Le Cordon Bleu: Basic Exam, Graduation, and Recap

It’s official – I’m done with Basic Cuisine!

Today we had our graduation ceremony which was, admittedly, underwhelming.  I put on a suit and everything to see people in jeans and a tshirt (guess I didn’t get the memo).  It was a really casual kind of speech and award presenting thing, and over 50% of the Basic Cuisine people weren’t there (I think only 20% of the pastry students were gone).  Kind of embarassing.  It was pretty uneventful – we walked up, got our certificate, got our picture taken, got our grades, and sat back down.  (note: pictures to come soon!)

The real highlight was the pastry buffet afterwards, which was delicious.  I ate a lot of macarons (I mean a lot) since it is Le Jour du Macaron, after all!

You know, just casually eating from some of the best Chefs Pâtissier's pastries

You know, just casually eating from some of the best Chefs Pâtissier’s pastries

Mini Raspberry/Orange Cream tarts! (I'm not a pastry chef)

Mini Raspberry/Orange Cream tarts! (I’m not a pastry chef)

Macaronception.  Macaron with a macaron on top

Macaronception. Macaron with a macaron on top

Delish.  Thank you, pastry chefs!

About the exam:

I realized that I’ve come a pretty long way.  5 days ago I sat anxiously in the Winter Garden from 12 – 3 PM, studying the 10 exam recipes and going over what my exact plan – what I would begin with, what I would do while waiting for my sauce to reduce or my stock to cook, etc – would be for each one.  When the clock hit 3:15, we all went up to the exam room and waited even more, trying to calm each other down but failing quite miserably.

The chefs finally let us in, and we each picked a recipe out of a bowl.  I was lucky, and got the easiest possible recipe – Poularde Pochée, Sauce Suprême, Riz au gras – something that we had done in the third lesson.  I dressed and trussed my chicken, blanched it, and while blanching prepared my garnish.  Once blanched I starting cooking the chicken stock,  made my white roux (and let it cool), prepared my hard-boiled and my poached egg (technical dishes), and waited.

It all went pretty smoothly.  After 25 minutes of cooking I began to prepare the rice (to be cooked with chicken stock), but for the most part, I was bored out of my mind during the exam.  The chef told me that I looked sleepy, but I wasn’t (I had slept 9+ hours the preceding night).  I was just bored, and I felt kind of insulted that the culmination of my efforts would result in a dish that was practically as simple as it gets.

After the 1 hour cooking time required for the chicken, I made my sauce with the roux, reduced it, added cream, and seasoned it, and presented it.  It was a thoroughly uneventful exam – no slip ups (except for the slightly over cooked poached egg), no pressure, and not much of a challenge – and after cleaning up and plating, I left.

If the exam taught me anything, though, it’s that I really improved a lot from when I first started (after 3 months, I’d better have).  I honestly don’t remember being able to sit around and take my time carefully cleaning everything the first time around, just that I was rushing everywhere and a complete mess.  It made me realize how far I’d really come from the little, untrained wannabe cook to what I am now.  I’m by no means good yet, but it’s encouraging to realize how much progress I’ve made in the last 3 months.

This week off I’m just chilling out, resting, working out, blogging, cleaning my apartment, getting a haircut, seeing more of Paris, and of course, spending more time cooking!  It’s been a great week so far, with incredible weather.  Spring is here!

Onward, to Intermediate Cuisine!

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