Category Archives: Chefs

“I am coming home, aren’t you happy? … hmm” – Pix added

I thought the following email to my family in the wee hours of 1 Dec 2008 should be a worthy entry documenting my days post graduation …  Gosh, now everything I wrote looked like a blog entry, might as well.

Warning:  This entry documents 22 days of my life, it may take you forever to read, live and  understand how things work, don’t bother and don’t question, it is just about … My Life.

Remark:  Some information were altered or modified for clarity since I last wrote to my family, some information (in fact, a lot) were updated, some information which was shared with my family I prefer to keep Privy & Confy on this journal entry , some information were elaborated for my memories. 

Pix will be added coz it tells a story of my journey… (will be uploaded post Orlando trip).

——————————————–

From: Joys <simjoyous@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 2:28 AM
Subject: I am coming home, aren’t you happy? … hmm
To: “Choo, Beng Kuan” <…>, “Lawrence. Sim” <…>, Pei San Lim <…>, “owd…” <…>, Eileen gmail <…>

 

My dear husband

My dear sis and bro-in-law

My dear bro and sis-in-law

 

 

I am coming home 😉  Please let Dad and Mum know my flight details, it just got confirmed.

 

I graduated on 21 Nov …  but I wasn’t bumming around … my detailed itinerary is as follows: (gosh I wrote like I was updating my blog entry, later I will just cut and paste into my blog ;p)

 

~

22-23 Nov, Sat/Sun.  Spent most of 22 & 23 sleeping (a little end-of-school-term feel, a little jet-lag feel). BK and I were at a neighbour‘s home for chat and wine till 1.30am after we had a Malaysian/Singaporean dinner at Nonya Grill in Missouri City, about 45 min outside Houston.  A celebration of friendship … and my graduation!  

 

~ French Bread with 2 Sunny-side Up ~

~ French Bread with 2 Sunny-side Up ~

We woke up early for breakfast at our fav French Riviera Bakery Cafe – French baguette with 2 sunny sides up and a cup of coffee.  Then I napped through most of Sat and Sun morn, missing BK’s call before he boarded the flight to Singapore.  By the time I was alert on Sun, BK was close to reaching Singapore.  

Yawn

 

Joined my last Houston Dessert Meetup session at Le Petit Paris Bakery in Spring, arranged to meet my secondary classmate Vivian there after 20 long years since we were 16.  Nice!

 

24-26 Nov, Mon-Wed.  Back at the culinary institute for extra sessions, since the Chefs had to forego their 1 week hols.  The sessions were meant to make up lost hours due to hurricane, my class already completed the required hours as Chef Philippe arranged for class to start 45min earlier than normal everyday for a couple of wks. 

 

~ 24 Nov ~ Farewell lunch with Jennie and Rafaella before Rafa left for Brazil.

 

~ With Jennie & Rafaella ~

~ With Jennie & Rafaella ~

~ 25 Nov ~ Farewell lunch with my classmates – 6 of us showed up.  Beers and margaritas for all, except for Elizabeth who is underage at 18. 

~ 6 of us kept to the appointment ~

~ 6 of us kept to the appointment ~

 

 

 

~ 26 Nov ~ A special lunch for the students cooked by the Chefs … Serviced style.  Really nice, but I preferred to have them lunch with us. 

 

Dinner with some Singaporean/Malaysian friends I got to know in Houston at Guoming’s apartment, the guys bought the ingredients and Guoming prep steamboat for us, they bought durians for desserts [not too late for them to find out then I do not eat durian], I made assorted cookies.

~ Having Fun at Our Thanksgiving Eve Gathering, Our Way ~

~ Having Fun at Our Thanksgiving Eve Gathering, Our Way ~

 

 

27 Nov, Thur (Thanksgiving).  Returned to my apt about 4am after playing a fun card game Bonanza – all about beans.  I found out for the past 3 nights I drove without turning on the head lamp fully unknowingly (so much for an experienced driver, ha)?? 

 

Woke up about 11, Bella had invited me to her home for Thanksgiving.  I was served Puerto Rican food ~ Turkey with tomato rice, mashed potatoes with corn and berry sauce cooked by her mum Sally, with pumpkin pie and pecan pie from Flyer Saucer.

 

~ With Alexandra and Her Mom Sally ~

~ With Alexandra and Her Mom Sally ~

 

 

Planned to meet David and Garren for dinner but knocked out before 6.  Woke up at 10pm, shortly Sarah called, she was in the Heights vicinity with her boyfriend Charles and invited me to join them for a drink.  We would not have many other opportunities to meet after.  I was introduced to Oatmeal Cookie cocktail … nice, and had a few sips of Bud Light.  Charles helped me with the rest.  He showed me some bar tricks so I won’t be fooled.  We chatted till past 3.  Told Sarah, I am lucky I knew her late in my mid-life or I will be drinking my nights away …  Slept at 5+am.

