Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tools of the trade

Just as a carpenter has his measuring tape, hammer, and nails, every chef needs his set of kitchen tools.

Tools- powerful yet unassuming.
It allow those with adroit hands to create something beautiful, something that people desire.

I hope to be a master and not a slave to them.


I have been excited from day 1 about this tool kit ever since I saw the list. The tool kit and uniform set comes at a stunning price of AU$2,235. The price tag does add to my curiosity on receiving it.

We each receive 2 sets of the chef jackets with double row blue buttons, 2 pairs of checked black and white trousers, 2 blue neckerchief, 2 forage caps and 2 aprons. The kit comes in a foldable black case with about 43 items- including 9 knives, pipping bags and nozzles, a whisk, a sugar thermometer, a trussing needle amongst others.

The moment I collected my tool kit and uniform, I felt like a kid receiving a huge present. I couldn’t wait to get home to open it all up just to open it and see how it looks and works.

On a more serious note, the tool kit seems to come with responsibility and purpose; apart from dispelling the surrealism of the journey that I’m about to take, it re-enforces a whole new sense of purpose in me.

Trying on the uniform and forage cap made me almost tremble with excitement and anticipation. I wonder what lies ahead for me.

I wonder what I will get out of this 9 months.

I wonder what life will be like after the 9 months.

I keep wondering.

This turning point, right at the point of the crossroads of my quarter life, I am finally doing something different, something meaningful with my life. I’m really happy about that.

This is something that I would not and could not do in the past. Daring to turn against society’s expectations, away from peer pressure to do well, I’m taking this step in faith.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

City buzz

The sunlight shines through my window panes as early as 7 am. I get awaken pretty early by the morning traffic. The people here are generally morning people; the shops in the malls are opened at 9am and closed by 5pm (with the exception of late night shopping on Thursdays)

Not wanting to sleep through the buzz of the city, I, too, try to ease into the habit of early mornings and early nights. I’m still trying to rid the eye bags that has formed over the past week.

Breakfast here is a joy. It’s my favourite meal of the day and I’m thankful for the fresh produce and wide variety of dairy products here. Hail to the sweetest strawberries and to greek yoghurt! I’m still trying to finish up my loaf of bread. They largely came in family size and I’m trying not to eat too much of it.

Caught up with some of my senior course mates in Chinatown. Headed to Paddy’s market for a walk which seemed rather touristy and it’s almost like one of the large-scale markets in Bangkok, Vietnam and China.

It was a beautiful day for a walk. We were checking out the chocolatiers in the city. Mainly them cause they were looking around for part-time work. I should get some form of part time work too (once I’ve settled down).

Also, headed to this dessert shop in the city that sells frozen yoghurt (somewhat like Yammi Yoghurt). This has green tea flavour and I had that we hazelnuts. Did I mention that the nuts here are absolutely lovely!! Not like the unfresh prepacked ones you find at the supermarket. I guess this is the kind of thing you do with culinary students.

Eat..and eat some more… look at food..and take photos of food...talk about food

I’m loving every minute of it.

More soon!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

School beckons

While I was on my way to school for orientation, I felt flutters in my stomach. Maybe it’s the feeling of excitement and anxiety all rolled into a fluffy ball. Or maybe it’s the huge sense of surrealism that seems to be lifting my feet and body off the ground. “This is so unreal” That thought just kept running through my head.

Apart from the flutters, I was worried that I would lose my way and not get to school on the time scheduled. I was so relieved when I was greeted by a lady with a jacket with a badge that read “Le Cordon Bleu”. I later learn that she was Nina who would be the coordinator of the day’s events.

I thought I was early but when I entered the reception hall, there was already a crowd forming. We were told to have breakfast which was tea and coffee with little pastries like mini blueberry and chocolate muffins and apple puff pastry. A guy sitting next to me, introduced me to himself and a few others that he was chatting with. There, my time of anxiety and fear just vanished as I started chatting with like-minded friends, my “potential best friends”, as Nina puts it.

The class was so multi-cultural; I’ve met people from Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Korea, India, Germany, South Africa and Brazil. It was a pretty amazing experience and I hope to be able to share and exchange thoughts and ideas and learn about their countries and culture.

The talks begin shortly after the mingling. It began with the history and provenance of the school. Le Cordon Bleu which is the literal meaning of “the blue ribbon” in French. The Le Cordon Bleu holds the highest regard in the world of culinary art. That speech made me feel proud and excited to be part of this exclusive community that has earned itself universal recognition and respect. Expectations of students were then explained along with many housekeeping stuffs.

