Wednesday, December 27, 2006


My last quarter (we call them modules, mod for that was Mod 3)was really busy and I was drained. We had long days scheduled in the kitchen combined with some very involved projects that I spent my time out of the kitchen working on. So, I haven't posted much here. :-(

Mod 4 started out pretty easy for me and my 4 classmates. We had table service at Chef's Table, which is from 3PM to close. Our projects for the class were really easy. I made it through another table service class without spilling anything on anyone. Yay! We were able offer a table side dessert on our last 2 days. We had a cart set up for making Bananas Foster. The only problem with it is that our instructor priced it at $10 per person with 2 min order of 2 per table. Let's see, $20 for 2 bananas and some cheap liquor...I don't think so. Okay, so you get to watch someone light things on fire at your table. Still, not worth the price. We actually managed to sell one on our last night...but we didn't hold them to the 2 order minimum.

I ran a drink special when I worked my stint at the bar. The restaurant manager liked it so well that he is going to put it on the regular drink menu. How cool is that!?! It was a Spiced Cranberry Sunrise....spiced cranberry syrup, orange juice, ginger ale, and white rum. I had to give up the recipe for the spiced cranberry syrup.

Today I'm starting a new class. It's Operations Management. It's a pretty basic introduction to restaurant management. I think we have to actually prepare a business plan for a restaurant concept as our project.

Just 48 more classroom days until I'm off to my second internship. :-)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ice Carving

Bullwinkle Ice Carving
Originally uploaded by mzones.
In Garde Manger class, we produce all of the food and displays for Sunday brunch at the Main Street Grill. We spend 4 days preparing foods such as canapes, salads, terrines, pates, omlet station, a roast for carving and some hot foods. We also do presentation items such as aspic platters (decorative work on platters using a very thick geletin) used for serving the terrines and pates. We also do an ice carving every friday afternoon. This week we decided to carve a moose, Bullwinkle specifically. Rocky was one of the aspic platter designs.

(In this picture, Chef John is using the dremel to create handles for moving the sculpture.)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Line Cook at Main Street Grill

Okay, so I've been in this new class for 1 1/2 weeks now. The restaurant, "Main Street Grill", is open 6 days a week, so I only have one day off and it's filled with homework, laundry, etc. I've already completed most of the stations, which are pantry (that's soup & salad), sandwich & pasta, and saute. Tonight I start on the grill and my final station will be the fry station.

We've had a good demonstration of what position in the kitchen is the most important. It is not any of the chefs or cooks or servers. It's the dishwashers. We have one really good dishwasher who normally busses and runs food for servers, it pays better (servers share tips with bussers) than washing dishes. But, when he is washing dishes we never run out of saute pans or pie tins (used for heating stuff in the oven) and he always picks up the dirty saute pans that we drop into hotel pans as we use them on the line. It's so nice and things run really smoothly on the line. Last night was not such a night. The other dishwashers cannot seem to keep up with the dishes and they put the pans off to last, not a good idea. Nor do they pick up the used saute pans so I frequently made trips to the dish pit with dirty pans. At one point, just happened to be during a rush, we had no clean saute pans or pie tins and I needed to get orders into the oven and cooking on the stove top. Incidentally, I ended up having two orders fade from my short-term memory into the black hole only to be rememberd when the chef wanted me to plate them. Ooops! I managed to get them out, but it was more of a rush than it needed to be.

Note to self. Pool tips and share them with the dishwashers. It's financial incentive to work smarter and faster. (NECI does not do this.) Always treat them with respect and remember to thank them for a job well done!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Taste and Flavor

My first rotation this time around is a class called "Taste and Flavor". It includes a wine class and a nutrition class, which is more of a food science class, along with a lab in which we explore what we learn during our lectures. The basis of the class is the 5 basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (a Japanese word meaning savory or meaty). These basic tastes are all sensed by the receptor cells on our tongue. We've learned how they affect each other, for instance salt increases umami and reduces sour, bitter, and sweet. Well, if something is both sweet and sour or sweet and bitter, salt then reduced the bitter or the sour making us able to perceive more sweet.

All of this will eventually get us to a place where we are better able to make adjustments to "balance" tastes on a plate.

Flavor is actually taste + texture + aroma. We aren't really allowed to use this word in class. The chef instructor calls this the "f" word. I've noted that he as used it several times, but I still am bridling my tongue. We are to be specific when describing food in terms of the taste, texture and aroma. I will have a prototype of my final dish which I will complete on Monday. I have not a clue what I'm doing and won't even be able to think about it until Thursday when I sample and am assigned a wine to serve with said dish. YIKES!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Day Trip to Stowe

Originally uploaded by mzones.
Yesterday my roommate and I took a day trip to Stowe, VT. It's only about a 15 mile drive from Montpelier, for for some reason I never made it over there during my first year at NECI. It's a cute little town. The Von Trapp family, of Sound of Music fame, moved to Vermont and settled in Stowe in 1938. The Trapp Family Lodge there draws a lot of visitors, but I didn't bother to go see it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Half Way There

I completed my internship when I clocked out last night. This has been a great experience and really served to reinforce what I learned at school as well as adding to the knowledge. I'm so surprised at how quickly my first year of school has gone by and am looking forward to starting my second year. Orientation is September 6th followed by a sanitation review and welcome back dinner. I'll get my class schedule for the first quarter during orientation.

