fundamentals of cookery: week 1 reflection

we have a surprising amount of writing for fundamentals. here’s my first weekly reflection that we had to turn in:

Goals: I think before class started, my goal for the week was to not get kicked out of class. That was my biggest fear. Also, just to get through the first week, in terms of sleep, doing homework, work, and staying healthy.

Expectations: I was really nervous before this class started. I was having trouble sleeping and driving my husband crazy, checking my supplies over and over, practicing tying my neckerchief, reading the website, and stressing a lot. My main thought was, “I hope I don’t get kicked out of class.” If I think about it, yes, that was probably irrational, but that’s all I could think about at the time. Actually, I was kicked out of class once in first grade, so maybe that is why I have this fear. Anyway, I read the website a lot, but I still didn’t know what to expect, and I generally have a fear of the unknown.

Reflection of Experiences:

The first day of class was hard for me. I hadn’t slept well for a few days, I was pretty stressed out, and feeling like I was already on the verge of getting sick. Sitting in a classroom for many hours when you’re extremely tired is pretty rough. Also, I didn’t drink any water the first day of class so I think I got a little dehydrated. I did like seeing the herb garden though. I’d like to grow my own when I have a yard. I even forgot my house keys that day, to top things all off.

The second day was pretty hard too. I had work and errands the night before, plus homework, so I didn’t get to sleep that early. I was pretty tired again. I was glad to get to start cutting fruit though. I felt pretty comfortable with all the cuts, which is good, because they’re the easiest. We didn’t get to spend that long on the cutting though, so it wasn’t my favorite day. I know cleaning is important, but it’s not as fun as cooking. I was also a little sore at the end of the day.

The third day was a good day. I finally got more sleep last night, and today I brought my chair to watch the demos, so I was more comfortable and had an easier time taking notes. Today we got to spend a lot more time cutting fruits and tomato concassee, so the time went by really fast. The orange supreme and concassee were new to me. They still seem a little crazy to me. I grew up in California, so I peeled and ate an orange almost everyday. That would be my preference. The supreme oranges are like small naked pieces of orange. Similarly, the concassee seems like an excessive amount of work to get a few small squares of tomato. Maybe a dish that calls for either of these could find some substitute that didn’t take so long and didn’t have so much edible waste. Anyway, that’s fine if some people want their oranges and tomatoes served this way. Now I’ll know not to order these things if I ever see them mentioned on a menu. Today I also took some good notes and remembered what I watched in the videos, so things went well. I had fun today, and I didn’t feel too sore either.

Positive Experiences:

First, I thought today when it was time to clean, my group, as well as the whole class came together well to get the job done. It’s nice when one person takes care of all the cutting boards, another person cleans all the counters, someone else is washing the pie tins, and the last person is starting on cleaning the demo station. Similarly, the class as a whole had good teamwork and pretty good communication. Everyone was contributing and doing his or her part. I like teamwork and people helping each other accomplish something.

Next, today when we were cutting fruit, I was chopping away, and when I looked up after finishing the watermelon, I realized I was one of the first people done, and Chef Leake said all my cuts looked good. I was pleasantly surprised at that. I do cut a lot of fruit at home, so maybe that helped. Anyway, if I can get better at knowing the size of the cuts, I can get faster while retaining accuracy.

Humbling Moments:

I had some trouble with calibrating my thermometer, which is kind of funny since I’m a chemist, but I got it in the end; I guess I haven’t been in lab for several years. I got a little flustered in the middle because of the heat and because I started getting mixed up with which way I should be turning it. I asked Kelly about which direction to turn it to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, and then eventually I got it. I’m glad I asked her, even though I felt a little embarrassed about my confusion.

For my bananas, Chef Leake said some of them were more like ¼”, which I hadn’t noticed because I was trying to cut it quickly. After that, I made sure to take enough time to ensure the cuts were more accurate. I think it made a difference because on the 2nd day of fruit, Chef Leake didn’t say any of my cuts were too big or too small. I had to measure a lot though, so I still need to get better at knowing the measurements.

