Final Exams

final examsI’m in Finals…

For a culinary student, that means hard labor and an artistic creation all in the space of a few hours. And later in the week, you do it again.

Ever see Iron Chef? Two great chefs compete, not really knowing what the secret ingredient is before the show begins. They have to use their skill and understanding of preparation methodology to create dishes.

And that’s sorta what we had to do. Granted, there are differences. Firstly, I am nowhere near as good as Hiroyuki Sakai, my favorite Iron Chef. We have a few hours, not one, and we have the luxury of knowing what types of dishes to make (One soup, two salads, one starch, one protein, etc, etc.) We get turned loose on a pile of ingredients the day of the exam, not knowing what we will have to work with ahead of time. We have to pump out anywhere from 8 to 50 items, depending on the exam.

Yeah, I understand most cooking methods, and the theory of flavor profiles (what makes something taste Asian, Indian, Cuban, etc.) So, I usually do fairly well, but there’s a kicker.

And, to top it all off, we have to be artistic and creative. Yup, those fancy schamncy platings with exotic sauces, carrots carved to look like dragons, etc.

I call it “Art Under The Gun.” Most artists have a difficult time with pressure and deadlines. Three hours isn’t much of a deadline to come up with something spectacular, but I think it is forcing me to work my “creative muscle.” No dirty jokes, please. ;-)

Basically, I am being given a palate of ingredients, a plate as a canvas, and I can use proper theory and arrangement to stylize how the food appears on a plate. Matching colors, contrasting flavors, weak and strong lines, everything.

So my challenge to you is to, sometime this week, pick up your medium of choice, be it food or pastels or pen and ink. Time yourself. Stop when your time runs out. Force yourself to come up with something new and unexpected. Don’t be disappointed it it doesn’t turn out perfect right off the bat. Keep spontaneously creating.

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