For now, I'm concentrating on packing my belongings so that I can load them into my car and drive back to Vermont in just a few days.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shrimp Scampi with Angle Hair Pasta

This was a special that we ran during lunch at the Inn on Biltmore Estate last week. Mmmm.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Biltmore House

Biltmore House
Originally uploaded by mzones.
I've let too much time pass between postings. I am still at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, on internship. I will have completed this first internship in just a couple of weeks. Wow, 6 months sure has gone by quickly.

I have learned so much and been able to apply the techniques that I learned at my first 6 months of school at NECI. I am looking forward to moving on and completing my second 6 months of classes at NECI. Following that, I have another 6 month internship before I finish my culinary education.

I have an apartment lined up in Montpelier for my second term. I will be sharing a 2 bedroom apartment that is very close to Main Street, where most of our classes are, with my classmate Maimai (pronounced like my-my). She is from the Philippines and is in the Baking and Pastry program at NECI.

I finally took this picture of the Biltmore House on my day off yesterday. I had a photo tour assignment for school that I wanted to include this in.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Cheese & Fruit Platter

Cheese & Fruit Platter
Originally uploaded by mzones.
I was on loan to the Bistro this evening and one of the things I did while I was there was put this cheese and fruit platter together for a group dinner.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Jelly Bean

Jelly Bean
Originally uploaded by mzones.
This may look like a donkey to you and me, but to the lambs he spends
his time with, Jelly Bean is a life guard.

I went on a field trip with some other interns here at Biltmore. We
spent the day with Dr. Ted, the VP of Agriculture. He took us to the
west side of the property where the majority of the cows on the estate
are raised. The estate raised lamb also hang out here. There's about
15 acres of grapes for the winery, grapes grown here are Chardonnay,
Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, Biltmore
has a nursury here where they have all sorts of plants for the garden
and yard being grown in plastic nursery pots. These plants are
available for visitors to purchase at the gardens by the mansion on the

Anyway, back to the donkey named Jelly Bean. He protects the lambs from
coyote and dogs, which are their most likely preditors in this area. I
learned that donkeys don't like dogs or coyotes, so it's in Jelly
Bean's nature to keep them away from the lambs. Who knew?!?!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Plated Event for 27

33 Salads
Originally uploaded by mzones.
I worked a catered event Thursday (5/11) evening. This was a plated event for 27 persons, we made extra salad just in case. I put the salads together myself, so took this photo for my portfolio.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mary's Little Lamb

Mary's Little Lamb
Originally uploaded by mzones.
On my last day at Inn on Biltmore Estate, I got to put together the special. I was given rack of lamb. The special ended up being: Herb crusted rack of lamb, potatoes anna, grilled asparagus, and rosemary-red wine demi.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kitchen Garden

I'm scheduled to work in the kitchen garden on the Biltmore estate today. The garden supplies fresh vegetables to the 4 kitchens on the estate. Of course, there is heavy rain, thunder and lightning this morning. Perfect. At least I won't get sun burned! ;-) I didn't bring boots, so will sacrifice an old pair of tennis shoes to the mud.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Garlic Mayo

I was reading from my copy of Culinaria Spain and learned that the invention of alioli (you've no doubt seen the French word aioli on menus) is credited to the Roman emperor Nero. The original creation was a combination of garlic and olive oil. The addition of egg used to be frowned upon, but now is widely used. I'd like to continue the frown! ;-)

Here's the original version:
3 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 - 1 cup olive oil
Lemon juice to taste

Pound the garlic and salt to an even consistency, using a mortar and pestle. Then add the olive oil drop by drop at first, increasing to a thin stream and stirring constantly until a thick paste is formed. Add lemon juice to taste.

I'm sure this could all be done in a food processor, but since mine is in storage I will be attempting this the old fashioned way the next time I get a day off. News to follow.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Line Cook

I was able to fill all of the orders that came in during lunch without having to get the sous chef to help me. :-) He told me that they've been taking a lot of heat for not getting orders out in a timely manner. The goal is to fill an order in 13 minutes or less. I filled all of my orders in under 11 minutes. It was fairly slow, so that helped!

Now that I passed that test, I'm moving on to another station, working the employee cafeteria. I'll get to spend more time with my knives getting more efficient at slicing, dicing, etc. :-)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Inn on Biltmore Estate

I spent my first week at the Inn mostly cutting various fruits and vegies. I told them I needed to improve my knife skills, so it's all good. Today I trained on the al a carte cooking line (filling orders from the dining room and room service). I'll be on my own Monday, YIKES! Not really, the Sous Chef will keep me from drowning if I get in over my head. Phwew!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Asheville, NC

I began my drive down here mid-day Monday and arrived Tuesday evening. I had originally set out with the idea that I would stop off near DC and visit the Smithsonian for a few days. As I started my journey, I thought it wiser to get to Asheville and find a place to live. I did find a place and I will be moving in later today. Yay!

