Monday, July 27, 2009

one tall lumberjack

As I was driving here this morning, I'm stressing over the upcoming certification weekend. I want to make sure I don't forget anything. I don't want disappoint any of the candidates or the RBA. I know that both of them have gone to a lot of expense to make this weekend happen. I keep running thru my mental lists, hoping I have it all covered. I have set up a new folder in my laptop, so after this weekend, it should all become easier for future exams. I'm trying to piece together the needed documents from past exams, and change the dates and location.

Going way back, not sure at what point, but as a beginning, the RBA hooked up with the ACF, American Culinary Federation, and together they set up the certification wing of the RBA. The RBA sent out several letters and advertised in the trade publications about the certification program. I think at that point if you had twenty years experience, you could apply and straight away, you were a CMB. I didn't think anything of it. There was a deadline, that came and went. I don't even know if I qualified. Years passed and for whatever reason, I decided to certify. It was certainly after my indoctrination to the NBC. I applied, was accepted, and was scheduled to test, October 2001. I was to test at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, New York. I still have the letter, reading, if I chose to, I could put the whole thing off, due to the fear of flying and the 911 attack. I decided to test. I remember flying from Chicago midway to Albany, NY. Chicago Midway was empty. Of course I had a toolbox full of knives. Didn't have much problem with that. I had to check them. Erie feeling, plane was empty, The Albany airport was empty.

The weekend was interesting. I learned a very, very valuable lesson. At that point in time, I had tried out for two baking teams. For the better, neither one of them worked out. At the first tryout I met Rich Coppidge. He was, and still is, the bread instructor in Hyde park. He is very tall, gotta be six foot six. In a toque and heels he is over seven feet. First guy I ever met had to bend down to look in the top deck of a deck oven. Helluva nice guy. He is a hockey player and a lumberjack. During the second day of the CMB exam, there is a mandatory twenty minute lunch. You can take it when you wish, but you must do it. I broke for lunch. I was cruising. It was noon, my danish products were on a rack, in the proofer. Three hours to go. My cake was baked and all I had to do was ice and decorate my cake and bake my danish, and ice it. Rich and I were the only two in the makeshift cafeteria, a converted classroom, near the bakeshop. We must have talked for at least an hour. We covered it all, the guild, the team tryout process, the Blackhawks. Around one o'clock, I decided to return to work, disaster struck. I didn't notice, but I was using a Rubbermaid speed rack, in the proofer. They are completely plastic. Somebody, had to be a student, had used it once, when unloading the oven. Filled it with hot pans. the pan glides were melted and deformed. When I went to pull the rack out of the proofer, the bottom two pans fell straight down, right on top of each other. Splat. Moist, proofed danish, sandwiched between two sheet pans. My heart stopped. Mike, forgot his last name, from Abel & Schafer in New York, was right there. Stopped dead in his tracks, both hands on his now crushed chef hat, mouth fully opened, "what are you gonna do"? Well, surprisingly, I didn't get excited. I had enough danish dough left to re-make the product. I kinda rushed it, but got it done. I got my cakes iced and decorated, danish baked and iced, and I passed.

Eight of us started the exam together. Seven of us finished. I was the only one that passed. Four others eventually retested and passed. I'll go into that whole process tomorrow.

I learned a most valuable lesson that day. I've mentally referred to it, countless times. I've told this story to many, many classes that I taught for the guild during coupe preperation.

Don't ever take your time for granted.


Blogger Laminatrix said...

I've always had something of the project manager in me (should be no surprise I was a stagehand/stage manager in high school) and could multitask with the best of them. I realized yesterday, though, as I was cutting up fruit for my breakfast muffins, toasting some wheat bran for the muffins, doing laundry, watching the end of the Tour de France, and doing something else, that my time at the bakery really sharpened that multitasking ability. "This task will take X amount of time, and I need to wait X amount of time while that thing gets cold/bakes/proofs." No other way to make 4000 croissants a week and help Filemon with the rolls.

That was also one of the things that, oddly enough, I enjoyed about the couple of days before Christmas, when I'd halt croissant production and just act as a utility infielder for whoever needed something. No time to think, just go do the next five things. I end up doing something similar at my desk, believe it or not--no butter-pounding required, though.

July 27, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Jory Downer said...

In the bakery, as you know, 5,6,7 things have been started and are waiting further processing. Things have to ferment, rest or cool, and you need to forecast the order in which they will be done. Very true at the oven, it all ain't gonna fit at once.

I'm sure you remember, there will 6-8 timers all counting down at once. In the BBGA yahoo group, every once in a while, the subject of "timers" comes up. When you 4-5 doughs fermenting, all needing another fold, or whatever, timers are a necessity.

I think using a true artisan process, forces you to really hone your multitasking skills. In a more non-artisan, production environment, things can be done start to finish, and move on to the next item.

needless to say, Chrimas has it's own set of rules!

July 28, 2009 at 5:01 AM  

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