"French" Fiesta

For the past two weeks I've felt like I could be working in a kitchen in Mexico, Spain, Portugal or Guatemala.

My buffet group served up a fun Latin theme buffet this week.

In level four of the culinary arts program at the French Culinary Institute, students are divided into three groups: production, family meal and buffet.In production you butcher a lot of meats and fillet fish for the school restaurant. While in family meal you get a chance to cook large amounts of food to feed classmates and chefs under deadline. And in the buffet group, you develop a menu and get one evening to show off your skills.

So for the past two weeks six classmates and myself - with the guidance of our chef - have been busily rolling pork tamales, kneading dough four corn tortillas, marinating a few skirt steaks and freezing our mojito sorbet.

It's been an exercise in teamwork that's been invaluable. We have natural leaders in our group and others who are more quiet and hardworking. It's taken both types of personalities to get things done.

One classmate brought up a point that I had forgotten: the joy of watching people eat your food. It's such a simple act, but I think for many of us it's a big factor in why we love cooking.