It is one thing to have your boss critique your desserts. After a while you build a relationship and learn each other's style and you learn his/her expectations and you work from there. Tastings for people who are on a committee choosing a menu for the umpteenth gala isn't so bad either. Especially when you are doing something that other banquet facilities don't do. But doing a tasting for another chef is different altogether.
Chef D introduced me and upon hearing my name, "Chef B" looks at me intently. "Why does that name sound familiar? Did you work at NoMI?" I nodded and we established that he was on his way out as I was on my way in. I made a mental note to ask my other NoMI alum about him. He looked at my plating, pushed the tines of his fork against the sorbet that was resting on a small cookie (to prevent it from sliding around on the plate) before contemplating the clafoutis. He broke the surface slowly, scooped up a bite of the semi-firm custard and ate it. "Perfect." I was speechless, other than a polite "Thank you," of course. A., the catering manager agreed, and kept eating. I don't remember much else other than Chef D coming behind the line asking me to try the extra dessert (I always make one more to choose the best of, to play around with plating, or in case they have a joiner, etc). I returned to the kitchen with my tray and smiled, still a bit in of a daze.
To have someone in the industry, a peer or higher-up to genuinely compliment one of my desserts means a lot to me. The pastry chef at my last job was convinced that I really couldn't function in her kitchen, though before she started (she replaced the previous chef I learned under) I ran part of the pastry department, and had worked in a 3 1/2 star restaurant before that. Working under someone who has that kind of attitude about you wears on your self-esteem after a while. When you can't prove otherwise in their eyes, it becomes a study in frustration before you're resigned to the fact that you can't change the way that they see you. You then start questioning your skills and talents. Working where I am now has allowed me to learn to trust my instincts and to grow confident in my skills. There are times when I wish I could tell her that I am better than what she thought of me. That I am a chef now, and that people actually like what I can do. But instead, I am learning to find comfort and celebration in the fact that I don't have to let her know these things, that I have already succeeded by not only going beyond her low expectations, but by doing what I love and do best. Validation is better than vindication.
They wanted a brandied raspberry clafoutis. I only had griottines, French brandied cherries in stock, so I found some French brandy and made my own using a cryovac machine. Basically it vacuumed the air out, filling the "pores" of the raspberries with brandy, infusing them faster. I will use this method for the party, but will do so maybe three days prior to get a better flavor. Very simple menu, simple plating. Simple is not easy, by far. It is more complicated because you can't hide behind a thousand components.
French brandied raspberry clafoutis, almond garnish, raspberry sorbet on a basil seed cookie.