Can I tell you what hell it is to sit through a three hour demonstration knowing that shortly after fate is ready to play her hand? I had nervous butterflies so badly I thought my stomach was going to fly away. They always do this to us at Le Cordon Bleu and I'm not quite sure why. They know that all of us are going to be nervous and that we're all going to be frantically trying to memorize last minute details to the ten recipes we're supposed to know for the final examination! The only civil gesture they show is a petit plastic cup of champagne at the end of the demo to celebrate the last class. If truth be told, that small cup settles the worst panic attacks. Thank God for small favors...
After a night of studying with my cooking parnter and making hollandaise sauce, the technical part of the final, one last time – which we both royally screwed up – we went to bed. We woke up early, cooked a nice egg breakfast, ironed our uniforms, and walked to school reciting each recipe. It takes an hour to walk to school and it took an hour for us to go through each recipe.
Once we got to school the nervous energy was crazy. People were glued to their recipes or talking to themselves in corners going over every detail outloud. We changed into our whites and took our places in class for the demo. It's kind of funny how people react when they're nervous: some play it cool but nervously tap a foot or hand, other's make jokes, and some just study study study. I think I was an ADD version of all three today. I couldn't study, hold a conversation, tap a finger, or make a joke without loosing my own attention.
By the time the demo was over and I had thrown back a small glass of bubbly, my nerves started to settle down. I had a little private conversation with myself, "Why are you freaking out? You know this! You know every detail. Chill out. Breath. Do some Alexander technique, just chill out". There's nothing like a little private self conversation to sort things out.
After an excruciating hour of anticipation after the demo and a brisk walk around the block to mellow out, I went up with all my cooking gear to the practicle room to join my fellow group members. I did get a tip from the chef's assistant as to what the recipes were going to be, which helped to focus my final moments. There are 54 people in the intermediate class and I feel fortuante to have a great group. We definately all pull together and no one is overly competitive. I secretly think that the chef's love our group because we're quick and nice to one another. Trust me, it ain't always pretty in the practicals and if you're in a bad group it makes the whole class hell on earth.
Luckily for us, our chef was the retiring superior cuisine chef who is really fun. Jamie and I got the Dorade (sea bream) recipe that is stuffed and wrapped in lettuce leaves then quickly baked. This recipe is a pain in the butt to make, but I like cooking fish so I wasn't too unhappy. The other option turned out to be the pavé de beouf with a gorgeous truffle sauce. The beef was definately easier but you have to cook the fillets to the chef's specifications which is not easy.
I whizzed through everything. In fact I zoomed through everything so fast that I forgot an ingredient in my stuffing for the fish. I sweated shallots and cooled them in my fridge for the stuffing, but I totally forgot about them! It wasn't until I had the fish stuffed and beautifully wrapped in delicate butter lettuce leaves that I realized I didn't put in the friggin onions. Merde!!! At this point there was only 20 minutes left and I still had to reduce my sauce, bake the fish, and make the hollandaise sauce.
So, I put my fish in the oven, added cream to my sauce and strained it, and whipped up the most beautiful hollandaise sauce known to mankind. Okay, that's a gross exaggeration, but it was pretty darn good. Everything turned out beautiful. My sauce was tasty and the right color. The jerusalem artichoke puree was creamy, and the lettuce wrapped fish was cooked perfectly – with or without shallots! The stuffing actually tasted pretty good without the onions so maybe they'll like it better.
Afterwards I came home with my cooking partner Jamie and you'll never guess what we did next....cook dinner! Let me tell you, we had a fabulous dinner with delicious french wine to celebrate.
I leave for a surfing vacation on Wednesday to Lagos, Portugal and then back to Le Cordon Bleu for more torture in the superior class! Yippeee!