were more suited for plated desserts – bananas tend to become mushy when cooked, discoloured easily, and the taste on its own may not be distinct when coupled with chocolate.

I comtemplated for half a week before my final submission.  I decided to go ahead with bananas.  Chef let me make my choice.  I heard, understood and respect Chef’s advice, no doubt about it.  I decided to give bananas a go for 2 reasons – back home, bananas are in abundance and are commonly used in local nonya pastries, I like it but I don’t know how to do it … if I were to try anything, I try it now with guided help and under watchful eyes of Chef.   

What I learnt while experimenting the recipe: 

Rum.  Rum is relatively inexpensive, and can only be found in liquor store and not supermarkets which only carry beer and wine.  Liquor stores closed on Sunday, not sure if all of them do, but the 2 I visited were.  I may still need to show an ID even if I look obviously overage(?).  Jennie offered to let me try the 2 bottles she got at home – a Myer’s dark rum and a Puerto Rican Bicardi rum.

Deglazed Bananas.  The recipe book recommended deglaze caramelised bananas with rum.  I have never done it before, I only knew I need to heat up the rum.  I poured a cupful of rum into the pan, and I flambed the banana … but I also set off my apartment fire alarm at 11pm.  Oops

Rum with Tea-infused Syrup.  I like the tea infused syrup which was used in class earlier.  I wanted to find out if rum goes with the tea, and which rum would taste better with the tea.  I made a small quantity of sweet masala tea, I didn’t make a syrup, added too much rum to it, and knocked out almost immediately after I drank both.  I forgot I was supposed to taste only.

Fast forward …  Last 2 days were enjoyable.  I guess it is the only time in our life we get 2 days to fuss over 20 petit fours.  Chef let us organise and manage our own mis en place.  My conclusion is that Chef’s vision and observation power is super – we have 9 students in the class, but he managed to dish out advice or appear at our side at the right moment.  On day 1, I prepped the chocolate biscuit, on my notes taken during class, I wrote it will make me 4-5 6″ biscuit disc, alas it made me 2?  Oops I must have missed out my handwritten notes that Chef had asked for 2 recipes per team then.  I prepped a second recipe and popped into the oven.  Just then, I heard Chef said, “Joy, why are you making 6″ biscuits when you need small ones?”  He pointed me to the silpat molds which I could have used and saved me time cookie-cutting it later.  Too late, he said.  I guess he only told me after I popped my tray into oven as the result still will not mess me up big time, and to make sure I got the point.  I never thought of using silpat mold then, I was sticking to my comfort zone of following the method of instruction.  Hmm.  Day 1, everything went smoothly … prep short dough mix for next day use, chocolate biscuit, and the macaroons baked with no crack despite my initial concern (though the shape and size should be more uniform) and I left chocolate tempering to the last, was I glad I did.  Somehow the time went by me, and I was still fiddling with chocolate at noon.  Conclusion … seeding method got me to where I needed with the chocolate disc and the 2 coloured cigarette.

Today I only had to bake the short dough, soak biscuit disk with syrup, do the mousse and glazed the bananas.  What is this?  Dark chocolate mousse.  Again Chef appeared at my side at the right time, just before I piped onto my short dough.  Actually I doubted my own answer too, it looked like thick chocolate icing to me.  I had earlier asked at my table why this recipe had only 40g whipped cream which I could hardly whisk, everyone advised just follow the recipe … I guess if I follow Chef’s recipe I would not go wrong.  The recipe was done in class last week, by a different team.  Alas.  While taking down the recipes from the white board, I must have mistaken “400” that Chef wrote as “40g”.  Ha.  Next, got some help again from Chef glazing the bananas – I don’t cook with butter except in school and usually the olive oil I used barely coated the pan… after his demo I managed to deglazed a 2nd batch of bananas successfully.  Finally, I sliced the bananas and made some glazed bananas macaroon sandwich… yum

Time to plate.  I liked the final colour combination.  Topped it with the 2-choc cigarettes that Chef had done in his demo, mine was too thick to curl into a fine cigarette, but I got the point – my combing angle should be closer to the marble to achieve a thin layer of white choc.

At the end of class,  Chef’s key observations to the class – wastage – something we need to be mindful, – sanitation – clean up before prepping next recipe.  I appreciate Chef’s 1-1 feedback session with each of us after class.  His comments for me ~ good prep, end result looked good, prep order as advised – eg prep short dough day earlier and baked fresh on the day.  Areas I should improve and I will ~ Chocolate tempering to get the right temperature for chocolate to set;  Think about what size of biscuit I needed and prep accordingly;  Need to pause and clear up when I am overwhelmed;  Even if I got the wrong choc mousse recipe, I should recognize how the mousse should look;  Bananas are more suited for plated desserts.  I appreciate the specific comments from Chef so I can on the specific areas particularly.  Thank you, Chef!

My own verdict of my creation ~ I liked my colour combination, it was pretty close to what I had drawn with some modifications.  I loved the chilled banana macaroon sandwich, the taste was just enough in the mini macaroons.  Banana flavour-wise, that was about it.  For the total flavour of the base product, it tasted like dark rum flavoured dark choc mousse, the banana taste was not distinct to complement the dark choc mousse, as advised.  Mouthfeel?  I think the texture is ok, should taste better when served chilled.  