 

~ An "Oatmeal Cookie" and A Beer Later ~

~ An "Oatmeal Cookie" and A Beer Later ~

 

 

28 Nov (Black Friday).  Received sms from Garren at 5.50am asking if I was joining them for shopping.  Nope, I wasn’t ready to forgo sleep for cheaper deals.  I found out later in the day they had not slept that night.  About noon, I drove to Katy Mills… more coz I haven’t been there.  Wasn’t in the mood to shop, spent some time reading in Book-A-Million, bought a few books even with no deals… bought some bake wares … Better at supermarket shopping, was at HEB megastore at Gessner till 10 … I spent quite a bit [and happy] ;p

 

29 Nov, Sat.  Updated blog on Graduation, a week overdue.  I found it difficult to catch up with past entries.  So said, be present.  I had planned to drive to San Antonio, but I didn’t feel like it then. 

 

Drove to RAO’s Bakery in Spring, it was part of Houston Dessert Meetup agenda in Jan09, but I will not be here so I checked it out first.  Spent afternoon reading till about 3.  Arranged with Jennifer to visit Phoenicia for the first time ~ she was funny, like a tourist at home.  We had dinner at House of Bowls, spent half hour lost in BW 8/1-10 connection, turned back to Westheimer and took 610N/E instead.

 

30 Nov, Sun.  Woke up at 2+am, guessed it was too cold.  Couldn’t sleep, again surfed online resources, also listed international shipping contact details as my international shipping was not arranged yet, put up To-Do list.  10am, I was exhausted.  Slept till 1pm.

 

SQ flight back to Singapore was confirmed.  Confirmed with Chef in Singapore about our appointment on 13 Dec.  Printed some pix, wrote some cards … sad, distracted.  Procrastinated to study Servsafe.  Couldn’t sleep, again slept at 4.

 

1 Dec, Mon.  Met Chef Kris at about 11am for career plan discussion, … one fine lesson learnt from him ~ plan and be objective-driven.  My vision and objectives remained unchanged, though I need to understand the Singapore market better.  I am clear that family holds an important place in the plan.  We chatted.  Side track – I believe he can be an authority in sous vide if he wants to, I researched the topic a while back coz he spoke about it passionately a couple of times.  Chef Kris set up Servsafe for me to complete at home the next day, free & easy

 

Chef Philippe handed me the Letter and copies he had prepared for me.  I am thankful for every word he put on my letter, the rest is up to me to live up to and exceed expectations.  Again, never to disappoint or I never did  Forwarded my career plan to Chef, he returned with a list of places I can consider in future for extra lessons to upgrade my skills, which was listed as one of the key objectives in my career plan.  Thank you, Chef!

 

I completed writing my cards to the individuals ~ each with a personal note.  Each card was specially chosen for the individual, I got a card for CIAML too – a card printed with a message I want to convey to everyone.  Communicated my final thank and hugs for the individuals at the institute.  I decided that it is going to be the last time … The last time.

 

~ With Sandra @ House of Bowl ~

~ With Sandra @ House of Bowl ~

Had dinner with Sandra at House of Bowls – she preferred to have noodles and we had beef hor fun (rice noodles), egg plants which we both liked, and I must introduce her to the pepper scallion chicken wings which I always enjoyed.  Had Hong Kong milk tea too.

 

 

 

Back in the apartment, received confirmation email from Chef in Orlando that I can drop by the school for a visit and a chat on 3 Dec.  I decided to make a day trip on Southwest Airline, had to pay more for the last minute change for return leg so that I can have a free day on Thursday to do some packing for shipping.  Confirmed flight to Chicago for Sun too, had to pay double for the flight.  Just 2 days early, I would only have to pay $240, couldn’t do so earlier as I was waiting for the Orlando trip to be confirmed, as unused Southwest Airline tickets can be used for future purchase but not cancelled.  Whoosh it, decided not to let it bother me.  

 

2 Dec, Tues.  Met Jennie for breakfast at French Riviera Bakery.  We had a good chat, decided to meet up again during the week when we have the chance to.  Will miss her.  She is the big sister that constantly watched over me and made sure things worked for me in Houston.  She told me, I will see you next year … I went, oh you are visiting Indonesia soon?  She said No, I have no passport.  We will meet in the US ;~  Was that a request or was that a prophecy … ha.  Love the 3 mice, hopefully not 3 blind mice 😉  She told me it signified the friendship between her, Rafa and me, sweet.

 

My Last Lesson … I knew she did a lot of homework, lots.  I am definitely going to miss my first French teacher lots.  With her as a baseline ~ Who can I find in Singapore who will conscientiously pour over recipe book to help me understand words … Who will positively reinforce my learning with Tres bien when I pronounced a word rightly or constructed a sentence correctly … Who will watch and listen to how I pronounced words and encouragingly said I can hear it, when I wasn’t even confident of what I just uttered …  Only Sandra.  The word that got my tongue all twisted: ~ûler .. brû~ … brûler.  Got a vocab and verb book each … it will be fun to recognise and read paragraphs in bits and pieces and get the gist, even if I cannot read the sense out of every word.  Je l’aime!  Soon I am going to roam amazon.fr.

