Refrigerator moments

As Chef described our class project in garde manger, I started to sweat — it will be the grand buffet. We’ll be garnishing everything and cooking most of the food. Our first lesson was aspic work. I’m no stranger to art, with a degree in graphic design, but never having used this medium, I was a nervous wreck knowing our skills were being tested on the first day.

Chef demonstrated an easy flower collage with vegetables set in aspic, and sent us on our way to create. We were also tasked with deviled eggs to test our piping skills. The thought behind the eggs was that if we can’t make a deviled egg with properly piped filling at this point, we don’t belong in school. Fair enough.

I concentrated on the deviled eggs first, putting off the aspic work as long as possible. The eggs were infused with ginger and set on a bed of toasted black sesame seeds. Time was running out, and I had to start the aspic. Once I blanched all of the vegetables, I laid them on my cutting board and stared at them for a good five minutes. Just like with writers block, the only way to get over artistic anxiety is to dive in and do anything. I started cutting leaves and stems out of the leeks, and then a plan came together quickly for me.

I soon realized the vegetable garnishes were just like paper craft, and that’s exactly how I treated them. The thin planks of carrot became delicate blossoms, with thin slivers of lemon peel acting as the stamen. The variations of green in the leeks created motion and softness in the leaves and stems. While my aspic pouring needed practice (I think next time I’ll use a small pitcher instead of a ladle) the garnishes themselves were simple and beautiful.

The most difficult part was destroying the art at the end of class, and I wished I could have put a magnet on the back of the plate and stuck it on the refrigerator. I’m looking forward to recreating it at the grand buffet.