Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Knife skills at Enderun

Paper bags with apron, hair net and toque

For weeks, I had been looking forward to the start of my culinary course at Enderun.

Despite a late Friday night, I made it to the school at 8:45 a.m. the following day. I had just enough time to chat with Alexandra, another student, before the start of class. She’s an expat who has been based in the Philippines for close to five years. She was there for just one session. Her main objective was to gather material for an article she was writing for the expat community. It was from her that I learned we were sharpening our knife skills (of which I had none) that day.

We were given our own stations and set of knives

I am not particularly adept with knives, or anything sharp for that matter. I rough cut all the veggies in my mise-en-place (just one of the many French culinary jargons I learned from my first day at class).

Chef Martin Punzalan was put in charge of us. Although I’ve done quite a bit of cooking since I started living independently, I always cooked by taste. So, as far as technique goes, I am at level 1. Thankfully, as Po had proven to Master Shifu in Kungfu Panda that there is a level zero, a classmate of mine managed to do the same.

The different cuts

Can I just say that the torch is now my favorite kitchen tool? And see, it’s not expensive. P74.75 lang =)

Another in my want list, a mandolin.

Chef Punzalan made it clear that he was teaching us the Alain Ducasse method of preparation, which is all about precision. For three hours, we did nothing but practice slicing onions, garlic cloves, carrots, eggplant and zucchini. Now I could tell brunoise from medium dice, jardinière or batonette, and how those differ from crudité and paysanne. I learned that a julienne is typically 3cm in length, and how Michelin star cooking is very methodical and specific. I learned how to torch a bellpepper to peel off its skin and blanch tomatoes to do the same (while keeping the flesh raw and firm). Of course, I’ve watched enough Food Network shows to know some of those techniques but I never bothered to actually do them.

The final output

At the end of it all, Chef Punzalan showed us how to prepare ratatouille using all the ingredients we prepared. Cooking is actually not included in the first module of the course but chef wanted to give us something to look forward to at the end of class. He underscored that what he was teaching was Alain Duscasse’s version of ratatouille (understandably, because Enderun is affiliated with Alain Ducasse’s school). Unlike the traditional way of cooking ratatouille where all the ingredients are thrown in a single pot and allowed to simmer, Chef Ducasse cooks the ingredients in batches. This is to avoid overcooking those that get done fast. I captured the process on video, which I will upload shortly.

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