 

Still waiting for inspiration to do servsafe test … ha.  Time: 11.31pm… now 2.32am… 

 

3 Dec, Wed.  This feels so crazy but I am going to do it. 

 

On my Facebook, I updated my status last midnight Joycelyn has decided to fly to Orlando, for a couple of hours and back… Yes, all in a day.  A friend commented on my FB:  Disney World?   My response:  I am not so crazy … more purposeful than that ;p  Yes, I am going to visit a shop, meet a person I was told to meet, ask whatever I got ready to ask and watch a sugar class in action.

 

That is how it is going to work for me to fit it all in a day:  

To & Fro Orlando

Arrive in ORLANDO INTL (MCO) at 1:35 PM, 

Depart ORLANDO INTL (MCO) at 7:30 PM.

 

Chef Charles Carroll wrote, “…I often hear many things from many students but the difference with you is you’re a “doer”  You do what you say you’re going to do...”.  I just realized it myself, doing what I said I am going to do ~ my commitment.  Or more that it is him – like all individuals I look up to – I trust his recommendation and words, and I have no excuses not to pursue great advice.

 

4 Dec, Thur.  I have better to start packing and know what goes into shipping, what goes into my luggage, what goes into someone else’s home, what goes into the trash.  Indeed, I have mainly books, bake stuff.  My gosh, my fridge is still loaded.  Possibly have to steal some time to meet Vivian too before I leave.

 

5 Dec, Fri.  Will be visiting Linda & George and little Aaron at Pearland, and of course passionate Scottie for the last time before I leave.   Amongst the exchange of emails, Linda wrote “… and who wants to come walk Scottie?  …”;  Garren enthusiastically went, “… I volunteer Joys to go walk Scottie, since Scottie likes her. Kekeke”;   Then George added, “And in return for the walk, Scottie will give Joy a Big Wet Slurping Kiss….lol.”  Scottie is a 2 year old? schnauzer – a cutie, a smartie and a real charmer.  I never really like dogs, coz they can get too passionate and overwhelming, but he is a sweet, real sweet.  He actually can read my expression when I pouted my lips and he leaned forward to kiss me?  BK loves dogs, but Scottie only likes ladies, ha.

 

6 Dec, Sat.  My last weekend in Houston. Going to “chiong” (Chinese dialect, loosely translated as party but doesn’t sound right, so maybe hangout) at my fav bakery cafe and read.  Possibly go Museum District and drive round Texas Medical District.  I don’t know, so far, I have never been to where I plan to go except bakery cafes.

 

That evening, I will have my last dinner date with a great couple I got to know in Houston.  Looking forward to it.

 

7 Dec, Sun.  Flight to Chicago.  Was supposed to stop over in Chicago en-route home but couldn’t confirm UA flight Chicago-Narita-Singapore.  Completing a 2 Day Choc-Wine Pairing Workshop on 8-9 Dec. I am flying back to Houston instead to take a direct flight back to Singapore.

 

To Chicago

Sun/Dec 07   Depart HOUSTON HOBBY (HOU) at 12:15 PM 

8-9 Dec, Mon-Tues.  Choc-Wine Pairing Workshop at Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy.   Chef Kris said to check out Alinea if there is one place I want to go – experience and understand the business philosophy.

 

10 Dec, Wed. 

Fro Chicago

 Arrive in HOUSTON HOBBY (HOU) at 11:45 AM

 

If all my stuff are in order, then I can have a relaxing day … err.

 

11 Dec, Thur.  Goodbye Houston! 

 

To my dearest friends, I will miss ya all! 

To my loved ones in Singapore, I’ll be home in next 24h. 

 

To Singapore

SQ Flight at 16:50h. 

 

13 Dec, Sat.  05:30h arrive in Singapore.  Appointment with Chef later in the morning.  Family hours.

 

~  Home Sweet Home ~

 

 

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <redemption@krisflyer.com.sg>
Date: Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 12:26 AM
Subject: Redemption Booking Confirmation
To: xxx

Dear Ms xxx Joysxxx,

You have made a redemption booking with Singapore Airlines for the following trip:
Booking Reference Number: xxx

KrisFlyer Number: xxx

Passenger Name(s): MS JOYS xxx
E-Ticket Number: xxx

You are confirmed on the following flight(s):-
Flight No. : SQ61
Aircraft   : B777-300ER
From       : Houston(IAH – Intercontinental)
To         : Moscow(DME – Domodedovo Intl)
Date       : 11 December 2008
Departure  : 16:50

Flight No. : SQ61
From       : Moscow(DME – Domodedovo Intl)
To         : Singapore(SIN – Changi Intl)
Date       : 12 December 2008
Departure  : 14:25

 

748 Hours Later ~ I Graduated. My Tributes…

This post is super long, I started and still not completed, but I am posting it or it continues to sit unpublished.  Then I will enjoy my weekend first …

~

About 20 weeks and 748 hours later … On 21 November 2008 I graduated with a Gold Award Diploma in Sous Chef de Patisserie. (It was also my Mum’s 62th Birthday over in Singapore on 22 November, Singapore being 14 hours ahead of US Central Time, Daylight Saving.)  Six of us were also awarded with The Steven K. Schultz Awards in recognition for Perfect Attendance.

