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Hector's Online Learning Reflection: Thomas Keller

By Hector Frausto

First, I want to thank Chef and ASSF for giving me the opportunity to continue learning with the culinary online classes during lockdown for Covid-19.

Chef Thomas Keller was the first series of classes I started watching. I consider him to be one on the best chefs and hopefully one day I can learn from him personally or at least meet him.

Chef Keller want us to understand the importance of misen en place, safety in the kitchen, how to use and maintain necessary tools and equipment. He encourages us to always support our farmers, gardeners, and all the people who bring us amazing ingredients. Chef Keller emphasizes two critical points in cooking which are execution and ingredients. This is completely true - without great execution you can’t really make those beautiful ingredients shine.

In the first few classes, Chef teaches us about big pot blanching, to emonde and concasse tomatoes, braise artichokes, glaze carrots, make the perfect pomme puree, on how to pickle food properly and to confit vegetables. I was surprised when he said that you need a lot of practice on how to glaze carrots because you need to make sure you can bring out the natural sugar of the carrots without overpowering that flavor with the sugar your adding, all while adding the the exact amount of water and butter to cook properly and achieve the perfect glaze.

When it comes to confit, I knew that it was cooking in fat or oil but the only dish I knew with that technique was “duck confit.” I didn’t know you could confit vegetables also, so during this quarantine I’m definitely going to try and make some garlic confit.

Chef also spoke on the versatility of eggs and how it is used in different recipes like mayonnaise, Hollandaise, pasta dough, crème anglaise, Swiss and Italian merengue, boiled eggs and oeufs broilles (scramble egg French style). I didn’t know that when you over cook an egg the inside ring turns green and gray because there is a reaction between the sulfur in the whites and the iron in the yolks. When Chef was making pasta, he explained how certain pasta shapes were designed to catch sauce which I found extremely interesting.

Chef went in to great detail about meats, stocks, and sauces. I gained insights into the grades of beef (select, choice and prime) and different ways to cook and prepare veal, pork and duck. I learned about all different kinds of stocks and the time it takes to make each different type. Chef explained the basic mother sauces in the French cuisine which for me was a little review in what we have been learning in school. We were learning how to make a stock and store it away properly, how to make all the mother sauces and the different variation you can make from each.

My favorite part was when Chef explained seafood, sous vide, and dessert. Chef showed us how to remove the skin from a dover soul which was amazing to watch. I have never had a lobster boil before and I loved how Chef was explaining that it is a dish that is really great in summer, so I cannot wait to try it soon! He explained the uses of sous vide cooking and how it helps to maintain consistency in the way food is made and it makes it easier to cooks to prepare for service. In my opinion, I believe it is a method where you can maintain a perfect consistency on making the food because it going to cook the same all the time, but I find it to be time consuming and costly, so for me sous vide doesn't seem worth the effort. For dessert, he made chocolate pot de crème, an apple pie, and my favorite- his famous pine nut crusted lemon tart, which I plan on making very soon. It seems very simple and elegant.

Chef Keller's classes really helped me to understand the basics and to see a new perspective in cooking. One of my favorite quotes from his series is “Cooking is about sharing. Anytime we prepare food, we aren’t just making a meal, were nurturing one another and making memories that are best enjoyed with others.”

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