Culinary Arts I - Tools and Techniques.
This is a great introductory course to all things culinary and serves as a good foundation for taking subsequent culinary arts courses with George Brown College through their Continuing Education program.
Before I started taking this course I was slightly concerned that it was going to be a little basic, but I knew I had to take it in order to take the rest of the courses this program has to offer. As it turns out, I was wrong. As the course progressed, I learned a wealth valuable information. I believe that even experienced cooks would be hard pressed not to learn something.
For a person starting out, this course provides a great foundation for obtaining an excellent 'toolkit' of kitchen essentials. It's like having a toolkit from the hardware store, except instead of a hammer, the tools are knives and spatulas. Although it seemed like a lot of things to buy at first, there was not one thing from the list of culinary tools which was suggested that I don't use to this day. I went to Williams Sonoma for a lot of the listed required tools, but that's not to say that everyone has to spend a lot of money in order to have quality essentials (...I have a weakness for Williams Sonoma - it always smells so good in that store!).
In the first class there is a really great introduction to knives. Before taking this class I usually just used which ever knife was clean and would cut. In the first few classes, you really cover the characteristics of a good knife, knife safety and how to properly (and safely) sharpen a knife(if you've ever sharpened a knife with a steel, you'll understand how this can go horribly wrong).
The techniques covered in this course was very interesting. By the end of the second class, I knew the difference between Julienne, Julienne Allumette, Batonnet, Brunoise, Small/Medium/Large dice and a Paysanne. (if you are saying 'Huh?' right now, don't worry, I did too).
Things that I thought were interesting which I didn't expect to learn, but I did:
=> The history and structure of an egg, how to properly store them, how they are graded, and how they are used in the cooking process (i.e. As a binding agent, to thicken, etc.).
=> The different cooking processes - pan frying, deep frying, boiling (I was surprised that some students didn't know how to boil pasta), roasting, sautéing, simmering, poaching and the list goes on. I knew how to apply heat in order to cook food, but learning the correct way to do this (and yes, there is a correct way) was a completely different story. I learned that heat can actually be thought of as an ingredient in a recipe, which I never even considered before.
=> How cooking methods and timing differs between different coloured veggies to maximize the nutrients and colour.
I could go on...I really thought this was a great course for learning the basics and developing technique.
Don't get me wrong, I am fully aware that these things could be Googled or learned by watching the Food Network (and on a regular basis, I do a lot of both of those things) but the thing I found the most helpful (and that really made the lessons stick) was that once I watched the professor's demonstration, I was able to apply them during the practice labs which are part of almost every class.
Next up....a review of the recipes. Stay tuned!