Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The progress with my book..

In case anyone has been wondering, the project of writing my book has been going along pretty well. I am about halfway into the story so far. I can say that I like the direction the story is heading into. As I have mentioned, I am a story teller without a blueprint when it comes to novel writing. Each scene is a new discovery of what’s going to happen next. For instance, I don’t think I could have created the exact antagonist that I wanted until I had X number of pages written already. And the antagonist is really a girl that you will love to hate.  

Going forward from the scene of the excerpt that I shared in a previous post, Tiffany goes into a state of shock after hearing her dad’s news about the fall of the Hansel empire. She finds herself trialing through a denial, self-loathing, and depression period. The drowning period becomes necessary for her to deal with reality. She drowns in sorrow until she reaches the bottom and there’s nowhere to go but up. Tiffany soon realizes that her only options are to either stay drowned where it is bleak and lonely or to make an effort to rise above, -or die trying. Tragedy and hardship build character. And we see Tiffany grow from a spoiled, helpless princess brat to a woman overcome with determination. BUT at the same time, she still has the princess syndrome in her that she can’t fully grow out of. It’s who she is. And sometimes it seems to get the best of her. It’s almost like a battle of the two alter egos of the old spoiled Tiffany and the strong, humble, independent Tiffany that she is trying so hard to become.

Okay, now for the juicy stuff!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Little Tokyo - Dinner at Fickle and Hello Kitty love

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the mood for Japanese food and ended up in Little Tokyo. The plan was to eat sushi or ramen…or whatever other Japanese food that I came across that tickled my fancy. That was the plan. BUT I ended up eating something totally different. I ended up eating at Fickle, a casual American restaurant.  

Former fellow kitchen slave, Pablo said he could score free food here, so what the hell?! By dinner time, I was too hungry to care where I ate. Japanese food was what I had been craving all day. After walking around on a hot afternoon, I was kind of craving cold soba noodles. And as good as that sounded, free food sounded a little better. I had been in Little Tokyo for a couple of hours just browsing around and texted Pablo when I was ready to eat.
It was so nice outside, so of course, I had to get a table outside. There was an Anime Convention that day, so it was fun to people watch and see them in cute costumes (others, just bizarre). After the fascination of people watching wore out, I was starting to enter the behgo-rage mode. Freaking Pablo was still stuck in traffic. I waited and waited. After waiting for about an hour or so, I said, “screw this. I can’t wait anymore!” And I just had to eat with or without Pablo.

I started with the Molasses Pork Belly, which is served with charred savoy cabbage and Kabocha puree.  I heart pork belly, but refrain from eating it too often or else my cholesterol level would be off the charts.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Old Reflective Journal Entries from my externship

Look what I found! -my weekly journal from my externship. Le Cordon Bleu requires three months of externship at the end of the program. And they had us keep a reflective journal that we had to send in each week, along with our hours worked (signed by our head chef). I'm starting with Week #2 because I can't find the entry for Week #1. I can't find the one for Week #3 either. Do you notice the different tone in my voice as a rookie then, and years later now? I got a good laugh from reading these entries. Most of my entries were longer than required. They only required that the entries be a paragraph minimum. But usually, mine were a little bit longer because we all know that I like to write. I refrained from writing a book each week because that wouldn't have been fair to the other students nor the chef instructors. I am sure the instructors had a ton of journals to skim through and mark off each week. Reading pages and pages of mine wouldn't have been reasonable.

And FYI, I had been at my place of externship for months prior to officially starting my externship hours, so Week #1 wasn't really my first week of being there. But it was the first week when I had to start keeping the journal, the official start of my externship hours.

Week # 2

The chef went on vacation for the week. He left during the week of the actual starting date of my externship. Luckily, I had already started my time there weeks ago, just enough time for him to show me the ropes and for me to get adjusted.

Prior to starting externship, I had two concerns: encountering a chef with a nasty temper and the fear that I’d end up working at a place with no A/C. My apprehensions have been laid to rest and thankfully, the horrid kitchen I imagined did not become a reality.

Perhaps I have been watching too much of the reality shows like Hell's Kitchen that is often over-exaggerated for show. There were times I worried that I'd be working at a kitchen with a chef that would yell things like, "What the f**k is this, you donkeys?! It looks like s**t!" Images of the chef throwing plates on the ground with rage have crossed my mind a time or two. Fortunately, our chef has an easygoing demeanor. I have never seen him yell or curse. The overall aura of the kitchen is quite tame, nothing like the hostile kitchen I had imagined. I have become so accustomed to all the cursing in the kitchen at school. Many of the chef instructors I've had curse like sailors. I guess all the hostility helps prepare some students when they enter a kitchen full of hardcore culinarians that will not tolerate anything but superb ness. One learns to grow a thick face. The brutal insults may make some weaklings cry (as seen on Hell's Kitchen). For others, it only pushes them to get better.

