Going back to school during middle age is difficult for me. I always feel like I should be studying, watching a how-to video, doing homework, or practicing recipes for my pastry chef classes. I made all A grades last semester. I am on track to make an A in two of my three classes this semester. But the third class is very challenging for me. I hate it. It makes me want to quit the program. If I don't pass this class, I will not be allowed to continue the pastry chef program. The name of this vexing course is "Basic Food Preparation", and it is anything but basic. I'm learning to flute mushrooms, tourne potatoes, make hollandaise sauce, and a bunch of other overly complicated, fussy stuff I'll never do again as a professional baker.
This past week, the chef-instructor for this class scolded the class members, saying we should memorize our recipes and methods for preparing the assignments before class. (Forgetting that many of us have never worked in a professional kitchen. Ignoring that most of us have never made the Mother Sauces from scratch.) Chef barked that it shouldn't take 30 minutes to make a Hollandaise sauce, Espagnole Sauce and French Classic Tomato Sauce. (Um, I beg to differ. The instructions for the Espagnole Sauce clearly state to simmer it for one to two hours.) Chef also said that his job is not to teach us to cook, but to teach us to be professional chefs. (Clearly discounting that the baking and hospitality students must take this Basic Food Preparation class, and that baking and hospitality students do not want to be culinary chefs, thanks all the same.)
Chef has failed to instruct our class about mis en place, or getting all of our ingredients prepared and organized before we begin. He just barks at us to go faster, and to come wash the dishes that are stacking up at an alarming rate. Then Chef yells at us that we didn't finish all three sauces and our fancy cut board presentation. Is this what hazing feels like? I am not a fan. Class consistently gets out late. We are sent home to do our lab reports, rather than being able to fill them out while Chef is present to answer questions.
Also, Chef hates when his students are vegetarians (even for religious reasons), and when they have food allergies (going so far as to drop a student from the program who has an anaphylactic allergy to fish). I'm a vegetarian with a peanut allergy. *sigh* So I gagged my way through rendering pork fat for the tomato sauce and deglazing beef scraps for the Espagnole sauce. (I was told by the culinary school program advisor that the Basic Food Preparation class didn't deal with any proteins. Um... beef and pork are proteins!) I will never again prepare Mother Sauces as a baker, I hope.
My inner Manic Hobgoblin wants to quit. This class is difficult. This class is not fun. Chef is unreasonable in his expectations, and sloppy with instructions. Manic Hobgoblin says it is better to quit than to fail. Manic Hobgoblin says that something I want to do as a future profession should not hinge upon this difficult class that is so very loosely related to my future profession.
Manic Hobgoblin and I agree that Hollandaise Sauce looks and tastes like heart disease, that Espagnole Sauce smells like a sickly sweaty cow, and that pork fat has no place leaving greasy drops in Tomato Sauce. Gross.
However, I have to disagree with Manic Hobgoblin that I should just quit the program. I'm going to get through this BLEEPing prerequisite class. I probably will not make an A, thus ruining my 4.0 Grade Point Average. I will do my very best to pass this vexing class with a C or better. Being imperfect is better than quitting in this case. Riiiiiiiiight? Because I'm having doubts.