Posted: April 29th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Cooking, Food and wine, Karen Williams, Kitchen Design | No Comments »
After 30 years at St. Charles of New York I still love kitchen design as well as cooking. I’m always learning new techniques at hands-on demonstrations. But wanting a refresher course in the fundamentals, I signed up for a class at the Escoffier school at the Ritz in Paris. Whew! We donned our chef’s whites at 8:30 and worked until 5:30 every day. But it was worth it.
Excellent ingredients and painstaking prep, I learned, are the heart of good cooking. I mastered the art of meticulously dicing or chopping everything precisely the same size so that it cooks consistently. We spent a lot of time on this.
If you don’t prepare an orange properly, for example, removing all the bitter white pith, you’ll never make a good duck a l’orange. A boning knife, it turns out, is the best tool for the job.
Once everything was prepped, we took all the ingredients to the cooking area on a cookie sheet. I loved working on the La Cornue ranges with the French plaque, because it is so easy to control the heat by moving the pan to a hotter or cooler part of the top. You don’t have to fiddle with the burners constantly. It’s perfect for making sauces.
We were graded not only on the taste of the food, but also on presentation which is just as important. We learned not to drown the food in a sauce, but add it on the side to enhance the flavors.
What was the most important thing I learned at the Escoffier about kitchen design? That it’s all about stations, not the work triangle. And the prep station is key. You don’t need a lot of counter space at the range because everything is prepped first and then brought to the cooking station. So the old rules don’t hold up.