There is something about the kitchen that fascinates and enchants. How can a simple slab of meat and a basket of produce come out of a professional kitchen looking and tasting like an exquisite masterpiece? No doubt, it lies in the skill of the chef. Can you imagine the secrets you can pick up from training under a professional?
Taking a cooking course has been a dream for the last couple of years. So getting a chance to attend a cooking demonstration at Enderun Colleges, a school that runs one of the country’s most respected culinary programs, was something I looked forward to.
Stepping inside one of the program’s culinary amphitheaters was a delight. It brought me back to my childhood play pretend scenarios of being a host on a cooking show. (Yes, when no one was looking, I’d speak to a pretend audience while I was baking. Ssssh, that’s our little secret.) The culinary amphitheater was designed to showcase the demonstration. Equipped with elevated seating, mirrors atop the workstation and a number of monitors focused on different parts of the table, ensuring that you don’t miss a thing. Little 10-year old me could not have imagined such a wonderful set-up.
The session’s instructor was Chef Marc Chalopin, ADF+Enderun’s executive chef. He’s the culinary program’s head honcho, so you bet I was even more excited. Then they read out his impressive resume—he’s worked under Alain Ducasse and Chef of the Century Joel Robuchon, two illustrious names in French cuisine. He was easily the top choice to head Alain Ducasse Formation’s partnership program with Enderun, ensuring that ADF’s standards, principles and techniques are properly conveyed to the students. However, more than his apparent skill in the kitchen, what quickly won us over were his sense of humor and that accent!
Chef Marc demonstrated two dishes. One savory and one sweet. Because certain components of the dessert needed to be frozen (ICE CREAM!), he started the Chocolat Liégeois first. This dessert brings together freshly made chocolate ice cream, a coffee and rum granité, and chocolate syrup, then finished with a chantilly cream and a wonderful nougatine of slivered almonds.
I’ll be first to admit that this isn’t a dessert I’d make at home because of the daunting components, but as Chef Marc breaks it down, it sounds doable. He isn’t even appalled when someone suggested using store-bought ice cream. Of course, after that he grabs a big spoonful of the ice cream straight from the ice cream maker and praises it to high heavens. “Ice Cream is best ten minutes after it’s made. After that, it’s different.”
Also worth mentioning is the creation of the nougatine. Or rather, the smell of the nougatine as he took it out of the oven—a warm, buttery, very slightly burnt scent that had me sniffing for as long as I could smell it.
After getting most of the Liégeois components ready, he started on the Shrimp Tartar Burgers. These bite-sized shrimp burgers featured freshly made shrimp patties layered in mini-buns, sundried tomato petals and baby romaine dressed with a tartar sauce. It was interesting watching Chef Marc work, sharing tips on how to properly peel tomatoes, how to make mayonnaise and how to make sundried tomatoes. Even the way he created the shrimp patties was interesting, as he deftly turned them into balls using the lightest of touches. Now this, I can probably make.
For close to two hours, our instructor for the day not only cooked for us, but generously showered us with tips and lessons that will come in handy whenever we’re in the kitchen. But should we really listen to this man? After biting into his creations, I was convinced. I was suddenly a starstruck fangirl. Anyone who can feed me food this delicious, I’ll readily worship.
The Shrimp Tartar Burgers flew off the plates. These dainty little sandwiches packed the flavors of juicy shrimp, creamy tartar and tangy sundried tomatoes. The patties were nicely moist, with juice that messily rolled down your hands if you weren’t careful. Not that it mattered, you can always lick it off when no one’s looking.
Equally good was the Chocolat Liégeois. Making the homemade ice cream was definitely worth it as it served as the base of the dessert. I don’t think you can achieve the same lovely flavor with store bought ice cream. This tasted strongly of chocolate without being overpowered by sweetness. The granita added a pleasant bitter flavor that cut through the chocolate while the nougatine, with its crisp texture, added a buttery-nutty richness to the whole thing. In not so many words, it was goshdarned yummy!
The whole afternoon made me wonder. Is each day in culinary school like this? Do you always get to eat your projects? I’d gladly be a classroom guinea pig if they’d feed me this well. Even better, I’d love to learn to cook this well.
ADF+Enderun offers a 15-month culinary program that not only grooms the students for a culinary career, but also hooks them up with international internships. The program also offers short term courses, like the three-month certificate course in pastry arts and for hobbyists, 5-week training programs that are more focused in scope. For more information, call Enderun at (632) 856-5000 loc. 574 or visit their website www.enderuncolleges.com
Want the recipes? Coming soon!