Day 56: The end of regular programming and a visit to Cafe Paradiso

Week 12! I mean I should not have been surprised it had arrived. But for all my day by day counting and weekly summaries, I distinctly remember waking up on Monday morning and thinking “WTF. Have I counted right? Can this really be week 12?” But I checked. And of course, it was. There was no getting around it, we were marching swiftly on to THE END. (Gasp)

Me (late) off to the kitchens to do my final day of regular cooking

And what a week it was going to be:

  • Monday was the only day of regular routine in that we were in the kitchens cooking in the morning and then had our usual demo in the afternoon.
  • Tuesday was our final demo and study day
  • Wednesday and Thursday were Masterchef (read practical exams)
  • Friday we had 3 written exams followed by our final party.
  • Saturday was goodbyes (and inevitable hangovers).

The student notice board; full of exam info

Nothing like a challenge!

So on Monday morning I was back in Kitchen 3, determined to have The Best Day Ever and be as productive as possible. Initially I had these great intentions that I’d be in the kitchen at the crack of dawn to whip up a couple of loaves of bread, a round of macarons and a few extra dishes on top of what I was assigned to do.

As it turns out, I slept through my alarm (I blame that thoroughly delicious bottle of Italian Barbera that Rosemary and I enjoyed on Sunday night), was late getting into the kitchens, totally underestimated how long it would take me to do vegetable prep for the Asian Coleslaw and then proceeded to burn (or turn to charcoal to be more precise) the crackling on my Pork Belly because I got distracted trying to roll out crackers to a precise 1mm thickness. Not my finest hours of work. But to be honest I think we all felt a little strange that day. There was a weird, slightly bittersweet energy in the kitchen. Besides being in the kitchen to cook our final exam meal, it was just so hard to believe that this was going to be it.

Anyway lateness and crackling disaster aside, we also were prepping and cooking Skate that day. A skate (or Ray as they can be called interchangeably) is a wide, flat, wavy fish, but anatomically quite different to every other flat fish we’ve cooked. You just use the flesh on the wings, the rest of the body is a no go. It’s also really sticky. Slimey almost. Think of that white, gloopy stuff from Ghostbusters and you’re about there. It’s actually kind of gross. It’s also weird that this is one fish that you shouldn’t eat spankingly fresh. It actually tastes better after 1-2 days. But don’t leave it too long…. otherwise it starts to take on the distinct whiff of ammonia! Gross. When you eat it, there are no bones to deal with but it’s very soft and sort of stringy in texture. Am I selling it?! To be totally honest, it would not be my first choice of seafood. I’d rather appreciate it from afar, under the water whilst scuba diving, watching it float along.

Hello skate! (Gloopy goo only vaguely visible)

Later that afternoon we were back in the demonstration kitchen for our penultimate demonstration, but our final one with this amazing lady; our final Darina demo! And what a demo it was. On the Monday of the last week it’s Special Requests hour. This means we can all request any dishes that we haven’t covered in the course that we’re particularly interested in and they’ll do their best to cover them.

And we had 59 pages of recipes to get through! We covered how to completely debone a bird and then roast it whole (Chicken l’Arlene), to Bouillabaisse, to Bagels, Baguettes and Chelsea buns, to Chocolate Fondants, to Kedgeree, to Paella. We had Rory pop in to help demonstrate a couple of the dishes. We covered continents and cuisines.  By 6pm I don’t know who was more exhausted; us, Darina or the amazing teachers who had been running the demonstration.

Darina showing us how to completely debone a chicken

It was a complete pity then that I hardly stayed to eat any of the lovely food because a few of the Mrs Walsh’s crew had decided to head to Cafe Paradiso that night. Cafe Paradiso is in Cork and heralded by many as the best Vegetarian Restaurant; definitely in Ireland, possibly in the world. Having now experienced it myself I’d say it would be right up there with the best. It’s a totally unassuming but amazing experience. I’d promised myself I could not leave Cork without eating there and despite feeling vague twinges of “Oh I should be studying” it was one of the best meals I’d eaten in ages.

If you’re ever in Cork – Go.

My amazing dinner. Mozzarella and amazing things for my starter and risotto and other amazing things for my main. Total deliciousness.

Overall, an action packed Monday.


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