Everything I learned about baking, I learned from Alton Brown

Tomorrow is my last baking and pastry class, and next week is my final exam. No practical - just a written test.

I've been pretty hard on Chef about not grading us on our cooking abilities or technique. I suppose I had lofty thought bubbles of Chef admiring my baking skills, running down the hallway with polenta cake in hand, singing my praises and passing my name on to everyone as best student ever.

Yeah, right.

But after he explained himself last week, I get it, and I appreciate it. Because we cook in groups, and we can't control what others in our group are doing, he grades us on class participation, our binder project (a recipe book we create throughout the semester with all of our recipes and photos of food we cooked), our bi-weekly tests, and final exam. This way, if someone in the group isn't pulling their weight, they won't bring the lot of us down in their fiery ball of failure. And I applaud that.

My group parters, R and TR, are young, and I don't think they take culinary school as seriously as I do. They're always sick, hung over, coming down from a misc. high, talking about partying - definitely not my scene right now. They're great kids, fun to be around, are kind-hearted, but certainly do not share my work ethic. And when I was in my early twenties, as they are now, I suppose I didn't share that work ethic either.

But, I do have to say that Chef isn't as crazy as I thought he was. There is a method to his madness. A method I finally understand. And a method I'll experience again with him next semester.

In retrospect, my first cooking class at Valencia was OK - a 50-50 mix of pleasant surprises and frustration. As described, it's definitely a career program. By that I mean you need to know a bit about cooking before you enroll or you'll be lost. In this class, I received more of a "do this" approach from Chef, rather than the "do this, and this is why you do this" I was hoping for. I had to learn a lot of the "why" on my own.

If I had not read Alton Brown's book, "I'm Just Here for More Food" long before I enrolled in culinary school, I probably would still be trying to figure out why my cake didn't rise or why my creme brulee curdled.

And while it's fair to say that everything I learned about baking, I learned from Alton Brown, it's also fair to say that his book never fully made sense until I was able to apply that information in baking and pastry class.

I proved, at least to myself, that education alone is not enough; reading on your own and self education is not enough; and working in the industry is not enough. To truly learn the culinary craft and master it, you must immerse yourself in all three areas simultaneously.

I've already started cramming for next semester, which is my first-level cooking class, reading professional books from CIA and the like. To date I can cook an egg 23 different ways. I only have 77 more ways to master until I'm true to my pleated toque.

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            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
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            1 Program(s) Found

            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

            1 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
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            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
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            3 Program(s) Found
            • Offers educational opportunities for the aspiring, career-minded chef.
            • Students are trained by professional chefs and spend the majority of their final term working in the campus restaurant to learn all phases of the culinary industry.
            • St. Louis campus offers new Food Truck Entrepreneurship courses.
            • Has a student-run food truck that tours around St. Louis.
            • All campuses have a public restaurant where food is prepared and served by students.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
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            1 Program(s) Found
            Salter College , West Boylston
            • Offers training programs in preparation for professional careers in business, health care, and computers.
            • Provides associate and certificate programs in medical assisting, massage therapy, culinary arts, and more.
            • Places students in externships to gain real world experience before completing their respective program.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
            • 2 campuses in Chicopee and West Boylston, Massachusetts.
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            • Accredited
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            5 Program(s) Found

            Sullivan University is a private institution of higher learning dedicated to providing educational enrichment opportunities for the intellectual, social and professional development of its students. The institution offers career-focused curricula with increasing rigor from the certificate through diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Throughout those curricula, the university seeks to promote the development of critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication, computer literacy, and teamwork as well as an appreciation for life-long learning, cultural diversity and the expression of professionalism in all activities. At the graduate level, the university also seeks to promote a culture of research.