The most inspiring talk for me was when alumni Gena, came to speak to us of her experience in Le Cordon Bleu Sydney. She too, took the patisserie course, and she has just started out her own patisserie in NSW just about 2 years after graduation. Her story was encouraging and inspiring for me- about how she had only intended to take up the basic course to further her interest in baking but ended up falling in love with it so deeply from day 1 that she knew that she had to do complete the rest of the course and pursue this as a career. I hope that I would feel the same way after the 9 months. Or better still, after the first day.

Chef A*ndre S*andison, one of the patisserie tutors, introduced us to the course. He looks like a very kind, encouraging and approachable chef. Looking forward to take his classes.

Next was the tour of the school: quite a highlight of the day as we saw the kitchens that we will be learning it. The equipment in there looked kind of intimidating to me. All of them supersized from what I’m familiar with. I’m just crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t been too clumsy with them.

The campus is quite huge and I think I would be getting lost quite a bit in the first two weeks at least. Thank God for my newfound friends for I might just have to rely on them quite a bit. Saw some interesting masterclasses on various cuisine like Japanese, Indian and Lebanon that I’m interested in. And I can’t tell you how great it is that the rest of my friends were just as (if not more) excited than me about that!

Orientation ended after we received our timetables and schedules as well as our coursebooks leaving some people in delight and others in dread. As for myself, my classes are from Thursday to Saturday, the morning session which starts at 730am. It suits me fine since I’m more of a morning person but I’m sure many others do not feel the same way.

It’s back to school next Thursday and the topic for day 1 is scones. Looking forward to that!

More next time on the uniform (which I’m sure many esp Grace is interested in) and tool kit..


A fresh start: Sydney

Arrived in Sydney for almost two weeks now. The first week was crazily hectic. Apartment hunting, furniture fixing, and utilities and internet connection took up most of our time. Thankful and blessed to have J by my side to settle things one step at a time.

Things did not get off on a good start. From the airport to my friend’s place at Haberfield cost close to Au$80, about double the price that we were supposed to pay. Talk about getting ripped off! Does not only happen in third world countries.

The next unexpected surprise came when we realised that we HAD to find a new place to stay no matter what. Haberfield, also known as the “little Italy” of Sydney, was no doubt a lovely neighbourhood. If I had continue staying there, I would have been blessed with the Italian delis, paticceria and the kind company of an Italian couple. However, the place was about 2hrs from my school and about 50 min bus ride to the city.

Once we set our minds of seeking an apartment, more obstacles came our way. The leasing system in NSW is very much different from what we were familiar with. There were apartment viewing slots, tedious application process that foreigners had to contend with and competition with several other interested tenants. It was a total landlord’s market.

Through three gruelling days of seeking, searching, applying, we finally found this gem situated just a few minutes from St Leonards Station. It’s a very new and extremely secure building. It also has a indoor swimming pool and a gym. The downside was that we had to get our own furniture (Apart from the considerably high rental).

Happy to proceed with the next steps of apartment furnishing, we headed to garage sales, Ikea and trough the internet pages for secondhand items. By Wednesday this week, we managed to get the whole house running. All necessities are more or less in place.

We were fortunate to have set aside some time to do some touristy stuff like the photo sessions at the Harbour bridge and Sydney opera house, hop on a ferry and saw a beautiful sunset, went to Bondi beach and took the coastal walk to Bronte beach, headed to Watsons bay to see the Gap and indulge in fish and chips, went to the Royal Botanic Gardens and on the most informational guided tours of the Government house and of course, walked around the city area. We did most of what we intended to do except to take a short trip to Hunter Valley region.

In overview, I’m starting to get into the rhythm and pace of the life in Sydney, NSW. I’ve stopped complaining about the transport system that seems to take forever. I’ve stopped feeling too lost and confused (For now at least). I’ve started to take a liking to waking up to the cool air and stepping onto the icy cold marble floor. I’ve started to take a liking to taking in the welcoming sight of the freshest produce. I’ve started to take a liking to the warm and friendly culture here(most of the time, at least).

Though a part (a huge part) of me is missing life in Singapore and the people in Singapore, I hope to make the most and the best of my time here.

I’ll be blogging as much as I could to update all at home.