Of the things that I learned this week, I am best prepared to demonstrate to someone else? (list in bullet form)

  • Orange supreme
  • Lemon supreme
  • Watermelon large dice
  • Apple eighthed
  • Pineapple large dice

What feedback did I receive from my instructor and how did I use the information to improve my performance?

As I mentioned before, the bananas helped me be more aware of measuring the cuts and being accurate. Chef Leake has some similar comments about a couple of my other cuts on the second day, so those also helped me be more careful on the third day. Also, when I was boiling water, my flame wasn’t all the way up. Chef Leake pointed that out, so then my water finally boiled. I’ll make sure to remember that in the future.

cruise food (formal)

overall, the formal dinners on the cruise were delicious. half the menu was always the same and half changed every night, so there was always a good selection.


crab louie, shrimp cocktail, mushroom soup, salad


beef carpaccio, consommé, tomato bisque


crostini plate, salad, asian soup, potato leek soup


puff pastry with mushroom sauce, steak tartare, salads


salad, minestrone, eggroll, ratatouille w/ mozzarella

main courses


coq a vin




lamp chops




seafood risotto


lobster and pork chop


filet mignon and turkey



cherries jubilee




baked alaska


cherry cake

cruise food (casual)

we enjoyed lots of good food on our alaskan cruise aboard the celebrity infinity. here’s some of the breakfast/lunch/buffet stuff…


eggs benedict


breakfast buffet


smoked salmon on a bagel


spaghetti bolognese


assorted food from the grill


special brunch buffet (1 day only)


dessert table at the special brunch buffet


sushi – available everyday 5-9 p.m.

formal dinner pictures coming soon, plus great food in seattle!

kung pao chicken

cameron got me two chinese cookbooks for my birthday. what a smart guy…


kung pao chicken
from chinese cuisine by su-hueu huang

2/3 lb. (300g) chicken meat
for marinade: 1/2 tbsp cooking wine, 1 tbsp each: soy sauce, corn starch
1/2 cup oil for frying
3 dried red chili peppers, diced
1 green onion, cut into 10 pieces
for sauce: 1/2 tbsp cooking wine; 2 tsp sugar; 1.5 tsp each: corn starch, vinegar; 2 tbsp each: soy sauce, water
1/3 cup fried cashews or peanuts (or roasted)

1. use the blunt edge of a cleaver to lightly tenderize the chicken meat; then cut into 1″ cubes. add marinade; mix thoroughly. before frying, add 1 tbsp oil and mix so that the meat will separate easily during frying.

2. heat a wok then add oil. stir-fry chicken until cooked; remove (precooking). remove oil from the wok. reheat the wok then add 1 tbsp oil. use low heat to stir-fry the diced red chili peppers until fragrant. add chicken, onions, and sauce mixture. turn heat to high and quickly stir-fry. add nuts and mix.

comments: this kung pao chicken was yummy. the dried red chili peppers we have are small so maybe next time i’d add another one to make it a little spicier. hmm, i don’t know what else to say.

well, this is the first recipe we’ve tried from this new book. so far so good. apparently this book was first published in 1972 and the author was principal director of the wei-chuan cooking school in taiwan.

brownie update

this is an update to my go-to brownie recipe. i think i made it better!

so because of our resolution to bake our own bread this year, i bought a 25 lb. bag of bread flour from costco. because of that, i’ve been substituting bread flour for ap flour in a bunch of recipes and seeing the effect. i’m telling you, the ben & jerry’s brownies are better with bread flour. i think the original recipe is ever so slightly too fudgy, so using bread flour makes it every so slightly more cakey. the texture is now perfect. try it! :) different bread flour brands have different compositions though, so if it turns out too cakey, maybe you need 1/2 ap flour, 1/2 bread flour.