Recently, I started to help out at the grill station a bit during dinner time. I get overheated over there. I have been grilling the proteins for the entrees. So far, I have grilled the filets, chicken and shrimp (for salads). I worried a lot about dealing with the heat in a hot kitchen. I've heard horrendous stories about people working in the kitchen in triple digit weather with no A/C. In the school, the kitchens have no A/C, so I was dying in the summer time last year. If I had to work at the grill all day under such unbearable conditions, I really think I would pass out. I can only tolerate so much heat. There is a certain point when it just becomes torture. But I am glad to say that the air ventilation system in our kitchen makes things appeasable. For now, I would like to work on mastering things at the grill station, a station that is still new to me.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sharing the notes/recipes from culinary school, the very ones that students paying $50k are getting (from Le Cordon Bleu of Pasadena, CA)

Today, I am going to start sharing with you what thousands of other folks pay tens of thousands of dollars for each term. Yes, that’s right. I am letting you take a peek at the recipes, notes, and more that were provided during my time at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, CA. The very same ones! If you’ve ever wondered about what is taught at the school that you hear so much about on the TV commercials late at night and during the middle of the day telling you to “Get your career cooking…LITERALLY!”, I’ve got you covered. I hope this finds to be helpful for many. I know that many may wonder if making such an expensive commitment is right for them. You can talk to several different reps (in the likes of used car salesmen) from the school. But they have a commission to earn and are determined to make you sign those enrollment papers at all costs no matter what (even if that means lying. and they are notorious for lying..just check out their reviews from past students). Or you can take an inside look at the materials covered that yours truly (one of the many sucker graduates of Le Cordon Bleu) is sharing with you. Disclaimer: the material is from several years ago, and may or may not have changed over the years. The content I am sharing with you is what I received in 2009.

If you have read my post on my experiences at Le Cordon Bleu, you know exactly how I feel about that school. My issues were with the admin (always screwing up with every little thing), the quality of the food items more often than not, and how the programs are run. But at the same time, some of the basic information learned is actually useful. If you are a home cook or thinking about signing up for Le Cordon Bleu, then you will be a step ahead.

These are all the books that we used throughout the 15 month program. Of course, we didn't thoroughly go over each page of each book. Relevant chapters were assigned to read, answer questions on, and cook from. The toque is what is given to the students at the end of the program. The chef instructors all wear toques like this while the students wear the flat white skull caps until they graduate.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cherries in the summertime


Cherry memories, loving cherries, photographing cherries, and what I did with the leftover cherries

Summertime always gets me a little nostalgic (hence my 80’s summer post last year).  I guess it’s because for a lot of us, some of the most cherished memories are created during the summer (the wintertime too, especially around the holidays). Kids are on summer break from school. And it’s around the time when most working adults will take a vacation (if they are taking one at all) and even go on a blissful vacation. Summer has always meant taking some time off from the everyday world and having fun, creating memories, relaxing, and of course, eating lots of yummy food. These are all the components to make a person feel happier. And I hope everyone takes a little time this summer to take a little breather from all the madness of the everyday world to enjoy the little things that summer has to offer. Life would get pretty boring and meaningless if we didn’t have these moments every once in a while.

I have many fond memories of the summers of my life. And I can’t remember a summer that did not involve eating cherries, and lots of it. They just taste so delicious when they are just ripe. Every single year, seeing cherries in season is a reminder that it is summer time. When I am munching on cherries, I am still that same little girl that used to bite them off the stems and then try to spit out the seeds as far as I could out into the streets, except I don’t do that anymore. Now I am a dignified grown up that removes the stem off of the cherry instead of biting it off. And I haven’t played distance seed spit in ages. I now discretely spit the seeds into a separate cup like a lady.
Around my teen years, my family got into cherry picking. I don’t even remember how that started. I can look back on the cherry picking trips now and smile, but back then, I actually hated going. I mean, I think it was mostly because it was usually scorching hot and I wanted to go and chill in an air conditioned room somewhere instead of being out in triple digit heat picking cherries. But, it’s not like I had any choice. I was forced to go each time. We always stopped by on the way back home from Palm Springs.

We’d pick a crapload of cherries each time. Everyone would get their own bucket and we’d go our separate ways to see who can pick the most cherries (kind of like how we did with gosari picking). The cherries picked right off trees taste amazing. I remember being a little iffy on eating them without washing them first, but I saw everyone else doing it. And nobody was dying or getting sick. So my apprehensions about eating unwashed cherries subsided as I continued to pop cherries in my mouth while trying to pick the best looking ones. We’d always go home with enough cherries to feed our entire neighborhood. The entire back of our van (around the time we had traded in the RV for a more convenient to drive van) would be taken up with our luggage and loads of cherries.