I am happy things fell in place on a sweet note.   

Behind the Scene at the Champagne and Chocolate Gala

It was the annual fund raising gala last night, the Champagne and Chocolate Scholarship Gala at Houston Country Club.  A number of students volunteered to help out at the event.  We were expecting 109 guests. 

I was initially worried I would be bored stiff since we need to be there past 2 to 11 – I enjoy being on my feet and be in the thick of action.  Jill and I got to the club before the chefs arrived, we found our way to the kitchen, past the pastry kitchen and into the chocolate room we put the box of tuiles.  Then some action began with CIAML truck arriving with all the buffet necessities, and Chef Sebastien and Chef Philippe, and Jennie’s with all the pastillage.  To the dining area, we started arranging the centre piece pastillage and chocolate gift boxes on the tables.  There was some lull time.  The set up was simple elegance. 

I was glad to be assigned to the Chocolate Room with Jennie by Chef Philippe.  Our job was to arrange the chocolate in neat rows on acrylic platter stands.  I enjoyed working with Jennie – she is serious at work … but she showed this funny-ness amidst the seriousness that made each episode worth laughing out loud.  I forgot to bring down the ruler and Jennie went to get it.  The route to the buffet room was up the stairs from Chocolate Room and there was a straight passageway leading to the buffet room.  A while later, she came back and told me she actually got lost and couldn’t find the Chocolate Room!  Huh?

There were 8 tear-drop shaped platters to be arranged with 7 types of chocolate.  We cleaned each platter with paper towels to remove any marks before we arranged them.  As we were working in all seriousness, Jennie told me she may be getting frost-bite (?) and she showed me her finger tips which were greenish.  I told her it couldn’t be frost-bite, asked her if she was feeling okay and “please don’t faint on me“, she said yah but don’t know why her fingers were turning green.  On the other hand, I told Jennie I was afraid to melt the chocolate because I got warm hands.  We continued to work each tray taking care to arrange in pleasing angles as possible.  Chef Philippe came in to check if we were fine … or if the chocolate were arranged fine?  Jennie showed him her greenish fingertips, and concerned, I said to Chef, “Chef, Jennie’s fingers are turning green!”.  You should see Chef’s reaction which made thinking about the incident even now really amusing.  Unperturbed and ever steady, he explained the green came from the pastillage table centre piece we were handling earlier.  And then he said, “Even if something is to happen to her, she should turn Blue, Not Green!”  That moment was so hilarious, I felt so doh-doh – we must have believed Incredible Hulk really existed!  How embarrassing!  To think standing in the room were 3 qualified first-aiders, now I really believe there is only one, and 2 were – Jennie from her flight attendant days, and I from school competition days.  After Chef left the Chocolate Room, I glared at Jennie and we continued laughing … oops working.

Sarah and I would work with the Level 3 class on chocolate logistics and arrangement.  The cocktail buffet started.  Not comfortable with standing around or mingling with the crowd, Chef Laurent brought us to the cuisine back room, and there we found ourselves useful replenishing appetiser items to be brought out to buffet area.  Back to the buffet area, a gorgeous lady came over to me and gave me a peck on the cheek, she looked so familiar and yet I didn’t recognise her – she said “Joycelyn, I am Jamie” – still clueless … huh!  Chef Sebastien’s wife!  I told her I didn’t recognise her in the cocktail gown, the last 2 times I saw her was when I helped her in mise en place for the Mexican buffet in school and she was in chef attire.

Finally, at 8pm, we got to work on Chocolate and dessert arrangement.  This time, we were to arrange all the Chocolate & desserts in the main dessert buffet area.  It was easy ‘cos we just needed to follow Chef’s precise instructions.  The whiff of chocolate aroma filled the room.  In 4 directions we had triple choc mousse in one, lemon creme brulee tarts with raspberry Italian meringue and vanilla choux in another, 100% chocolate cake and coffee eclairs in another, and a variety of macaroons to complete the round, not forgetting the 8 platters of choc we arranged earlier and 3 bunch of lollies.  On the side table were the plates of petite fours we have prepared in pastry lab.  When all the dessert arrangement was ready, it looked so appetising, visually pleasing and beautiful.  So out of the world, one guest commented to me.  Indeed irresistible.

Time passed quickly when we occupied ourselves serving and explaining to the guests about the desserts we were serving.  Among the guests, I recognised Chef Charles Carrol, Mr LeNotre introduced me to Ms Cleverley Stone who has a regular feature on weekend dining picks on My Fox, a lady called Susan who worked with Astra Zeneca in pharmaceutical sales & marketing and now a stay home mom, another lady whom I didn’t catch her name who lived in Singapore in 1976 for 2 years and told me about the old Gleneagle hospital where she delivered her boy, an ex-chef named Jacques and a lady called Donna who asked what I would be doing back in Singapore.  And soon we were packing up for the day.