Perfect Attendance.  As far as it is within my control, I will continue to maintain the base expectation of being early and being present.  As far as attendance goes, I had perfect attendance during my schooling years … it must have been my Mum, no missing of classes and there was no question about it, I was brought up to understand it should be so.  I drifted quite a bit during university years but I am glad it was just a short 3 years.

Attitude.  I enjoy the art of learning, the art of enjoying the present moments, and the works of nurture and inspirations.  I remained steadfast in my goal to learn and grow as an individual as well as to inspire growth in people around me.  I believe strongly in staying focused on positive perspectives, for things happened for great reasons in life.  As far as I am concerned, I hold strongly my respect for authority and my peers.  I got better over the years – I learnt to question,  I learnt to accept some decisions, I learnt to let go of my own opinions when they were not crucial or another suggestion made better sense, I learnt to give in when it meant making the other person happier without compromising the end results … I continue to be curious and enjoy learning from the individuals around me. 

Savour.  I am blessed to be here in Houston, even though I was leaving apart from my husband and my family for the past 20 weeks.  It is a gift I treasure a lot.  BK made it possible – he agreed to let me come, and encouraged me to pursue my dream.  It is almost unreal.  Truth be said – I enjoyed and valued my environment, the people I have come to know, and the lessons I learnt beyond the recipes.  Very few things or people bothered me, I accepted what happened, I learnt to take in, chew on it and some I let go, the great ones I held them close to my heart.

Friendship.  I made good friends in Houston – At the culinary institute, some Singaporeans I got to know in Houston, and from Houston Dessert Meetup Group.  To all I have come to know in Houston, I am thankful I got to know you in this part of the world and for some, I believe we will remain friends regardless of where we move on to.  I also accept that some are passer-bys in my life, nevertheless, they contributed to my life journey and played a role while I am here in Houston, and formed my memories.  I am also happy to meet Vivian and Lilian (thanks for hooking us up!) in Houston, have not met both for nearly 2 decades in Singapore.  For all my friends, as the saying goes 有缘千里来相会, 无缘见面也不知… if we are predestined to meet, we would travel great distance to meet and know each other, otherwise even when we meet face to face we would also not be acquainted.  How meaningful!

~

Graduation signifies the beginning of a new journey for me.  It is only a beginning.  I will continue with the same attitude I brought to Houston.  Dream.  Believe.  Love.  Inspire.

~ 

My Graduation Day ~ 21 November 2008,  Central Time

grad-display-with-gold-band_rim1My pix was taken at my graduation display table in the pastry lab, where I worked for the past 9 weeks (lost a week to Ike) – a corner in the back of the pastry lab.

The table display had my wedding cake, pastillage, sugar art, choc icing mousse cake, and choc box.

 

 MY TRIBUTES TO IMPORTANT INDIVIDUALS 

with-chef_rimMy Chef.  This is is my Level 2 & 3 Chef ~ Chef Philippe.  This is the first time his pix appeared on my journal entry.  And this was why

22 Nov 2008, PM

I just had a chat with my dad via skype earlier, he congratulated me on my graduation.  I told him I am going to finally post a picture of Chef Philippe on my journal entry, and he can get Pei San – my sis-in-law, to print out for him to see how my Chef looks like.  I told him Chef just gave his permission to publish his pix on my blog on my graduation day, my Dad laughed.  Weeks earlier when I just moved into level 2 Baking & Pastry Arts class, during my weekly skypeout update with Dad,  I told him I was “warned” by Chef Philippe not to post his picture on my blog or “you will get points deducted from your grades” … Then it was the evening of the Gala, 5 Sept 2008, I was to complete level 1 the following week and move to Chef Philippe’s Level 2 class.  For every week after that, Dad always asked how I was doing in Chef Philippe’s class and how was Chef that week.  Ha

Seriously, I didn’t think Chef Philippe was serious, but I did not post any.  😉

I enjoyed and learnt a lot from Chef Philippe’s class … I enjoy specific, exact, precise, detailed (do they all mean the same? hee …) methods of instruction… Chef was also watchful and observant to how we performed, and quick to be at our sides to rescue us, even though he expressed it differently in words.  In his class, I learnt to understand the hows and appreciate why I did them the way they were.  … I became more confident in choc and enjoyed choc (specifically mentioned choc coz my feel for it significantly changed and it got cleaner each time) … yes, all the cooking that required specific temperatures (eg vanilla sauce, choc icing), I managed so much better.  Like he said, we have a choice.  I chose to enjoy his sessions and appreciate him as an individual as well as my Chef. 

Every morning for the past weeks, Chef and Sandra drove me to the culinary institute, and back to my apartment on Wednesday and Friday afternoons.  We live across the White Oak Bayou across each other ~ so they are my neighbours…  Pai seh (Chinese dialect, loosely translated ~ shy) … but I am really grateful for their thoughtfulness!

