Saturday, December 19, 2009

Heritage Prairie Farms

Nate Sumner, California Culinary Academy Alumni, which is part of the Le Cordon Bleu North America system, was the guest speaker for the final In-Service Faculty Meeting of 2009. Nate is Assistant Farm Manager for Heritage Prairie Farms, an organic agricultural enterprise 2 miles west of Randall Rd on Roosevelt, in the eastern part of Elburn, IL. Nate brought with him samples of microgreens still being harvested late this time of the year in covered but unheated grreenhouses. He also talked about other varieties of greens still on the farm that are getting sweeter as the weather gets colder.

Nate started his first garden on the roof top of his Wheaton apartment, and now manages acres of land that supply vegetables to some of the top ranked Chicago restaurants including Alinea and the Chicago Marriott. He explains that he is able to connect with some of the top chefs because of his kitchen background and ability to speak and understand their language. He pointed out that each of these chefs have specific requirements for the produce for their restaurants and the economics and dynamics of satisfying each and everyone of them.

And would you actually think I will let him go without asking the ever important question of bringing students for a field trip and possible taste tasting of heirloom tomatoes, and possible getting some of their extra seedlings? Wait til the summer of 2010.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Gingerbread House Recipe

Gingerbread Dough
28 ozs bread flour
2 tbsps cinnamon
2 tsps ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
(if you want your gingerbread lighter in color, reduce spices)
1 tsp salt
8 ozs corn syrup
8 ozs molasses
(if you want it lighter, reduce molasses, increase corn syrup)
10 ozs brown sugar
8 ozs shortening
(if you are making cookies, you can substitute butter)

Combine corn syrup, molasses, brown sugar and shortening in a sauce pot, and warm just until the shortening is melted. Transfer warm liquid into a mixing bowl, and with a paddle, mix in dry ingredients. Mix until well blended. Pour dough into a parchment lined sheet pan or silpat. Cool for several minutes, sheet out to about ¼ inch thick, sometimes thicker, depending on your structure. Chill in the refrigerator overnight. (Tip: after cutting your templates, you can bake your pieces halfway, pull them out of the oven, re cut the pieces using the original templates. This will insure that your sides are all straight and lined up)

Friday, December 04, 2009

White House Gingerbread

Channel 5 called it magnificent.....Kathy Brock of Channel 7 said she had made gingerbread in the past, but nothing like was soooo cool that our gingerbread made it to the Prime time news channels here in Chicago.

The house took 10 days to build. I started the construction by mixing, with the help of some students, the gingerbread, I figured, I will leave it out all weekend to dry after rolling them out in sheets. The same weekend, I drew the templates from gift wrap paper, it took all of 2 days to measure and cut the templates. As soon as I got back to school that Monday, I cut the templates with Dan's and laRissa's help, and also organzed my volunteers into making wreaths from Lifesavers, Topiaries from lollipops, evergreens from tuile dough, poinsettias from royal icing, trees from tempered chocolate. people from marzipan...George from Engineering went to Home Depot to get the boards. Cutting was a little tedious. We baked the gingerbreads halfway, took them out and trimmed them exactly to the size of the templates so all the pieces will fit like a puzzle. After baking, we covered all the pieces with rolled fondant and poured isomalt in all the windows for the glass effect. Then, we assembled. We also used isomalt for glue, and made sure it was quite thick to hold the house together. We have to drive about 8 miles to the museum.

We did the assembly in stages as I was teaching 2 classes and only had several hours after classes before my feet started giving up on me. Oh, and by the way, there was the holiday weekend in between, so I kind of took a few days off for cooking our turkey and Black Friday shopping.

The week after the Holiday weekend, we concentrated on finishing.....roofs went up, covered with fondant, windows were trimmed, lights were installed...a lot of work. We finally took the house to the museum all in one piece in a rented van. We did all landscaping on sight. I talked to Angie, our purchasing manager, no matter how much you work, your vision is only in your head or on paper, you never really know if the colors and textures will work, or if it will hold up. At about 5:30 pm Thursday, we were done......and it was sooo cool.. we made everything come to life..

Today was the unveiling and everybody was so proud.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jim Zweifel: Creator of the White House Replica

Last week, I got an email inquiring if I was interested in constructing a White House Gingerbread Replica for the Museum of Science and Industry. Without really thinking of the work involved, considering there's only 2 weeks of work days left, I agreed.

I have since, met with Mike Foran, Publicist for the museum, Anne Rashford, the Director of temporary exhibits and events and the creator of the White House Replica hinself, John Zweifel. This man's work is amazing. From the photos on the walls, to the pots and pans in the kitchen, to the lawn furniture and settees in each of the rooms, you have to see this exhibit. The replica itself, although called a miniature, is is about 20-25 feet long and maybe 10 feet deep. The house, including several treasures from the White House is on temporary exhibit at the Museum and will open tomorrow and run until Feb 2010.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fall 2009 Graduation

Danny Davis, US Congressman representing downtown Chicago and the surrounding areas was guest speaker at the 2009 Fall Graduation. Mr Davis' motivational poem about a builder inspired the students as they move on the application side of their skills and knowledge. Recipient of this graduation's frying pan award was Nancy Carey. Reception after the ceremony was in the atrium outside the Grand Ballroom of the downtown Chicago Marriott. Food has been consistently improving, let me tell you....

