Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Weeks 19 & 20: Menu planning & more nutrition

Two blogs for the price of one again, as we have had two, 2 day theory weeks following our fun in the restaurant and kitchen service.

Looking at, talking about and working on menus - what could be better, other than eating the food?  Along with menu planning and development we also look at kitchen design.  So what are the key points you need to know?  Everything that makes good business sense, but as always, good sense is not always shown in business!

It should come as no surprise that when planning the menu it is not just what the chef wants to cook, but what customers want to eat. Really? Tell Heston Blumenthal that.  Snail porridge anyone?


For the rest of us mortals, start with some analyses: size and type of establishment, kitchen capability in terms of equipment and size, the customer profile, staff capability, availability of supplies, seasonality, and so it goes on.  It makes you think of all the times you walk down a street full of cafes, bars and restaurants and one is full to overflowing and right next door there's one that's empty.  Why?  Probably several things, for as you start to work through the variables the range of of what can be "got wrong'  becomes quite broad.  Too much of what the owner/chef wants and not what the customer wants is likely to be high on the list.  Unless you are Heston.  Then maybe it's because one of your experiments blew up the kitchen and it's closed for repairs.....


 
I don't know about you but I love reading menus - especially if I am about to order from one.  A well written menu piques your appetite by describing the dish in such a way that  you know what is in the dish, how it's cooked and how it is served.  Yes I know that seems obvious, but if you read a description that raises more questions than it answers you become annoyed.  Your annoyance is exacerbated when you ask the waitstaff and they don't know either.

There are a myriad of culinary terms that just do not form part of the lexicon of most diners.  
Little test for you.  How many of the following menu terms are you familiar with?
  • tomato concasse
  • fondant potato
  • darne of salmon
  • chicken veloute
  • onion brunoise

Actually it is a test of how much you have remembered from reading this blog as at one time of another I have mentioned all of these!

It is also fun designing the kitchen. If you go to http://www.gliffy.com/ you can get a 30 day free trial of design software. It is very cool and really useful if you are planning on building or remodelling - which I am not.  However I use it for my kitchen design and have a play with making unsuitable icons suitable. For example, turning a table and 4 chairs into a fire extinguisher - it's like magic! Just shrink to an unrecognisable size and add a label and anything is possible.

I have spent an INORDINATE amount of time on my two assignments over the last week because they have been such fun.
Our two days of nutrition are partly recap from the last sessions a few weeks ago, and partly covering food labelling, additives, E numbers and other not-very-exciting but important information.  We complete a breakdown analysis of what constitutes an Uncle Ben's meat pie (a whole 18% meat in case you're wondering, along with a small truckload of fat - saturated of course - and a great many more ingredients that you do not really want in your diet). I think our tutor was hoping to get some cut through into the eating habits of my classmates - vain hope.  When we break for morning tea, how many choose a piece of fruit or other healthy option?  None, but the fries and pies taking a beating.  So folks, if the message doesn't get through to those who are the chefs of the future, what hope for the general population.


Eat this!