Recipe boot camp
January 28, 2011
By Christophe Measson
As a chef and instructor for the culinary institute at George Brown College in Toronto, I need to have a down-pat process for developing recipes that will be successes in the classroom. Perhaps you are considering expanding your business by teaching classes.
When it comes to developing course content, there are several components I look at to craft a recipe for a course that will be a winner:
- working with new ingredients
- using different methods
- appropriate use of equipment
- fitting the course content into one four-hour lab
- finalizing the requisitions for costing
There are four steps in this process: identifying, testing, implementing and feedback.
First, I sit down and review the current curriculum content. I look to see what I can take out that is not relevant to the industry anymore and identify new techniques and methods that the students haven’t been exposed to yet.
The next step is to test all the recipes in a group setting. I invite a few students to help so I can get their feedback. Testing a new recipe can take up to two weeks to complete. Another important aspect of testing is to make sure we put the right amount and type of ingredients on our requisition for a class of 24 students. Once this process is done, I shadow and help the teacher that is going to teach the first class to make sure we overcome any difficulties and make good use of the time. Four hours may seem like a long time, but if it’s not structured, the workflow will not progress successfully during class.
In a practical lab, we start by giving the students an introduction to the workshop. We then do a demo, which they repeat at their workstation. This is a critical aspect of the teaching, as you need to spend time with the students to prevent mistakes and encourage their progress. The instructor also needs to prepare the second wave of demos so that when we call the students back to the chefs, we aren’t wasting time or creating confusion. Organization and communication are key.
To make sure a class runs smoothly, we inspect all products prior to the class, making sure all are accounted for. For example, when we are doing poached pears, we want to make sure that the pears are the right varieties and slightly unripe. In another demo, we didn’t have the right variety of apple, so we had to be careful when caramelizing because the apples were very fragile. It is truly a balancing act and you have to be quick, identifying and solving problems. When you are putting a course together, work has to be well spread out over the three days. I am very conscious of the fact that students need time to plate and package on the last day, so all the mise en place needs to be ready beforehand. It is very much like the organization in a restaurant. Delegating to 24 students can seem chaotic but, if done right, things move fast.
Finally, students plate their work. I usually need an hour to mark everyone, as we have to review and comment on every plate. Then there is the cleaning. We have a duty list and everyone is assigned a task.
All labs must be clean before the next teacher arrives.
Some of the finished products haven’t received the thumbs up from the students, partly due to the nature of the ingredients such as yuzu fruits or quince. Others have been a real hit! Hearing student feedback has helped me filter and eliminate some items from lessons. This is a very important step. Executing a dessert in a classroom is no different from doing it in your restaurant. Whether dealing with students or guests, you want a positive reaction.
|A winning finished product!
Photography George Brown College
Feedback from students
“Being one of the first classes to try out the new recipes brings a lot of firsts to light,” explains Michelle Oger. “Many students feel that remaining product at the end of the day would in the real world affect your businesses cost. This gives the recipe developer a chance to adjust the recipe in half or thirds to cut back on waste. Also, trying new recipes brings out everyone’s opinion on tastes and textures. Bringing in unknown ingredients such as yuzu puree and quince fruit was a good way to introduce us to new flavours, and allow us to determine if we’ll ever feel the need or want to use this item again.”
“It’s funny because I never think about where the recipes that we make in class come from,” says Thomas Peacock. “We’re just told to make them, so we do. It’s interesting to know that it’s our own chefs that are coming up with these ideas and actually putting a lot of time and effort into perfecting them before launching them out into the classroom. It really does give you an appreciation for the food we produce knowing that they are new recipes created by our teachers as opposed to dated recipes that the industry isn’t very familiar with anymore.”
“As a student already working in the industry at a busy restaurant, I love having workshops like these as a part of my curriculum,” says Stephanie Duong. “At the college and the restaurant there are strict timelines to follow and prep work to be completed by a designated time. However, the working circumstances as the school are much different than those at a restaurant in the industry. At school there are 24 other students striving to prepare the same mise en place as you, using the same equipment, scaling the same products. We work usually as a team of two or four at school, when in the industry, usually the pastry department is quite small and can even just be one person sometimes.” / BJ
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