8:37 p.m., salmon due
8:55 p.m., stripe bass due

When I started level three at the French Culinary Institute, I entered the land of deadlines. Our class is divided into soups/salads, fish, meat and pastry stations, where we repeat 16 recipes over and over with one goal in mind: to refine the skills we've learned so far.

Timing is by far the biggest challenge.

On Monday night, my partner and I cooked two fish dishes. Here's the quickie: Arrive in class 30 minutes early to gather ingredients and set up work area. Chef takes attendance at 5:45 sharp and gives us a few pointers before we work. First dish up is the grilled salmon with sauteed spinach served with a white wine-herb sauce. We're on time but the salmon is undercooked and the sauce isn't reduced enough. Already we felt like we were behind. After having meticulously cut our julienned vegetables and cooking our fish stock for the stripe bass in a parchment bag, we missed our deadline by nearly 10 minutes. Everything turned out fairly well, but our chef was disappointed.

This brings me back to a point made by Sweet Kell, one of the other student bloggers here, about skills you need for culinary school - or at least you better learn quickly: multitasking.

In a professional kitchen customers want their food to come out on time. It doesn't matter how good your food is because if the customer is turned off, you won't succeed. In the next weeks I'll need to ramp up my preparation for the recipes we've been practicing. This means knowing my recipes well, making a "plan of action" and communicating with my partner. Let's hope it goes better next class.