Through Chef Philippe, I got introduced to my first French teacher and gotta know another friend in Houston.  Merci beaucoup, Chef!

 with-chef-sebastien2

Also My Chef.  Chef Sebastien is my Level 1 Chef.  Never had a pix taken with him during my level 1 final as the finals ended abruptly on Day 2 instead of the usual 3 days, due to Ike.  There was no proper closure then.

Chef Sebastien integrated me (I speak for myself…) well into the introduction course at the culinary institute and got me to love and enjoy what I do and learn, and I got to make mistakes and learn from them… along the way, I laughed a lot and remained blur blur.

I remembered Chef Sebastien didn’t like sweet stuff and he is a Pastry Chef, I didn’t like sweet stuff too so I got some reassurance.  Nearing the end of my Level 1, he asked how many of the recipes I liked for the hundreds we had completed, … 4?  OK, now maybe more as my taste buds are changing  … he was “appalled” I only liked the taste of 4 recipes after all he had taught.  Ha.  I really enjoyed the taste of 4, but I could appreciate and memorize the tastes of the others.

Chef Sebastien gave me the reassurance and the calmness I needed that all is well, and would be well.  No words needed.

with-mr-lenotrePresident cum Owner.  I was researching online on culinary programs, read about LeNotre, then about Mr Alain LeNotre and his school in Houston, decided to enrol into CIAML, and was introduced to him during the school tour on my day 2 in Houston.  BK commented he spoke with a lot of passion, assertiveness and sincerity when we met.  

A week into the course, we had an orientation session with Mr LeNotre.  His advice was very practical and direct – he said matter of factly the Chefs in school are good and experienced Chefs, we should learn from them and find out about them and their motivations as much as possible and to do it now…, coz he accepted that they will not stay with the school forever.

About 5 weeks into my course, I blasted my blog address to my friends back home in Singapore and some parts of the world, Jean-Luc found out and soon I got called to Mr LeNotre’s office.  He rounded up our conversation with “Joy, my door is always open“.  I appreciate that he spoke with me, advised me and treated me like I am – a mature student.  I enjoyed his straight forward advice, and he was generous in sharing them.  Through his recommendation, I completed Leadership Lessons from A Chef.  Finding Time to Be Great by Chef Charles Carroll by week 5 of my course, and got started on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a title I knew more than 10 years ago but never got down to reading it … I started and this time I can appreciate what was written).  He had said Joy, you should read this, and I did.    

You should roll down your sleeves … Didn’t your chef ask you to roll down your sleeves? … He showed genuine concern when he noticed I had burnt marks and bruises on my arms … or maybe he was disgustedHa, I couldn’t help it sometimes I was really blur. 

Joy, you are too proper … during a chat we had on being upfront with my personal goals when working for establishments back home.  I remained so, indeed.  Still very proper.

with-chef-krisChef of Chefs.  I got to hear from Chef Kris in my Level 1 a lot, and I heard and appreciated every advice he gave.

Chef’s Topic on Misen Place, 7 July.  3 days into my course.  On preparedness of the mind, on preparedness to start the day.  To be on time means to be early.

Chef’s Club, 23 July.  2 weeks into my course, the first I volunteered.  I still remembered the purple cabbage in reduced red wine sauce, the forced meat and the garlic incident.  We had fun prepping, learning, and … taking lots of notes

Lessons on ServSafe, 4 & 6 August.  4 weeks into my course.  I dreaded sitting still, but my ears were up each time Chef shared his experience, and loads of them.  Even in the most awful working environment, I can learn good lessons of what nots and what I should do when I am in controlMore notes taking.  But his sharing also put me off eating certain food :~

In Pastry Lab Level 1, 27 & 28 August.  After feeling a little disoriented for day 1 due to cups and spoons, I enjoyed Chef Kris’s sessions and his cool and practical ways he confronted each situation.  He taught us to think recipes branching from a basic recipe, to be adaptable, to move it move it …

To the Chefs’ Office, 16 October.  A couple of days earlier, Chef asked if I have been updating my blog entry … it appeared it had been some time since I interacted with Chef Kris, but I realised it was due to Ike as school was disrupted for 2 weeks, and it was 2 weeks since lessons started proper.  Chef soon read my blog updates and I was called to see him regarding my career plan.  I still have not read the 3 books he advised me to.  I graduated but I will be seeing him on Monday for a discussion and complete my ServSafe certification.  I am committed to doing it, because he bothered to.

~

with-bkMy Buddy, My Hubby.  During my graduation day, I joked that I  finally gotta stand as tall as him.  Smile.  

