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Graduation

Today is graduation day! We are finally finished with culinary school, and soon off to start our careers. I can’t wait for my tall chef’s hat!

We have prepped for our dinner buffet that will be before the diploma ceremony. An extensive menu of vegetables, pork, fish and crustaceans will be served, as well as dessert… all recipes created by us 🙂

As you know I will be working at La Gazza Ladra in Modica (RG) in Sicily. I start June 22. I’ve spoken to the head chef, Accursio Craparo, and he is happy to have me work there for throughout the summer.  His food is meticulously made. He creates art out of food like I’ve never seen before. I know I will learn a lot from him: skill, technique, patience, and speed. He seems like a great teacher.

When I come back to New York I hope to work in either in the city or around my home in Westchester for an Italian restaurant that also serves a brunch menu. I want to work and learn as much as possible, this way I can, one day, have my own restaurant, and possibly a bed & breakfast.

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In the middle of the final exam the gas goes out. No stove top, no oven, no flat burner. What dishes did I get stuck with? Gnocchi and the pine nut tart. All things that DEPEND on heat sources to finish!!! Needless to say I had a few heart palpitations. Thank goodness the gas was fixed 10 minutes later, though it felt like forever.

So after my short panic attack, I was able to collect myself, and send out both dishes on time. I was pretty happy with my prepping technique, cooking, and plating design.

I was judged by a Michelin- rated chef and a journalist from a foodie blog. Both gave me good feedback… not necessarily positive, but good.  I was told that my gnocchi tasted slightly floury, and that my pine nut tart was cut unevenly and not as moist as it should be.  I was also told, however, that my presentation of the pine tart was great, and that the sauce for it, the rosemary crema inglese, was “impeccable!” I was very proud of myself.

At the end of the night, I was satisfied with my work, and gracious that such important people of the culinary industry critiqued my food. It was also good to be under such stress… between the time constraint and the appliances not working gave me another idea as to what can happen in a kitchen experience during service at a restaurant.

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Judgement Day

All that we have learned, labored over, loved, and loathed throughout our culinary experience will be assessed in just 2 days. What does that mean? The final exam day is approaching.

Our task is to prepare 2 random dishes in 2 and a half hours from start to finish. They will either be an antipasto and secondo (a meat or fish course), or primo (pasta or rice course) and dessert. Imagine having to bake a tart and at the same time making hand-shaped tortelli, then plating them with their sides, sauces, and garnishes,  all in 2 and a half hours. It seems like a lot. But that’s what it’s all about… pressure

Being judged by well- known New York chefs, journalists, and foodies is just about enough for me to start hyperventilating! I have been studying different plating ideas for all courses, this way I have a clear and professional idea on what to do. I hope this will help lessen the stress.

I will write about the experience after exam day. Wish me luck!!

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Exhausted and broken down. After a double shift Thursday, Friday night, Saturday double shift fully booked until 2am, and an early 5am wake up Sunday for the Grand Prix at Monte Carlo (see photo), I am soooo tired. I’m pale as anything, dehydrated, and the bags under my eyes could make a mother cry.

This last weekend of my stage gave me a glimpse of a real-life restaurant experience. No cushy internship here!

I’m happy I’m going home—it will be 5 months since I’ve been in the US. We have our final exam in New York the 26th, with 2 days before of training. Then we have graduation. Then I guess I could call myself, officially, a chef.

What does my future hold as a graduate of the Italian Culinary Academy? I spend 3 weeks in New York for some r&r, go to Paris with my mom, and then I’m back to Italy for a job at La Gazza Ladra, a 1 star Michelin restaurant in Modica, Sicily. I’m ecstatic… the Mediterranean in the summer at a Hotel Restaurant will keep me busy enough. Once I know more I will write more. As for now I am looking forward to my next 2 days in Tuscany with my family, then off to NY.

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Today I spilled the zucchini soup, the restaurant’s signature dish, and biggest seller, all over the floor.

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I have been so busy this week. Spring and summer are colliding here in the Riviera, which means tourist and special events.

This Sunday Chef Flavio is catering a dinner party in Monte Carlo, Monaco for the Formula One Grand Prix Race. And I’m going with him. This past week and a half have been dedicated to prepping for the 70 people that are going to be dining at Flavio’s friend’s estate.

What’s on the menu? We’re going to be in Monaco, so you gotta go big: caviar, salmon, lobster, black truffles, mixed crustaceans, fois gras, asparagus, porcini mushrooms, star fruit, cherries, and gold. Yeah, that’s right…gold.

I don’t even know what the final dishes are. All I know is what I’ve been prepping. 100 hours last week.

I will definitely post some pictures afterwards. The day after Monte Carlo I’m leaving  to go home to New York. Nice way to end a stage, ehh?!

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Full capacity at Arco Antico = chaos. This past Saturday was Labor Day, which meant that everyone in Savona who didn’t go to San Remo for the weekend was interested in a “buffatta” aka stuffing yourself with tons of food until you feel like you’re going to fall over. Instead of participating in the holiday of Labor Day, I was the one laboring in the kitchen until 2am.

Culinary school did not prepare me to run around a tight, maze-like environment, plating an entrée on one forearm and making last-minute lace cookies with my other free hand.

The culinary school environment is ideal beyond belief. Not only do I have to multi-task on a super detail-oriented level now, I also have to swerve in and out of little passageways and work on tables that not even little girls could be able to use for tea parties. That’s how small my space is.

Imagine that you had to simultaneously fillet, bread and fry a kilo of various types of fish, defrost 2 kilos of cod, weigh fresh past that is OBVIOUSLY sticking together in clumps, get ingredients for 3 desserts, and heat up sauces…all while the head chef/owner decides to come into your space of the kitchen, compose 2 cheese plates with all the bells and whistles of jam, honey, candied fruit, and nuts, and leaves all the sugar-coated jars and sticky spoons sprawled on your only countertop. ABSOLUTE PANIC MODE!!!

At one point I honestly didn’t know what to do. I found myself feverishly pacing from my hole-of- a-space to the main kitchen because I didn’t know what to do first, what to clean up first, what to prepare first!!!!

Needless to say I screwed up…but thank goodness not seriously. I fried a tasting menu portion of the fritto misto instead of a regular size entrée portion. I had to re-do the dish. I was embarrassed and felt somewhat stupid, but only because I have high expectations for myself, not because anyone in the kitchen demeaned me. They were just disappointed and grumbly.

Pfew…. I was so glad that night was over. I want to get better and faster. I just wish the space was as big and perfect as the one I have been used to in culinary school. But then again, that’s not real life.

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