Now on my second year of my Baking and Pastry Arts degree at Johnson and Wales, I have a lot of experience about what its like to be in labs at school.What you need to be able to be successful and truly further your career, along with what skills and tools will help you to be prepared for school.
To me, there are five very important skills that you should learn or master before attending any culinary school.
When you are cooking, being able to multi-task is extremely important.You will have to be mixing one thing, keeping an eye on the other product in the oven, and scaling out the next product all at the same time.Without messing anything up! There are plenty of people whom this comes naturally to, but if that is not you; maybe try perfecting your multi-tasking abilities.
Alright, I know what your thinking.How hard can it be to master mixing?Just put the spoon in the bowl and stir!But, its a little more complicated than that.Mixing is a very important part of baking, if you do not mix something properly the first time than your product will not turn out correct.If your mixing by hand, make sure that you are mixing the entire thing, scrape along the side and get all the way to the bottom.I see most people just stirring in the very middle of the bowl and are very timid about it.If you are using a mixer, make sure you stop and scrape down the side of the bowl.The last important thing about mixing is to know your timing.Every recipe and formula you make will need a specific time and speed that you need to mix it for.Obviously, each formula will be different but keeping to what the formula states is very important.
How can you be a baker or pastry chef if you cant knead properly?To knead a ball of dough, fondant, or anything else that might need to be kneaded, pardon the pun, start on the proper surface.Make sure your clean and dry surface is well floured, than place the dough in the middle of your work place.Using the heel of you hand push down and away from you, in the center of the dough ball.Fold the dough back towards you in half, rotate 90 degrees, and repeat.The more you properly knead dough, the faster you will be, and will be able to do all the steps in one easy swoop.
Unfortunately there isn’t always a mixer at your fingertips to whisk something up.So, you need to know how to do this by hand.Whisking is not an easy task, and involves a lot of different variables.What type of thing you are whisking up and the amount can make a huge difference.But, for now, lets use making a small batch of whipped cream as our example.First, you need to use a large enough bowl and make sure that said bowl is clean.You need to use a traditional whisk that matches the bowl size, for example you want a whisk that the metal tines reach at least the top rim of the bowl.
Now you need to get the motion right, quickly snap your wrist back and fourth.That’s it!Do not go in a stirring motion, but purely back and fourth very quickly.This incorporates air into the cream, creating the rise that ultimately results in whipped cream.Now, that way a very simple and quick way to explain it, but the important things to remember are to keep the whisk all the way to the bottom of the bowl.To keep the speed up very high and make sure you are actually whisking all of the cream.
The last and most important thing on my list is creativity.While creativity is not really a skill, it is a very necessary tool to have in the kitchen.You can teach anyone to make a good chocolate chip cookie, but to make an amazing dessert out of a chocolate chip cookies that is unique and beautiful takes a lot of creativity.My suggestion for everyone who is aspiring to be a chef of any kind is to take some art classes at a local community college.Having some knowledge of colors and design will really help in designing a dish.
Well, there are the the five skills I feel that are extremely helpful when starting at a culinary school.Even if you are not going to a college, and are just starting out working at a restaurant, these are skills that you cannot pass on learning.