**See updated tart pics below!**
As with any school, Culinary Arts training has to incorporate some form of graded assessment. By our final practical exam it will look and feel much like an episode of Chopped– mystery basket and ticking clock included. Minus, hopefully, a bit of the drama.
Each week we are given both a written exam and a practical exam which are combined with other various assessments throughout the course such as uniform inspections, kitchen cleaning assignments, professionalism, etc. Our chef instructor is truly awesome. He isn’t, however, easy. A written exam is a written exam and if we can score a 100, then bring it on. I have. But he told us on the first day that he doesn’t give 100’s on practical exams… “only God is perfect.” Fair enough. Difficult to argue that.
Having the deep-rooted internal nerd factor that I do, it is- of course- my goal to get as close to that coveted 100 as I can. And finishing the program with a 95 overall average earns the title of Honors- yes, goal has been set. Possible? We’ll see.
Our first practical was an assessment of knife skills. We were given one carrot and told to produce a perfect julienne. That’s a 1 1/2-2″ long cubical cylinder with height and width of exactly 1/8″. A fine julienne is the same length with width and height of 1/16″. Really, pull out a ruler and look at 1/16″. Every corner should be a perfect right angle and every thin carrot matchstick should be identical. Thankfully for our initial exam, time wasn’t part of our grade. It will be in the future.
Last week’s practical was a basic rice pilaf. Not a lot of creative design involved, but the method and final product had to be perfect. Could have used a little more salt… 94%. I’ll take it.
But today, we are each graded on producing a fruit tart. Ecstatic! We prepared our doughs and stovetop custards yesterday to chill overnight. I’ll roll out dough, blind bake several individual tarts and pick the best one to fill with pastry cream. Part of our grade will be drawn from knife skills and fruit selection, arrangement, and design as well as texture and taste of each individual component. Chef has the fun- or not so, depending on how much fruit tart you want to eat- job of tasting and grading all eleven tarts.
Game on! And pressure’s on now too 🙂 I’ll follow up tonight with pics of my tart and others… and maybe even some grades…
Evening addendum: As a class, I think we baked our way through the the fruit tart exam brilliantly! You can see from the pics that some absolutely beautiful tarts were created.
Overall I was pleased with my fruit tart, and I was even happier with my grade- 98! Chef said I might have gotten that coveted 100 if my crust had been a little more tender. He’s right: it was a little tougher than I’d hoped, probably due to me overworking it a bit. But I did get a taste of a classmate that had the perfect tart crust… so new goal has been set! And my protein bar for dinner had some colorful, sweet, fruity company.