Chef whites day! So exciting. (The experience of the worlds-ugliest-yet-very-practical shoes has unfortunately been delayed as I put them on this morning only to discover they are too small for me. So I get to wear my Converse while another pair get sent down from Dublin)
So today we actually got to cook! To dress up as proper chefs, pin our hair back, place our apron and hats on and put our knives into action.
However before activity could commence we had a morning demonstration. Today’s focus was on stock and an introduction to some of our leafy friends from the glasshouse.
“Any restaurant that takes food seriously, takes stock seriously. It’s the foundation of every meal and everything we do”
The stock pot is serious business. Cooking stock is ingrained in the way we will cook here. Every time we’re in the kitchen all our scraps go in either the stock pot, or out to the hen or compost pot. Nothing is wasted. Stock is made every day and along with salad picking and preparing and bread making, on the rota of daily duties every student works on.
We then got to meet all our teachers and had a tour of the working kitchens where we’ll be spending the majority of our time over the next few months. There are 3 main kitchens in the school and every morning we’ll work together in pairs. The teacher to student ratio is 1:6; one teacher for every 3 pairs. Every day each pair will be responsible for cooking a range of different recipes. Our meals will be assessed by our teacher and then combined into an overall lunch service which we all get to sit down and enjoy.
We’ll each be cooking a selection what Darina (or another head chef) has demonstrated the previous afternoon. So the cycle is watch, learn and taste… then the next day re-create for ourselves. Our inaugural meal today was soup, brown Irish soda bread, mushrooms a la creme and rice pudding. Accompanied (as is every meal at Ballymaloe) with a green salad made each day from herbs and greens fresh from the glasshouse, a cheeseboard of local Irish Farmhouse cheeses and teas and coffees.
“There are no tea bags at Ballymaloe. What’s inside a tea bag is the saw-dust left after they have made the real tea. It’s always better to brew up a pot”
They made it pretty easy for us today as the teachers had done all the prep and mise en place in advance. We got to come in, learn our way around the sections we were working in and just get a bit more comfortable in the space. There is so much to learn! What boards to chop on. Which knives to use. What scraps go in the stock pot vs what goes in the hen or compost pot. Where all the utensils, pots and pans live. Where all the ingredients are. Ovens, washing up, walk in fridge… taste, season, taste, season. Wipe down, wipe down, wipe down.
Needless to say when we sat down for our lunch it felt pretty well deserved. And it was so delicious! I was obviously working so hard I totally forgot to take a picture of anything before it disappeared down the hatch. But, rest assured it was delicious.
Tomorrow is back in the kitchen again, but this time it’ll be much more business as usual. (Read serious) I’ve written up my work order (i.e. the individual tasks and timings I have to stick to in order to have our meals finished, plated up and ready for assessment by midday) and it’s into the kitchens by 08.30 to weigh and measure out all the ingredients. I’m responsible for Quiche Lorraine and Winter Fruit Salad with sweet geranium syrup. Exciting! The ones Darina made looked and tasted beautiful.
I can’t really believe it’s only Day 2! Still so much to explore and write about… but for now, bed time calls.