Food For Thought: Use Your Imagination
Losing a teacher and the meaning of the craft
One of the saddest things to hear is the loss of someone who taught you something important.
This past weekend I learned about the passing of Armando Baisas. Chef Armando was the person I called “Chef 6” in my blog about studies at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa and while he retired from the school a while ago his passing is deeply noted by our community and his students. There was no one quite like Chef Armando.
Chef Armando was rarely a teacher in my classroom, but he was a huge presence in the school. He had the presence of someone who could do things that no one else could even dream of and inspired us to remember that this wasn’t only a journeyman task but an art. He reminded us that we were artists, and did so in the most gentle way.
His dear wife Hermie worked at the school too and always made us feel like we were her kids. She washed pots and pans at the school and did it with such good cheer.
He’s gone too soon. Let all of us, his students, remember that we have more people to inspire. Let us be inspired by the craft and its possibilities. Below is the story I posted on my school days blog about a workshop with Chef Armando.
RIP Chef. We miss you already.
The Point of Nori-Turn
Today was lesson 19 of 19 - the last demonstration and practical of the Superior term. Time for a little more fun, in this case with sushi and vegetable carving.
Sushi? At Le Cordon Bleu? Indeed! We are fortunate to have among the Chefs at LCB a master of sushi, so why not, eh? For our purposes today, I’m calling him Chef 6. Chef 6 is generally known at the school as the master of the production kitchen. While much of his work involves making sure the school is properly stocked for our classes and managing the folks making the daily staff meals, he steps out of that job to teach classes in sushi, vegetable carving, ice carving, and on more than a few occasions to create amazing sculptures for special events.
Just last week I was messing around in the production kitchen with one of the staff trying to iron out the details for my Black Box exam, and I had the privilege of watching him prepare some sculptures for the school open house that weekend, part of the Ottawa “Doors Open” event.
“So Chef, after the class next week I’ll be able to carve just like you?”
When I spent some time in Thailand a few years ago I took a short class in fruit and vegetable carving. It was a one-on-one thing and, I must admit, I was kind of all thumbs at it, even with lots of help. But it’s a beautiful art, one that I wish I had more time to study, so I’ve been looking forward to his class all term. I even went to the expense of picking up a carving tools kit last weekend and proceeded to stab myself several times trying to practice at home. Some interesting new wounds, but no greater insight.
So bright and early this morning our class enjoyed a demonstration of rolling maki-sushi and carving. Chef 6 is clearly a master and makes it look easy. I mean, this is what he came up with in about three hours. Nice lunch, eh?
I took notes and made little diagrams to help me in the afternoon practical, but I have to admit I gave up when it came to the turnip swan. Clearly a hands-on only thing… pointless to try to describe it.
The practical class itself was a lot of fun. No pressure, and lots of time to make mistakes. My partner and I actually came up with a pretty decent little sculpture in a little over two hours. I think a little of my previous knowledge came in a bit handy, and Chef 6’s techniques were a LOT easier than what I had learned before. And I only punctured my thumb once!
But now that this class is over, we have just one more workshop, then a few days to practice and study for our final exam. I submitted my recipes last week right before the deadline, and as of now have tested most of the components/techniques at least once. I’ll certainly be making them several times more, and will do at least one “stopwatch” practice before the exam next Tuesday afternoon.
And, true to my usual form, the pre-exam stress is kicking in, only much earlier this time. The crazy dreams have started too – last night a weird, disjointed thing about one of the Chefs teaching me to ski on an icy hill (I do know how to ski, but in the dream it seems I had forgotten) and somehow ending up with a basket on exam day that contained none of my requested ingredients.