Friday, March 23, 2012

deed is done

On Wednesday AiW hosted its quarterly portfolio show at the National Building Museum in D.C. – graduation for the students this quarter is actually in June, but we’ve all wrapped graduation requirements and the show is the final step. The NBM main hall is impressive and the school has it sectioned off with red curtains for the individual student tables. The far end of the above picture is filled with all the graphic design, gaming, advertising, and fashion students. The near end is where the culinary and pastry students who are exhibiting; about 50 of us. The process of getting the final Capstone class completed, and prepping for the show wasn’t much fun. But, on the day, it was quite enjoyable. The museum is open its normal hours so the public can wander through shortly after the judges, employers, family, and instructors complete their rounds. We all prep 48 servings of our product (about 2 oz.) for people to taste and we set up our tables in varying states and degrees of decoration. Mine was fairly straightforward with a black-and-white service. I did spanakopita and tzatzki as a sample of my menu; many thanks were in order from the vegetarians who showed up, as well as those that started with the baking/pastry displays (more than half the grads) and needed something savory. As expected, a huge hit with dishes that I’m well versed on. My restaurant plan, in three sentences:

A vegetarian, communal seating, Mediterranean-based restaurant serving various fixed menus for dinner service. A rotating and seasonal menu that’s published online three weeks in advance and your ‘menu selection’ is based on the service for that evening. On Monday it may be a five-course Greek dinner, Tuesday is Moroccan, Wednesday is Spanish, Thursday is Egyptian, Friday is Italian.

It’s an idea that would work in a large city like D.C., but would struggle in a smaller area. I am, after all, telling you that the set menu for the night is all that is on offer. We’d have 130 items but focus on only five for a given day: better focus, fewer workers, better food.

One last item on the culinary world of students (and instructors) before I depart the arena. There is a lot of talk among students and instructors that healthier eating, better products (local), and vegetarian options are on the rise, and in their plans. But, based on my experiences it’s a nothing but hot air. Eat and cook as you please, and cooking and eating at home is always better than anything, but the talk of better and local food is simply talk. When you walk the exhibits, and listen to student ideas for their dream restaurants, it’s little different than meat, meat, meat, baking, baking, and baking. There is still a long way to go before we are at a point where putting a risotto on a menu meets more than the mandatory ‘veg’ option. Take that for what it’s worth. Maybe I can take the last of my money and go to Ireland to learn more cooking.

The last cooking battle, and it’s been quite a week, is finishing the catering for L.’s school auction on Saturday. We’ve planned for awhile and finally started the prep last night. I managed to make it a fully Greek and Italian set up this year for the food. (It’s not a sit down dinner, more of a strolling, eating, and drinking configuration): spanakopita triangles, tyropita, small grilled lamb chops, gigantes, tzatziki, pita, and baklava on the Greek side; two raviolis, three sauces (smoked tomato, basil/arugula pesto, and alfredo), grilled beef skewers, and biscotti on the other. Oh, I also broke the bank for them with six cases of wine – a little over the top. It’ll be nice and raises loads of money for the school. I consider the wine to be a wallet lubricant. I’ll sneak out from my cave tomorrow night and get some pictures.

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