It is so beautiful here! The color has not returned yet from winter, but I look forward to watching it return. There are already blossoms on trees and daffodils blooming. I have not been to Biltmore Estate yet, but I'm sure the 50k tulips they have planted there have broken through the ground and will be ready for their debut next month during the festival of flowers.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Outta Here

Today is my last day of table service and the last day of my first 6 month residency at NECI. After class today, I will be taking the contents of my dorm room (except what I need for tonight) to storage so that I can leave here early tomorrow morning...I'm taking a dorm mate to the airport in Burlington (about 45 miles from here) way early.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


I have an internship now. I'll be going to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. I'm so looking forward to being back amongst the working class is a lot of work! I start March 20th and will be there through August 23rd, providing I don't mess up and get fired. ;-)

Table service is still dragging along. We only had 50 covers today. It was our first day in the restaurant without paid staff to help us. I had only 2 tables assigned to me and never had two full at the same time. Time drags by...3 days down, 12 to go...but, who's counting.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Table Service

I made it through my first day of table service without spilling anything on anyone! :-D

It's pretty boring. We are shadowing paid staff for the first two days of class. There are 14 of us and 4 of them, so we don't get to go to the tables much. Plus we only had 79 covers (that's the number of people who ate at the restaurant) during lunch, so it wasn't very busy anyway. I think more people go out for dinner on V-day, so there's that. It will probably be slower today. Ugh!

We did a wine tasting after service. We tasted some of the white wines that we offer by the glass.

Monday, February 13, 2006


While I had initially intended to only bring with me things that would fit into the trunk of my car, I ended up with quite a lot more than that. Given that I only have a few weeks left of school and then will have to move out of the dorm, one of my dorm mates and I rented storage space in town and started packing our belongings. We made good progress, and hopefully neither of us will end up pulling an all-night packing party on the last day of residence here. Ugh!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Last day in AM Grill

Well, today is my last day in AM Grill class. It's been a fun time working on a line cooking a la carte. Yesterday was our big day to present a special menu to the customers, we drew Northeastern US regional cuisine out of a hat and all came up with a special that represented the foods of the region that were appropriate for the station that we were on. I was on sandwich station, so I came up with an open-faced ham, apple butter and cheddar sandwich. It was toasted ciabatta bread with apple butter, Dijon mustard, black forest ham (actually something similar that NECI meat fab came up with), and a 4 year old Vermont cheddar cheese (YUM!). The sandwich was placed in the salamander (broiler) just long enough to get the cheese melted and bubbly. The sandwich was served with a side salad of arugula, fennel, red onion, and apples dressed in a lemon vinaigrette. My class mate took a picture of all of the dishes, so I should have a copy soon to post here on this blog. All in all, our menu was very impressive and was well received by the patrons of the Main Street Grill.

On Saturdays, we serve brunch. Along with our regular lunch menu, we have breakfast items available to our customers. Next we go on to table service, which is also at the Main Street Grill. YIKES! I have to get some white shirts and black slacks this weekend....I didn't want to rush into anything. ;-) Along with table service, we have a wine class and a CPR class.

Just 3 more weeks of class time left in my first year of culinary school. I'm anxious to go on internship...I'll let you know more about that when I have a site finalized.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Pasta Special

Pasta Special
Originally uploaded by mzones.
I'm in the AM Grill class now. In this class, we prepare the family meal (that's the meal for restaurant staff, students, and office personnel) breakfast, and we prepare all of the lunch items for the customers of the Main Street Grill in Montpelier.

I started out on the saute station. One of the dishes I make on this station is the pasta special. Each day, we receive pasta that is made by the prep kitchen and I have to come up with the sauce and the presentation. Today, I received a potato stuffed ravioli with thyme pasta dough. I prepared a meat ragout which I served 5 of the ravioli with. It was a very popular item! :-)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Go Seahawks! :-)

I've been a Seahawks (or Seachickens, as I affectionately call them) fan since I lived in the Seattle area many years ago...back when Steve Largent was playing. Finally, they are going to the Super Bowl and you can bet I'll be watching and cheering them on. :-)

Of course, their web site is throwing errors from all of the traffic it's getting. What can you expect, its built on .NET. Paul Allen, what were you thinking?!?!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Meat Trivia

  • Did you know that Prime Rib is just a name for a cut of beef and the "Prime" in the name has nothing to do with the grade of the beef? That's right folks, it's not prime grade beef rib unless it is also stamped with the prime grade.
  • Grass fed beef has a more beefy flavor than corn fed beef. Grazing on grass is a cow's natural diet, so it stands to reason that the meat produced by cows fed in this manner would receive the highest grading. But no. We in the US prize marbling, which requires fattening the cows by feeding them corn, which we grow way too much of. If you can find grass fed beef in your local megamart, give it a try.