BK has been constantly there for me … when I first came to Houston and totally disoriented – he made sure I got better in my directions; Then nearly everyday after, we updated each other how our day went virtually;  He was here so that we could celebrate his birthday and spend time together; Then my Graduation week, again he was here even though we were both pre-occupied, he was busy with work and I with Finals… and on my Graduation day, he was there for me every moment I needed him.  He made it so matter of fact, so unconditional…  I am really blessed, really really

He told me just a couple of days ago after he left Houston – he was speaking with someone about me being in Houston and he in Singapore – he wanted me to enjoy what I do, he knew for sure I am focus and I would be heading home to Singapore once I am done… for me, there is no doubt about it.   Like Sarah said about Charles, the same for BK, I would not give him up for the world.  Period.  Ha.

~

More about my pals later, I should stop somewhere and enjoy today.

Our Package of Wishes for Our Chef, Chef Philippe

Friday, 31 October 2008

When many thought it was just a day for the Halloween, Chef was born

Everyone signed on the class pix, wrapped “our wishes” for Chef Philippe in parchment paper and aluminum foil, and had intended to put it between Chef’s On Baking and file on his table at the pastry lab that morning.  Somehow, Chef always appeared at the right moment … when I had just put his On Baking back on top of the package on his table … err we continued with our assignment for the morning – Chocolate Final.

Chef had informed us the day earlier we will be evaluated on chocolate tempering, chocolate ganache prep, chocolate shell molding & filling, and chocolate dipping.  The same day everyone knew it was Chef’s birthday the following day.  We planned to convey our wishes to him subtly – no prank, no big bang, no embarrassment … just our heartfelt wishes ;p

We started the chocolate assignment … we also noticed Chef unwrapped the aluminium foil and parchment package, we heard “Thank You” … some broke into smiles – we have been trying to keep it under wrap and started class as usual – seriouslyha!  We continued our assignment … still seriously.

By mid morning, I believe our birthday wishes to him came in a bigger way – all of us completed the Chocolate assignment without any hiccups – the chocolate set, the chocolate shells were molded, filled with the desired ganache and sealed, the Amandas were dipped.  Six best pieces from the chocolate shell and dipped Amandas were plated for evaluation.  We were relieved and happy.  And we could sense Chef was relaxed and pleased too.  Chef had given us till 12 noon to complete our assignment and we completed by 10 that morning. 

After a short break, we continued with pastillage dough prep which we will use for our Pastillage Final starting the following Monday.  That was done by half past 12 … we stood round Chef’s table – as usual, for further discussion on our Level 3 Final and clarification to any questions we may have.  Done.  He gave us time off to do our research in the resource centre … we continued to stand around the table and looked at him.  He sensed our mischief … hee … and left the class in double quick time??!!

All we wanted to do for Chef was to sing him a birthday song – real loud – who said we have no guts? … he didn’t grant us that privilege ;[  He had disappeared into the Chefs’ Office and locked the access from within – both ends.  The whole class of 8 students (missing Jill who had left for Colorado the day earlier) were outside the office to wait for him to unlock the door, then we decided to be good and give him a break.  We didn’t want to be kill joy – we were happy that our class went smoothly that morn and Chef looked happy.

Joyeux Anniversaire, Chef!  May our class continue to bring you a sense of fulfilment and pride to your role as our Chef-Instructor.

To The Chefs’ Office

Thursday, 16 Oct 2008

I just burst a plastic full of air right behind Chef Philippe’s back.  Didn’t manage to scare him, but Rafaella who was talking to Chef got scared instead :~?  Jennie went with me to the break room as Chef’s work station is right next to it – she was my “accompanying person“.  Usually Rafa would be with us, but she was already in the break room and didn’t know what I was up to.  Earlier, Jill had helped me blown a plastic-full of air for my mission.  The plastic was already punctured from a previous burst??!!  Nobody agreed to be my accomplice though whoever present (names left out) readily chipped in ideas for me to execute – that was so kind?  But I was scared I scared myself instead … err … ha.  Chef Pierre walked into the lab just then, and wondered why he was involved.  Let’s just say without provocation, I would usually not initiate such plot.  But I really felt playful today.

At the end of class, I told Chef Philippe we enjoyed his class that day … “… this the first time you enjoyed my class?”  Oops … no!  Always do ~ disclaimer.  Really enjoyed the class, and I guessed I expressed it also because I was feeling light – likely the class size and what we got to do that day really made me felt so therapeutic.  For once there were only 5 of us – Sarah, Jill, Elizabeth, Quin and me – in class instead of 9 … each of us got to prep a double recipe of different kinds of bread from ingredients to kneading to first proof.   In between we prep Grand Mere Tarts, I had prep 2 recipes of apples and pears to sautee thinking April would come but she did not come to class that day.  Then croissants with bechemel sauce.  Later that morning, we had to shape the bread – flatten, weigh, rest, slap to flatten, shape.  I loved to slap down the dough ~ I guessed it was the only time in lab I can legitimately bang on the work table, and I slapped it hard indeed.  My classmates joked that I displayed signs of internal rage.  The more and the harder I slapped, the more therapeutic I felt.  It was a great way to release bottled stale energy, maybeHa!  I joked “I am feeling bitchy today“, they laughed even harder.  Apparently, my tone got too high and my pronounciation was off and sounded like “beachy”.  I loved the aroma and taste of freshly baked bread, but I haven’t thought of baking bread … maybe I should …. once a while.  And we really felt good at the end of the class.  Even though we were quiet most of the time, there was a lot of smiles, laughters and light chatters that day.  I highly recommend Dough Slapping for therapeutic purpose … and freshly baked breads come as a bonus!    

