By Julie Couture
International Culinary Center
Professional Pastry Arts, 2014 Graduate
Smart people and businesses reinvent themselves in order to adjust to current needs. The International Culinary Center (ICC) is one such business. In an effort to adequately prepare Professional Pastry Arts students for work in the industry, chef instructors teach techniques to create sophisticated plated desserts. The culmination of this training? Restaurant Day.
Knowledge is power, but knowledge + action yields amazing results. Restaurant Day is a one-day event with two weeks of preparation. During the first week, we were simultaneously taught two lessons. One focused on flavor profiles and texture composition. This lesson was imparted daily through the creation of deconstructed desserts such as carrot cake, tart tatin and baba au rhum. Each dessert included classic components in addition to gelees, foams and tuiles, which added new textures and flavors. The second lesson focused on the aesthetics of plating. We were taught how to make a plate visually appealing and how to arrange the flavors on the plate for maximum effect.
In order to know which desserts to create for Restaurant Day, we needed a menu. Each student was required to create a restaurant menu consisting of six desserts, a pre-dessert and petit fours which reflected our interests, flavor profiles and influences. Of the menus presented, the Chef Instructor chose two for consideration. The pastry arts students in the class determined which menu would be used for restaurant day.
For my group, the lucky winner was Jennifer Solomon’s vision portrayed in her restaurant, Cercle Doux. Meaning “sweet circle,” her menu was a tribute to classic French techniques, flavors and desserts with a contemporary edge. Her focus was on using fresh, seasonal ingredients in order to develop innovative flavor profiles. One of Jennifer’s strengths is her ability to pair different flavors together. Hence, it was fitting her menu was chosen to represent our pastry arts class.
Jennifer’s menu included classic items with tweaks reflecting her style. For example, the chocolate mousse dessert consisted of chocolate mousse, filled with vanilla Bavarian creme, chocolate Rice Krispies® crunch and a caramel sauce. The lemon blueberry parfait contained layers of blueberry gelée, blueberries, lemon curd and a cookie crunch. We each created one dessert from her menu in addition to the pre-dessert of and the petit fours. Over the course of a week we tested our designated recipes. Some struck gold on the first try. But, for the most part, we found ourselves tweaking and modifying both the components of the desserts and our plating designs. This helped prevent any issues on the big day.
With Restaurant Day upon us, we prepared our desserts for invited friends, family, ICC staff and prospective students. Chef Kir Rodriguez and Chef Cynthia Peithman were assigned to our class as Chef Tom Jones, our regular Chef Instructor, was out for the day due to official government business (translation: Jury duty). Chefs Kir and Cynthia were a dynamic duo and helped alleviate any issues that could potentially arise. While Chef Kir managed the orders and took feedback from the dining room, Chef Cynthia assisted us in the kitchen to ensure we assembled the desserts in a timely manner. Chef Kir wore his trusty microphone so he could communicate with us regarding which desserts to prepare. Sure, it occasionally got a little interesting when we couldn’t figure out if he was telling us to prepare a dessert or if he was talking to a guest about the dessert. Although it was a tad confusing, it gave us all something to laugh about…after it was over.
Given that Restaurant Day occurred in the middle of a weekday, the turnout was impressive and the comments were complimentary. One guest sweetly asked a student to make the cherry crisp for her once a week. With feedback like that, I’d say that Restaurant Day was a success.
Learn more about Julie’s class: Professional Pastry Arts