3 courses. 13 people. 3 hours.

That, broadly speaking, were the parameters of my final lunch dining practical exam. To call it ‘intense’ really doesn’t do it justice, especially when the culinary arts instructors themselves acknowledge it as being the most difficult exam of the entire two-year program.

Naturally, there were a few additional stipulations: the first course had to be a soup or salad; the main had to include a fabricated protein (i.e., stuffed chicken breast, filleted fish), starch, two vegetables and a sauce; dessert had to incorporate a custard of some kind (i.e., ice cream, creme brulee)

The exam was the culmination of my first stint in the college’s fine dining restaurant (the second, next term, for evening dining). During the past six weeks, I moved throughout the kitchen, day-by-day, station-by-station, menu item by menu item. In all, it was a tremendously valuable experience and, better still, was excellent preparation for the final exam. For I’d had six weeks to hone my menu, my skills, and, most importantly, my ability to manage my time efficiently and effectively.

So, what was my menu?

For starters, I served a tomato and fennel soup, garnished with a gorgonzola cream and crispy-fried fennel. For my main, I offered pork tenderloin tournedos with an Apple and Goat Cheese Gratin, Dijon Cream Sauce, Chateau Potatoes, Braised Fennel, Grilled Asparagus and Red Peppers. And, I finished it off with individual pineapple-polenta upside-down cakes with toffee-lime ice cream.

Did I get it done? I did: by 11 o’clock I had plated my soup, by five after, my main, and by 11:10, dessert.

Were there bumps along the way? You bet: soup lacked depth; potatoes should’ve been poached longer; the dessert plate lacked a contrasting colour; above all, I didn’t work as cleanly as I should have or as I normally do.

Did I pass? Absolutely.

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