Chef Kris wants to see you in Chefs’ Office …”  For a moment, I didn’t think Chef Philippe was serious.  I had just exploded the bag and was feeling too playful to be serious.  Oh it was for real.  Chef Kris asked me to take a seat and pulled a chair next to him.  I felt like a student who was called into the Principal’s office for playing a prank on a teacher??   In fact, the scenario fitted what I just did.

Chef Kris had read my blog – about what Chef Philippe spoke with us regarding our future.  I had expressed that it was scary even though I have to confront it.  He shared with me the 10-year plan he usually got his Associate Degree students to complete, and he believed I would complete mine.  Know what I want at the end point, and the path I need to take to make it happen… research, put it down and make it happen.  If I really believe a particular place is where I believe will take me to where I want to be, I just have to make it happen – email, call, send by snail mail, fax, pack and appear in front of the door(?).  He emphasized the 10 year plan doesn’t mean it is fixed, as I progress I would make revision to chart my path.  His advice was “don’t take up any job that come along, and realise you are wasting your time“.   

It was a thoughtful 40 min consultation.  And I really appreciate that he bothered to.  I just have to do my part.

I shared with Chef Kris that the 10 year plan reminded me of the 10 year product plans I did in the past.  Due to the variables along the way, the 10 year end result usually looked totally different from the plan.  As the years went, the 10 year plan in corporate was shortened to 5 years, then to 3 and in some companies to 2. 

I understand his point though – Set A Vision and Purposefully Work Towards It!

When I was writing this entry, I took out My Mission and Vision folder from my box for the first time in Houston.  Now I am amazed with myself – other than a few pieces of clothing and some miscellaneous, I had really brought in my 2 luggages my books, my stationery and my folder containing My Life Direction notes and my laptop – I need so little to live comfortably. I completed My Mission and Vision during a Life Direction Intensive session with T. Harv Eker in Singapore back in 31 January – 2 February 2008.  My Mission and Vision were completed on the spot then and I had never given prior thought to it.  Harv had advised feeling it in us and to identify words that inspired the energy in us to spell out My Mission.  Instead of spelling out our Vision, we drew our vision then – about My Life – as words may not accurately expressed the images in our mind.  I just re-read My Mission and it continues to hold true in my heart.  We were then supposed to work out a year, month then week calendar to purposefully live toward our Vision.  I am still procrastinating on this calendar. 

My Vision back in January 2008: (Shan’t attach my drawing here ;p)

1.  My Family Life.  Quality, Leisure Time with Financial Freedom.  My family has always been my priority.  If God is willing, we would love to have 2 beautiful children.  As a family, we have quality time together to explore continuous learning and growth as individuals, and as a family.  

2.  My Other Life.  Truth be told, I have always wanted to be an Educational Psychologist and there was a lingering regret till I came to the Culinary Institute.  I don’t think there is any connection, but that feeling had become a past for me, for now.  I went into marketing and I believe my skill is transferable.  Back in Jan 2008, I had no idea I will be attending a Baking & Pastry Arts program with the Culinary Institute, I had not planned to be in Houston – one day it just became possible, I arrived and started living life here, then at times started to find out what’s happening.  My vision then:

~~~  Worked with *Happy and Highly Motivated Associates.  Be it for my employment or my business.

~~~  Have a *High Traffic Blog to share Motivational and Inspirational stories with the World.  I imagined but was never motivated to start a blog.  I didn’t know where to start, what to write.  The only time it became a reality was when I came to Houston and I needed a place to jot down my notes of my journey, and I started writing for myself, from my heart … and it was still a procrastinating 3 weeks after I set up my blog page address before I wrote something for myself.

~~~  I will have something *Published by a Well-known Publisher to inspire Life Greatness in People … the funny thing is I never write much to others except emails and messages, … technical writing bores me.  I wrote often to myself to set aside my thoughts, my fears, my dreams, my ideas, my research … but they are often in my scribbles.  I wasn’t sure why I wrote in My Vision then I would have something published.  … During our conversation, Chef Kris suggested “food writer“.  I told him I couldn’t write well and I was so so in vocabulary, taste description etc, he said “not food critic” … he said it is the same form of writing, from my experience … from my heart.  I am not sure if I want to write with a deadline, after I read Julia Child’s journal about the years she spent on her first book Mastering the Art of French Cooking I.  Chef Kris suggested 3 titles for me to get inspiration.  I love finding inspiration from reading, research, flipping pages of books.

~~~  *Creative Development for Children – Inspire, nurture, encourage motor skill development, laughter & fun in learning & development. … I believe this will still be a reality one day, as I love training and teaching, and I can incorporate this in Baking & Pastry Arts.  

~~~  *Provide Employment to the Deserved but Disadvantaged.  This can be a reality too.  I believe in giving back to where I take from.

