Luckily, Monday's exam was only our mock midterm. I'm only two weeks away from reaching the halfway point of finishing my nine-month program at the French Culinary Institute.

This exam was a real eye-opener.

Of course I drew the number to be the first group to turn in dishes. My assignment? I had to make consomme (a very clear, clean and flavorful soup) and boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy).

We started at about 5:55 p.m. and my consomme was due at 8:43 p.m. I quickly prepped my vegetables to make a raft to clarify the consomme. It went well - my consomme had good flavor, the vegetables were uniform and the broth had very little grease in it.I was pleased considering how last week our chef said my consomme lacked salt and tasted especially flat.

My beef dish was a different story. Due at 9:41 p.m., I was nearly nine minutes late. We're docked seven points at the five-minute mark and a point for every two minutes after that point. Besides the meat, the dish had many components: sauteed mushrooms and bacons, pearl onions cooked to a nice golden color, diamond-shape croutons, fresh egg noodles and a reduced veal stock. My sauce was too thin and the beef needed more salt. The bright side: I had practiced making the egg noodles at home and it paid off.

Overall, I felt pretty good about the results except for being late. This just means more practice at home! As our chef said, you have a new day to redeem yourself in a kitchen.