In one a month, my classes at SF Cooking School begin. I got my first look at the school a few weeks ago at an event with James Oseland, editor-in-chief for Saveur magazine. The professional program doesn’t start up until January, but the school has been open for recreational classes, book signings and demos for the past few weeks.
The space is gorgeous – it’s on a corner near the Civic Center, with glass walls on two sides so that part of the space is in full view of anyone on the street. It’s a light, airy space, with sealed concrete floors and gleaming new surfaces and appliances. The front section is set up for the recreational classes and other events. In the back is where my classes will take place – essentially two restaurant kitchens, with school offices above.
I also met one of my classmates at the Oseland event. It turns out we sat next to each other at another food industry gathering at Williams-Sonoma a while back. We got to meet our instructor, Catherine, who I hear is amazing, plus the head of admissions for the school. There’s a lot of energy and excitement there, and everyone is so nice and welcoming.
Orientation is tonight (eek), and I’m continuing to immerse myself in the assigned reading and have finished two more of the books.
The first is Taste What You’re Missing, by Barb Stuckey. I was happy to see this book on my list. I’ve been wanting to read it since it came out. The book delves into the minutiae of taste and flavor. I admit, I completely geeked out over it, as I discovered that it’s one of my favorite subjects. There are a number of taste exercises at the end of each chapter, too. I haven’t done any of them yet but I’m hoping to get through at least some of them in the month ahead.
My reading continued with a book that I’ve had on my bookshelf since it was published, Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter. I’ve used it as a reference (why is it that no book on food science covers everything I need?), but I’d never sat down and actually read it cover to cover. Reading a food science book may not sound like a lot of fun, but it’s a really great read. Sometimes it gets very science-y, but for the most part, it’s written in a very approachable manner. I got me thinking about food from a different perspective. I particularly liked the section on experimental cuisine. I’m conflicted – I work hard to use ingredients that are fresh and as unprocessed as possible, but my engineer brain is drawn to the science of transforming food using advanced techniques and additives.
I eased myself in to the reading with Heat and How I Learned to Cook. These last two books weren’t exactly light reading, and I’m halfway into my fifth book, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I thought it was an interesting choice for the list. I’m sure Larry couldn’t have predicted when he gave me the book as a gift ten years ago that I’d be reading it as preparation for culinary school.
I’m the type of person who actually sits down and reads cookbooks, but not usually cover to cover. I thought I’d just read the introduction, then browse through the recipes. But I’ve found myself actually reading the recipes, too. I’ve cooked out of the book (the famous Zuni chicken, of course, plus a few other things), but I’ve never looked that closely at it. There’s a recipe for an omelette that spans four pages. I found myself searching online for videos of how to make a classic French omelette (I settled on one starring Jacques Pepin). I knew eggs were important, but the way she describes how to get the curds just right is fascinating. I’m hoping to cook a few more things out of the book (the omelette in particular) before the end of the year.