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what it’s like…

After THIS POST from the first week of classes, in which I put up a “before the storm” photo of my kitchen – I had comment from my friend, Sydney, saying, “I’d like to see the “after” photo :)”

Trust me, no one really wants to see the “after” photos!

Let me put it this way, it took me 95 minutes to mop my kitchen and breakfast room floors on Wednesday afternoon. I use a steam mop and I went over the floors 3 times with 3 different double-sided white micro-fiber pads… all six sides were black by the time I was done.  A few minutes later, I accidentally dropped an ice-cube on the floor… it’s so dang hot here that it started to melt on contact.  So after picking it up, I got a paper towel to get the water off the floor. With only one brief wipe, the paper towel was dirty – and this was after three moppings! There is no winning. The only solution is to have my marble floors stripped and polished, once classes are over at the end of the month.  Now those are before-and-after photos I promise to show you!

Not only did I receive Sydney’s comment from that blog post but also an email from another friend who asked how much time it takes me to set up for classes each morning and just what goes into a class day.  I decided to share a sort of “show and tell” with a sample of a day – yesterday to be exact.

The theme of Wednesday’s class was Appetizer Party.  We made Sweet and Savory Pretzel Bites, Buffalo Wingless Meatballs, Chicken Cordon Bleu Spirals, Bacon-Corn Griddle Pancake Bites, French Dip Crescents, Spicy Ranch Oyster Crackers, and Strawberry-Coconut Cake.

I got up at 6:00 AM and went directly to the kitchen, still in my PJs, and got to work. First I wipe down all the counters again (even though they were wiped down the night before). I read through each recipe several times. Then I decide which 2 recipes most need the stove and begin setting up those two workstations on either side of it. Wednesday it was the Pretzel Bites and the Pancake Bites.

The Pretzel Bites needed a large pot of boiling water. I get the water boiling ahead of time so students don’t have to stand around waiting for that to happen. They also needed a sheet pan with parchment, I set that up. The base of the pretzels is Rhodes frozen dinner rolls. Those need to thaw, so out of the freezer, they come. Once thawed, they have to be cut in half and rise, covered,  for 1 hour… so I have to plan for that… we can’t have 2 students standing around for 60 minutes waiting for the dough to rise. All of the ingredients are laid out at the workstation.

One student this week can not eat meat (due to a health issue). Her mother contacted me ahead of time and we worked through each recipe to accommodate meatless options and then her mom sent those meatless products with her on Monday. There were three recipes that needed modification with her meatless ingredients on this particular day … so that took special planning and then special instruction for the students working on those recipes. I have another student who is allergic to nuts – although there were no nuts in today’s recipes, that is taken into consideration and worked around each day, as well.

The dessert or the most complicated recipe is generally done on the island.  There is more room there for equipment and such. The Strawberry Cake was set up on the island. The strawberries were used three ways in this cake… part was pureed in the food processor, more were diced and mixed into the batter, and the remaining were sliced and laid between the layers and on top. I need to point this out to the pair working on the recipe, otherwise, all the strawberries could be thrown in the food processor before I had a chance to stop it.  Trust me, this sort of thing happens… often. Pans needed to be greased and lined with parchment… meaning I need to cut the parchment ahead of time. Cooling racks were needed. There was frosting to make as well. I have to check on how many times each of the machines needs to be used (in this case, twice for each) and plan for that by either getting out a second work bowl for each machine or telling my assistants to be sure and wash and dry those items quickly and get them back to the counter.

During my “demo” instruction at the start of class, I arranged to show the students how to use a strawberry huller.  How to correctly and safely work the KitchenAid and the Cuisinart. Plus, I would also be showing them how to pound out a chicken breast and chop chives. Teaching new techniques and kitchen safety each day are important parts of the instruction.  And during instruction today, I will be reminding the kids to NOT put the kitchen timers in their apron pocket – two went through the laundry during clean-up yesterday and were ruined. I just add it to the list of things to buy. Oh, Joy!

By now, it’s about 7:30 and Dave has left for work. Once he is gone, I can set the tables. I figure out what flatware we’ll need – do we need a spoon or fork for dessert? Which plates will be used for what. In what order will we serve things?  Since this menu was mostly appetizers, I decided we’d plate the Chicken Cordon Bleu Spirals and the French Dip Crescents on the dinner plates and serve that first. The French Dip would need to have a small bowl for the au jus. I hadn’t needed the extra-small bowls yet this year, so I had to go into the garage and dig them out of the Les Petites Gourmettes storage cabinet and then wash and dry them.  While I was out there, I also grabbed two large platters so we could put the Savory Pretzel Bites, Buffalo Wingless Meatballs, Bacon-Corn Griddle Pancake Bites, and Spicy Ranch Oyster Crackers on platters and pass one at each table. The small plates will be used to serve the cake and the Sweet Pretzel Bites. It was one of the girl’s birthdays today, so I needed to remember to get out the candles.

It was about 8:00 when I’d finished the tables and was able to get back to work on the stations… setting up the counter where the bar stools usually are. Two pairs work on this counter – the Buffalo Wingless Meatballs on one side and the Cordon Bleu on the other. The meatballs are going to need plastic gloves, I dig three sets of those out. Both of these recipes have a sauce that needs to be made in a small saucepan. Since the station is far from the stove, and the stove area is already being used by two groups, a small butane burner is set on the counter for this station.

BTW, the two gift bags seen above are for my heroic assistants, Connor and Troy. We had an emergency medical situation in class on Monday … as in a 911 call that resulted in 1 police car, 1 fire truck with 4 firefighters, and 1 ambulance with 2 paramedics in my living room… well not the vehicles in the living room, but the people from the vehicles.