~~~  *Passive Income.

On my wall in my apartment, I have a Vision Board I scribbled couple of weeks ago, it was not dated.  On it includes “… aPastry & Baking Lab to accomodate 20 students (describing space more than the absolute number of people) at any one time …” … ” I start my own Pastry & Baking coaching class in my own lab!”.   

The time out to the Chefs’ Office … was a gentle reminder I have not completed my plan weeks ago to revise My Vision.  I do not have many weeks left at the Culinary Institute – 5 weeks? … it appears that each time I put up an entry it is another week gone … Chef Kris said some of his students worked on their 10 year plan over 6 months, I jokingly reminded him he was not thinking of giving me 6 months as well?   This will be sorted before I complete my program, after that there will be no one to remind me, or I can’t just step into the Chefs’ Office as I wish when I am back in Singapore.

Before I left the office, he gave me 2 examples of 10 year plan for reference.  Thank you, Chef!

Lesson Learnt – Habit #1: Be Proactive

All in a day’s lesson.

Proactivity defined – “It means more than merely taking initiative.  It means that as human beings we are responsible for our own life.  Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.  We can subordinate feelings to values.  We have the initiative and responsibility to make things happen.”   So wrote Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Habit #1. 

I was reading this book last week and updating my journal entry halfway (for a couple of days now and still halfway) on Coco’s Crepes and my takeaway understanding on Habit#2 and what I needed to proactively apply.  I guess it was a good lesson I did not complete that entry yet, coz I just had a lesson today on Habit #1.  And again there is a reason why it is called Habit #1.

Lessons from the book.  1.  Between Stimulus and Response is Our Greatest Power – the Freedom to Choose (Self-awareness, Imagination, Conscience, Independent will).  2.  Responsibility = Response-Ability.  Highly proactive people recognise that responsibility.  They do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behaviour.  Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based in feeling.

The school was still in partial darkness, the same as last 2 days.  For us, class was as per normal at 8.15am.  The circumstances – no a/c, no working fridge/freezer, no induction cooker, no familiar pastry lab environment, … we recognised Chef Philippe chose to conduct classes for us and we all chose to turn up day after day.

We did piping today.  Chef melted the chocolate for us and all we needed to do was scoop the chocolate from the pot and practise piping.  By 12, we were to finish with our practice for the day and clean-up, many of us wanted a breather and fresh air outside.  ” … hot water for cleaning“, … nothing happened we busied ourselves with cleaning our own work station and tools.  Usually, the hot water is automatic from the tap but the circumstance was that no power = no hot water, or was it really.  The next moment, Chef took a pot and boiled the water again, and he did not say anything.  Chef had boiled a pot of hot water the day earlier so that we can clean out our stuff of chocolate and for sanitation.  What else can I say?  We recognised that and that should not happen again

Act or Be Acted Upon.  We faced the reality of the current circumstance … We also faced the reality that we had the power to choose a positive response to those circumstance … wrote Stephen Covey.  Sometimes we wonder – for some of us, it may be a quiet thought, for some of us – we wonder aloud – why people react in certain manner to us, many time we fail to look at our own behaviour and our own contribution to those reactions.  We recognised again despite our non-action, Chef chose to be patient with us today and said nothing.  Moving forward, either we act or be acted upon.

Circle of Influence.  “Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence.  They work on the things they can do something about … Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern – … the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control … results in feelings of victimisation.

The next part of the lesson.  Chef Philippe went through with us the chapters in On Baking… chapter 1 on Chefs and professionlism, chapter 2 on Tools and equipment, chapter 3 on Principles of baking, chapter 4 on Bakeshop ingredients.

Listening is one thing.  Hearing and understanding the words is another.  In level 1, the focus was on the techniques, the whats and hows.  In level 2 and 3, the focus on whys increases.  Other than the whys he will explain during hands-on, he encouraged us “… to open the book to read, and understand the whys“.  From understanding the whys, we can create our own recipes.  When we move into pastry business, we should get and work on the BEST recipes, or understand whys to create our own.

That led him to speaking with us about our future.  The reality is soon for many of us.  “Think about what you want to do, how you want to live … CHOOSE the way you want to do it.”  Again, the word – we indeed have a choice, a freewill to choose.  For me, the reality is a little scary, a lot is mental, I have to confront it.  For Chef, he chose to teach after 18 years working in the business, mostly in the bakeries in France.  He again use the word, he “chose the way it is“.

His advice for our personal good – Buy something to Taste vs buy something to eat…  Cut down quantity and eat Good.  That again went into our learning of the quality of ingredients we choose to put into our future products.

To sum up the learning in a day – Our Free Will to Choose.  Be Proactive.  Whatever we choose, love what we do.

On a separate note, he reminded me something indirectly today – in his class, I am his oldest student.  In the culinary institute, I knew he was the youngest chef till Chef “New” came along.  And we are the same age.  But I guess when it comes to learning and teaching, age is but a number ;p