Wrapping Up My Culinary Adventure

w/ ICE Culinary



Wrapping Up My Culinary Adventure

with ICE Culinary
Article & photography by: Sara Tane

Sometimes when I feel like I have a really profound thought, I’ll jot it down in the notes section of my phone so that I can return to it at a later date and think to myself, “wow, I am a genius.” On October 18th, 2019 at 1:10 AM (Sara, go to sleep…), I typed “A fun thing about cooking is that if you do it enough you’ll convince yourself that you know absolutely nothing.” Kinda depressing, huh?! I don’t remember what I was anxiously dwelling on this late at night, but clearly I was going through it. We’re all allowed to be emo sometimes!

I’m sharing this semi-sulky notes entry with you not for pity or sympathy, but because I really do think it encompasses a good portion of my experience at culinary school. Don’t get me wrong--I was not nearly this down for a majority of the experience, but it was definitely a recurring feeling throughout. I’m now going to present to you a relevant theory, because like I said, I am a genius (and it’s highly applicable in this situation). The theory of knowns and unknowns is a concept that I thought about a lot in these moments. You can read more about it here, but basically it’s the idea that there are things that you know that you know, things that you know that you don’t know, things that you don’t know that you don’t know, and finally, there are things that you know that you don’t know. The last of these, the known unknowns, is the most troublesome of all of these.

If you don’t care about this very impressive theory that I’ve included, what I’m trying to get across is that even though I learned SO MUCH throughout the 9 months that I attended culinary school, one recurring thought that I haven’t quite expressed in these blogs is the constant feeling that I also have so much more to learn. Before school started I was a confident cook, but one thing that school has highlighted for me is all of my known unknowns! Does that make any sense?! 

For example, when we studied Asian cuisines and wok cooking, I learned a ton about the techniques, ingredients, and flavors that this culture relies on in the kitchen. Despite the fact that I acquired all of this newfound knowledge, I was also flustered by the fact that there is a whole history and style of cooking that I was essentially oblivious to prior to school. I didn’t know what it meant to velvet proteins or to temper spices or to “crack” coconut milk--the list goes on!! Plus, we can only spend so much time on these cuisines before the curriculum moves on to the next topic. How am I supposed to master Asian cookery in just a few classes?!

Even though I have baked countless desserts over the course of my life, there was still plenty of technique-driven methods that I had yet to learn. Did you know there’s a reason why you’re not supposed to stir the living daylight out of cake and muffin batters? Overworked flour leads to tough baked goods which leads to immeasurable sadness. Did you know that sugar provides much more to baked goods than just sweetness? It caramelizes under heat, speeds the growth of yeast, acts as a preservative, and helps to incorporate air when creaming butter. Wow, thanks sugar!! Did you know puff pastry has 729 layers of folded dough?! Yup--seven hundred and twenty nine layers!! Now that’s flakier than your friends that always bail on plans at the last minute. 

I felt the stress of the known unknowns especially during the pastry module. I know that the purpose of this module is not to turn us into pastry chefs overnight, but to just scratch the surface of the world of pastry so that we are sufficient in the basics. However, because I am me, I couldn’t help but focus on all of the techniques and recipes that we didn’t get a chance to cover (culinary school is only a few months, not a lifetime). I know that this is a very glass half empty kind of viewpoint--who focuses on all of the things that they don’t know while they’re learning so many new things? Well, me, that’s who! 

This is the beauty of the experience, however. Had I not gone to culinary school, my eyes would have never been opened up to all of the culinary knowledge that I’ve yet to learn. Not that I thought I was all-knowing before, but you get the point. The point of culinary school is not to leave it a complete master--rather, it’s the foundation that you need for a lifetime of becoming an even better cook (I’m so profound). That’s why cooking is so cool yet so frustrating--there’s always more to learn.

The last few classes of the program were a great way to wrap up the curriculum--rather than handing us recipes and sprinkling in some demos throughout class like we had all grown accustomed to, we were given bins upon bins of produce, pantry items, and a protein. The moment we’ve all been waiting for! Just cook! The requirements for the dishes that we needed to present for our practical exam were minimal, thus leaving us with a ton of room to experiment and get creative with our final dishes. 

I was really pleased with my final dishes (although my chef was very quick to let me know that they weren’t perfect!!!). Not to toot my own horn here but I made some pretty kick a** roasted mushroom risotto, among some other treasures. The bottom line is that I’m light years ahead of where I was when I started school, but this is just the beginning. Contrary to my depressing notes entry, you actually do become a better cook when you practice more and more.
Rather than focusing on the known unknowns, which if you can’t tell, I have a tendency to do, let me run through some known knowns that I can proudly attribute to my experience at ICE:
  • The ratio of fat to acid in a vinaigrette is 3:1, always.
  • A concasse is when a tomato is peeled, seeded, and finely chopped.
  • Mayonnaise is the emulsification of an egg yolk and oil, and it’s seasoned with salt & pepper, an acid, and a few drops of hot sauce (It’s also...disgusting).
  • A beurre manie is a mixture of equal parts flour and butter which can be used to thicken sauces.
  • Making fresh pasta dough in a stand mixer is just as legit as whisking yolks by hand into a well of flour. The choice is yours.
  • A consomme is a rich, flavored stock that has been clarified with egg whites. The raft is extremely gross looking, but the final product is delicious.
  • A sausage is an emulsification of meat, fat, and ice water, that’s flavored with spices. It’s even grosser looking than a consomme raft.
  • To temper dark chocolate, you need to heat it to around 118°F, then back down to 82°F, then back up to 88°F. Plan to do a load of laundry after the chocolate lessons.
  • Airpods don’t work in the Oculus, and it is extremely annoying.
  • If you make a habit of forgetting your ID card to get you into Brookfield Place, the security guard will remember your name and he will roast you everytime you need him to make you a guest pass.
  • If you commit to something that is three nights a week for four hours at a time on top of a full time job, you can basically get yourself out of any personal or professional engagement. “Sorry, I have class!”
  • There is always more than one correct way to do something, even if a chef tells you that their way is the only way.
  • Everything is subjective.
  • Cooking is extremely fun, and there is nothing better than being in the kitchen with your pals.