International Caterer's Association Conference, Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Friday Nov 13

The regional conference of the International Caterer's Association was held at school this past friday with attendees from all over the US. Theme for this event was Me and My Chef. The South Campus was used for the Continental Breakfast prepared by the Baking and Pastry Department with pastries from the breads class, mostly croissants, pain au chocolates, danishes, palmiers, and muffins and scones from the cuisine classes. Lectures were also held in the South Campus. For lunch, the attendees moved over to the North Campus for a beautiful set up of fresh celery root and apple salad, short ribs, paella, buffalo, smoked duck breast, red and yellow beets with some kind of goat cheese dip, kimchi, a kind of curry....Meanwhile on the other end of this presentation was the all important sweets table from petit fours made in the basic patisserie class. I was asked to quickly make a sabayon for the fresh berries. I made a kirsch sabayon instead or your regular white wine and stabilized it with a little gelatin and piped it in verrines ordered for the event. And to add color to this fall event, I picked all our flowering cabbages and kale from the CHIC garden , and the lone sunflower left uneaten by the birds, and also some flowers from the broccoli. Chef Montanile had ordered some gourds for the table and a huge arrangement of roses graced the sweet table. The event continued on with more lectures...and ended about 4 pm

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What's Going ON at CHIC?

It's been quite hectic around here...we have changed from a 1 year program to a 15 month program, 4 days a week. This week is especially busy...we had a Dinner Tuesday night to benefit the scholarship program, a Governing Board meeting Wednesday, a Pumpkin Carving Contest the same day, with games, tasting contests, free popcorn and caramel apples. Thursday we had a Bake Sale to benefit the Knowledge Bowl Team and Thursday night, a reception for the release of Entre Amis, the CHIC magazine. In addition, we've had a few job fairs in the atrium, all in a week's time.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ronald McDonald House Charities' Plane Pull

The Ronald McDonald House will hold its Southwest Plane Pull Fundraiser today Saturday at the Midway Airport. CEC has a team of twenty that will try to pull the Southwest plane the fastest. Each person on the team was supposed to raise $200 for RMHC's mission of improving the health, well-being and education of all children. We were asked to create a cake to commemorate the event. My former student Lulu Castellanos, and current students Cesar,Veronica Gonzalez, cuisine student Manny came on a non school day to help. Thank you so much.

Circus Cake: tips on creating

I try as much as possible to do some cakes every year just to keep up with my skills. This cake was made for my cousin's daughter's first birthday. I used marshmallow fondant to cover the layers. The hard part was choosing the color combinations. I did not want it to be too bright and loud, but at the same time interesting to a little girl. I also always to remind myself to roll the fondant thick, to make enough fondant so I don't skimp. Color the fondant when making it so that it is easier to incorporate te food color, , and try to color as much as you need in one time, because sometimes, you cannot replicate the color. Some people use shortening on the table or plactic mat, but I prefer cornstarch, but you just have to be careful you do not use too much

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cake Parade

The students of my PBK 170 Cake Assembly finished their 6 week course on cake assembly with a Cake Parade final practical. They were each asked to produce 3 cakes, 2 of their choice, and 1 a black box. Chef John Montanile helped out with the set up and Llyod Kirsch and Marshall Shafkowitz welconed guests.

The pictures don't do justice but the cakes were beautiful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Update: CHIC Garden

The season is coming to an end but we are still harvesting green zebras, sunsweets, supersweets, cherry, chocolate cherry, arkansas traveller, white eggplants, lots of hot peppers. The basils are still plentiful, the rosemary, oregano, thyme, lemon grass, chives, garlic chives, are all so healthy. The broccoli raab has reseeded and so has the arugula. The perennial garden is in colorful bloom, the celadine poppies have come back and the echinacea is going to seed, which makes the finches quite merry.

lessons learned from our first year will hopefully make for a better next year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2009 Adobofest

This is the second year I have been invited to be a judge in the annual celebration of the Philippine National dish, the adobo. This year is special because the sponsor of the fest, the Filipino American Network is teaming up with Gawad Kalinga, a Habitat for Humanity style group to raise money for the poor in the Philippines. Attendance to the show has multiplied exponentially and it is great to see the interest in promoting traditional Filipino food and culture and see the young kids just totally embrace their heritage.

This year also, I was so proud to sit on the judges table with two former students, Ron Bilaro,now a well known TV personality through out Filipino communities worldwide and Paolo Nicolasin Escobar who finished his externship and will continue on as a lead cook in Valencia Spain. It gives me great pride and joy to see students succeed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CEC and The Ronald McDonald House Charities

CHIC sponsored a movie and dinner event to support the activities of the Ronald McDonald House. In conjunction with the release of the Julie and Julia movie (Julia Child of course, one of the most popular Le Cordon Bleu graduates), Chef Marshall, Chef Corrado, myself, several students prepared a dinner similar to Julia Child's final Practical at the famed French school. Chef John created the dessert, Lloyd Kirsch was Dining Room Manager and Karinne Slyman, Head Captain. The dinner raised quite a sum of money that was donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.
To honor the check handing, we made a cake made to look like the real one, complete with Chef Marshall's forged signature. The cake was then delivered to a Ronald McDonal House in the area for the kids and staff to enjoy