I got a ride from Jennie back to the apartment.  We were tired and hungry and decided to postpone our pancake brunch date this Saturday to the following as a treat for ourselves after our final exams.  Oh I left behind the lemon creme brulee tart and the 100% chocolate cake in Jennie’s car

Afternoon Tea, Dinner Under a Tree and Good Company

Last Saturday, Jennifer and I planned to visit Cafe Decapo’s together after her work.  The cafe has been on my list for sometime but I never found Studewood on my map, and I didn’t think of using the bus map as a reference too, I just knew it is in the Heights.  I also knew Jennifer lives in Heights.  That was about it.  Then somehow this conversation came about after we partnered each other for about 2 weeks now, so this was our first time meeting outside school hours.

I realised we live about 10 minutes from each other, connected by 1 direct bus or if she decides to ride her bike, or longer if I decide to walk.  Cafe Dacapo’s was easy to locate along 11th St @ Studewood.  We decided on Raspberry Tres Leches and Banana Split with Strawberry because the reviews said so, and also we were just introduced to Tres Leches last week in Chef Kris’s class (Thanks Chef!which? hmm… thanks Chef Sebastien for coming up with a Mexican cuisine them and for “deserting” our class to do so, and we got to work with Chef Kris on pastry and he came up with Tres Leches to match the theme!), and Jennifer had Tres Leches cake when she was little.  Alas!  No Banana Split cake by piece that day, and I was recommended German Chocolate cake – I guess the cake must be nice because Jennifer liked it, and the last time I tasted it at Drew’s Pastry when someone ordered the group liked it too – I recognised the taste now but I am not sure if it will be something I will order based on my own instinct.  The only qualm I have about the place and it affected my pastry appreciation was that they served cakes in plastic to-go boxes???  Why?  A simple plate would have better the total experience.

The cafe was crowded that afternoon.  We got a corner couch seat by the glass pane (nice!), with the warm sun ray streaming in.

We just got to know each other.  During school hours, we only knew we were comfortable working with each other, and we share similar working style in class – we were not afraid to ask or let chef know we made some mistakes and we wanted to know why things turned out as such.  Chef Sebastien has commented last week that Jennifer changed after we partnered each other … whatever that means ha we took that as a compliment, but we indeed worked well together and still do.  The old Jennifer we knew was quiet, in her own world and … doesn’t talk back to Chef (ha!).  Our level of comfort showed in our partnership.  As a working pal in class, she is quick, quiet and silently humorous.  In the last few days, she had been repeating (or rather imitating?) what Chef Philippe said to me last Thursday – keep your ___ (fill in the blanks) in the bowl!  There are too many mixtures to name – somehow, my stuff kept falling out of the bowl since then whether I whisked, stirred, sprayed or even poured (beats me!).  Jennifer offered me a quiet environment I need, she is soft-spoken and silently encouraging with her comments and words, and silently funny too which always makes me laugh out loud out of the blue.  I told Chef Sebastien today, I’m gonna miss her – Jennifer is in assoc degree course, and she will spend the next 10 weeks in academic lessons instead of moving on to Pastry level 2.  At least we have another couple of days working together before level 1 final.   

Our chat topics were varied.  The cakes we ordered – we liked the Tres Leches recipe at Dacapo’s better than what we did in school, the sweetness was subtle and the cream cheese icing complemented the soaked cake.  It didn’t have the “condensed milk” taste which I dislike.  I would eat this again.  Next time, we have to try the Banana Split with Strawberry.  Our partners – we share similar views in Asian guys vs local guys (err.. okay maybe too much of a generalization – her one guy and my one guy?).  Something she said made me laugh, when her man asked what she needed, she said “detergent”!!??(LOL, published with permission) …  Our chefs – our chef in class and the chef next door (hmm… I shan’t write here for now … also about an unpublished post I had about a chef which remained unpublished when I realized the school found my blog … hee) …  Our growing up years – I guess her teen years were just a year or 2 back while mine was 20 years ago.  OMG… we have a 15 year age gap!  And yes, her name – I always think her last name Ramos makes a good brand name, she likes her middle name Lynn, and if she ever takes on another name Ly in her last name, she would really sound very Asian indeed.

When Jennifer was giving me direction to the place, she said Dacapo’s was opposite Someburger.  I went “Someburger?“, I read that on someone’s post recently and it was a must try, it said.  We decided to have a burger before dessert but was too late for that so it was dessert before a burger for dinner.  Someburger is a regular mom & pop outlet, I told Jennifer I wouldn’t have eaten at one if we were not there together or didn’t read about it, she had it only when she was little.  Just realised Jennifer lived in the area all her 21 years, moving about 8th St, 10th St, 11 St… and we were surrounded by her elementary, middle and high schools.  And this was her first time to the cafe and a long time since her last visit to the burger joint.

About Someburger.  The bread was fabulous though the pattie was nothing to shout about. What was interesting though was the experience munching and chatting away at the green benches under a tree and Jennifer described aptly it reminded her of childhood.  We took some pictures but couldn’t do justice to the nostalgia and childhood memories we both experienced.  But the experience and the company more than compensated.

By evening, we were on our way back home.  It was about 7pm and I received a text from Jennifer – “… had fun and we should meet again”.  Indeed.

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.