24.3.14 | culinary midterms

sometime around the end of 2022, i wrote a journal entry wondering why i had not yet considered my potential in the culinary field. i enjoy cooking at home and my partner and i are avid restaurant explorers. my brother is a chef. my mom was a home economics maven, and i took after some of that when i was in high school, although i was solely concentrated in fashion design. i cooked simple things for dinner every day after school. in the beginning that was more by force than curiosity, but eventually i grew to take interest in cultivating some basic cooking skills. through the years i had developed my own preferences around the kitchen and the bar. why not try a class in something that truly interested me and i had not yet dipped my toes in, like beverage appreciation?

i signed up for a class that would not begin until the second half of the spring 2023 semester. in the meantime i was working a part time marketing job and traveling to altadena twice a week for an internship at a dual immersion french language school program. by the time i got the email welcoming me to classes in wine tasting and a survey of hospitality, i had already completely forgotten about them. the classes proved to be a nice surprise that uplifted me from some of the frustration i was feeling from work and the internship (topics for another journal entry, certainly). being a hospitality student has proven to suit me immensely. i continued onto more online management classes as well as taking both units in baking foundations. i never considered myself all that capable at baking before, aside from something out of a box with the directions on the back. since then i have found new joy in bringing a dough to life in several different ways.

yesterday i completed the midterm for the first culinary foundations class – a potato corn chowder. chowder is one of those delicious dishes i have loved since childhood yet never knew how to make myself. now i know it is an artistic process of crafting a velouté, adding mirepoix, cream, and whatever else is desired. our assignment began with rendering bacon fat in the saucepan, charring the corn to be added later, sweating the mirepoix in butter and bacon fat, then adding the flour to make the roux. once it was well combined with chicken stock, in go the diced potatoes. i made a minor mistake of forgetting to add my potatoes early on, so my velouté cooked for a little longer than necessary. luckily it did not completely bubble away and once i added in the cream and milk, there was enough soup and the potatoes had softened. then came the seasonings – salt, pepper, and sugar (yes, sugar). garnished with the bacon, charred corn, and potatoes parmentier, i was elated to have finally produced a bowl of chowder from scratch. cans, bags, and boxes of sodium-laden, mass-manufactured soup be damned.

for the record, my midterm chowder scored full points. i like to think somewhere my mom is smiling, thinking fondly of the nights we would go to dinner at mimi’s cafe just for the chicken corn chowder. today i am feeling a sense of pride knowing i could slip into the kitchen and find a way to create that and honor her memory through food.

Latest offerings…