I love Cordon Bleu – and I'm not just writing that because I've had three bottles of champagne (okay, maybe I have, so what, it's Paris and I just finished my final exam!!!).
Seriously though, I feel fortunate to have worked with some of the Grand Chefs of France. GROS BISOUS to: Didier Chantefort, Terrein Patrick, Marc Thivet, Marc Chalopin, Bruno Stril, Patrick Lebouc, Nicolas Bernardé Mof, Xavier Cotte, Fabrice Danniel, Jean-Francois Deguignet, Walter, and Guy Shokr – you guys are amazing and I marvel at your expertise, stamina, patience, creativity, and dedication to the "belle" profession of cuisine. (merci bien par tout!)
Now about the exam...
I was calm and collected today. If you've followed my posts at all, then you know I'm a stress case, but today I woke up, ironed my uniform, sank a cup of coffee and caught a taxi to Le Cordon Bleu. I arrived and had another cup of coffee with my cooking partner Jamie, who was also relaxed. We watched other people freak out around us and pace back and forth, but we remained zen. Maybe it's because we practiced at home, or maybe it's because neither of us slept the night before.
I'm a big fan of improv and anyone who's ever participated in an improv show, knows that you can't control it. You just have to give in, go with the flow and have fun. That was my attitude towards this finale: just have fun. I knew that there would be some curve balls, but as long as I didn't forget my pigeon in the oven, everything would be okay...
Everyone's time was staggered and I was last. Being last is the worst because you begin when everyone else is stressing out. Also, any extra ingredients have already been used up and the student assistant is tired of running up and down to the kitchens to get more stuff. Luckily I didn't really need anything extra, except larger artichokes, two lemons, maple syrup, pine nuts, two 'gros carrots', basil, and an onion. Hey – I was the assitstant last time for the Superior Cuisine final – if anyone has the right to ask for more stuff, it's me!!
Our proctor for the exam was an Iron Chef. No joke. Guy Shokr was our chef today and he was awesome. For those that haven't watched Iron Chef from the start, he was the first chef to compete against the Chinese 'French' chef (Sakai vs. Shokr, episode 8). He should be returning to the show for a second show down sometime next year. Chef Shokr is also into molecular gastronomy and teaches a course at Le Cordon Bleu on it.
Everything went swimmingly today. Seriously, I cleaned my bloody pigeon quickly and roasted the breasts, saving the legs to confit separately. Afterward, I made my sweet pea basil gnocchi, glazed carrots with lemon confit, deep fried artichokes with tapenade, and lastly my little amouse bouche of foie gras mousse, pigeon confit & wild mushrooms. The sauce came out great, the plating was perfect. Yippeee!!!
Things got stressful during the last five minutes because they take your plates away when the time is up. If all the food isn't plated, then too bad. I stretched my last thirty seconds to the maximum and even managed to squeeze in a few photos with my Iron Chef before the plates were whisked away to the judges.
After I cleaned up and packed my knives away I got a little sneak peak of the rest of the plates from the other groups while the judges were sampling and making notes. There were an awful lot of plates to taste and only three judges to do it. I'm not quite sure how they managed!?!?!
We had to plate four identical dishes for our final using specific ingredients. Our plates had to include three side dishes: two composed (more than one ingredient) and one simple (technical). Also we had to cook the meat, which was pigeon (blech!) rosé and serve sauce along side it and on the plates. When I saw the beautiful plates from all the groups, my mouth just dropped. Nobody did the same thing. Who knew there were so many combinations of pigeon, sweet peas, carrots, potatoes, foie gras mousse, and mushrooms?
Here's my final plate:
Gotta go...I think another glass of bubbly is calling my name....
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