My guys were amazing! I mean truly amazing and I could not be prouder of them. So I got them each a small token of my gratitude. It all turned out OK, but there were more than a few frightening moments that day and I could not have handled it as I did, without those two gentlemen!

OK, back to setting up – we needed to start to assemble a frozen dessert that we’ll be having on Thursday. I had to figure out, ahead of time, how the pan of 12 cups, with sticks, was going to fit in my freezer. Items got moved from one freezer to another and I finally got the pan to fit… just barely!

If you counted, you noted that there are seven recipes. There are 10 kids in class and they work in pairs. So 5 of the 7 recipes were pre-assigned and the remaining two are to be done by whichever pairs finished their recipes first or would be waiting for their first recipe while it was baking.

The two “extra” recipes on this day were the Spicy Ranch Oyster Crackers and the French Dip Crescents.  Those recipes get set up and placed on the breakfast table until someone is available to take them to their station and work on them.

Now that all recipes and stations are set up, it’s about 9:00. It is time to decide who is going to work on each recipe. This decision is made based on each student’s age and skill level. By Wednesday (actually by about halfway through the class on Monday) I pretty much know how long it will take certain students to get through a recipe, how easy or hard it will be for them, and how much help they will need from me, who gets along best with who, how well they will or will not read the recipe and follow the directions, etc.  All those factors go into my decision on who is going to make what and with whom.

It’s about 9:10 and I finally leave the kitchen for the first time in 3 hours to take a shower and get ready. By 9:40, I’m on my computer answering emails and checking Facebook and my blog – while my hair dries. At 10:00, I go back in the kitchen and take out any items that I’ve left in the refrigerator and just double-check each station.  At 10:15 or 10:20, the first students begin arriving.

We start at 10:30. I tell them who is working with whom on what. They wash their hands and we get to it.

At 12:00 or 12:15 the kids sit down at the two dining tables, while Connor and Troy help me plate, serve, and clear the courses. My super-guys also take out those wretched but necessary rubber floor mats, sweep the floor, take out the trashes and compost, and just keep cleaning and doing dishes. In between all that, I do feed the two of them, I promise!

The kids get picked up at 1:00. Troy has another job to go to, so he also leaves at 1:00. Connor finishes up by about 1:30 and I am on my own again. The counters are still sticky because no one else can clean them as I can. Even though Troy has swept, I still run the Rumba. It’s amazing how much more it picks up. I start the dishwasher. Then I sort through the aprons, deciding which have to be laundered and which can make it another day. All the towels, usually about 20 or so, along with the dirtiest of the aprons go into the washer.  By the time the Rumba docks itself and I clean it out, it’s about 2:30.

I finally sit down and check the computer again. The washer is done, so the aprons get hung out in the sun and the towels go into the dryer. The dishwasher finishes around 3:00 – I unload it and then pull out tomorrow’s recipes and see what needs to come out of the freezer or if anything needs a duplicate made a day ahead. If so, I get busy cooking and finish that by 4:00 or 4:30. I clean up the mess I’ve made and guess what? It’s about time to start thinking about dinner.

Do we have enough leftover stuff from class to just have “leftovers” or do I actually have to cook?

Do I have the energy to cook!?!  If not, I call Dave and ask if he can pick something up on his way home. Now I’ve been at this for nearly 12 hours and I just want to go to bed and collapse. But that would not be fair to my husband, so I stay up and do my best to be nice, sometimes I actually succeed at it!  Somewhere between now and bedtime, I write a blog post for the next day.

I set my alarm for 6:30 and fall asleep in a New York minute.  The alarm rarely goes off, because I usually wake up at 6:00 or earlier and start all over. And that is a “day in the life” when you run a children’s cooking school out of your home in the summer.

If you made it to the end – I commend you – you have patience and stamina too!

And if you made it this far – you surely deserve a chance at a prize. I don’t know what the prize will be but the first person to comment and correctly tell me what is wrong (as in a typo) with my business card that is shown at the top of this post, will win said (actually “unsaid”) prize.  Good luck!

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1 Marissa { 06.14.12 at 10:16 AM }

Aw I remember these days.

2 Kim Tunheim Salmans { 06.14.12 at 10:22 AM }

Linda I have seen it in action lucky enough to be an assistant! Your cooking school is amazing due to your dedication! I learned just as much as the students and think of you every time I cook. Even before I began reading your blog! I am so lucky to have you as a friend!

My guess is that you forgot the s in your email address.

3 Kim Tunheim Salmans { 06.14.12 at 10:23 AM }

I mean your website.

4 barbara fenzl { 06.14.12 at 11:44 AM }

Loved reading about your day, but it’s no surprise to how hard you work. Those kids are so lucky to have you as a teacher!

5 Linda Hopkins { 06.14.12 at 1:49 PM }

Kim is correct – missing the “s” on petites on my web address. I was pretty bummed when this happened, especially since I had only myself to blame – I’d filled out the form in a hurry and left it off. So, Kim – YOU win. I’ll figure out your prize and get it to you sometime soon. Promise! xoxo

6 Lisa { 06.14.12 at 3:52 PM }

You are amazing. See you in a few hours.

7 Pat { 06.14.12 at 5:17 PM }

I got tired just reading about it. I always knew it was a lot of work, but it’s unbelievable. Anxious to hear about the Monday crisis.

8 Kim { 06.14.12 at 8:10 PM }

yippee! That means I will get to see you sometime this summer! 🙂 Try to put your feet up for a few moments tomorrow!

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