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Back In The Game: Leiths Diploma, Term 2 Week 1


Jan
15

Aaaand we’re back in the room! Welcome back and a very happy 2013 to you all! I’m going to keep this post fairly short because there is just SO MUCH going on right now and I want to dedicate a proper post to catching you all up on everything (and there is much to share), so let’s head straight into my brief recap on the past week, shall we?

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Christmas in London: Harrods Gentleman’s Hamper


Dec
21

Christmas, for me, has always been a rather special time of year. No, not for any particular religious reasons or for the promise of presents (though the latter is a rather good excuse for, oh, I don’t know, maybe a new hand mixer? Especially considering how mine blew up in my hand the other day) but because of the food. An excuse to eat yourself silly and not be judged for it? Yes please.

So when I was offered a Harrods Gentleman’s hamper, one of the new food and wine hampers, to have a sneak preview of for Christmas of course I said yes. It may be called the Gentleman’s hamper but honestly, I’d be pretty happy to receive this one myself!

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The End (Part I): Leiths Diploma, Weeks 8 & 9


Dec
02


Thou shalt have a fishy on a little dishy, thou shalt have a fishy when the, er, Eskimo comes in…

And so we’ve reached the end of the 1st term of the Leiths Diploma. Sorry there was no post last week but hey, lucky you, you now get a double whammy! Woohoo! Hearing more about how I broke down and cried at culinary school! Again! Yeah!

Just kidding… sort of… because I don’t think there’s been a single week I haven’t had a little cry about something, now. I can’t help it – I’m an incredibly emotional person and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think it’s become a running joke at school now but at least I can laugh about it… right before I start crying again. So let’s start with the week before last and then I can get back to my little Eskimo up at the top of the post there which is a much happier ending, no? Yes.

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Why All The Drama, Mama?: Leiths Diploma, Week 7


Nov
17

Ah the drama this week. The drama.

So I realise I haven’t really been writing very much since I started at Leiths – last week’s round-up post was particularly appalling in terms of readability and even as I hit the ‘publish’ button I couldn’t help but think that I wasn’t doing the writer in me any justice. Part of the reason behind it was the fact that I wrote the post very late Monday night, the day before I returned to school and so was very tired (and still had homework to do), but the other reason is because I’ve really been glossing over the minute details because you know what? Culinary school is hard.

I never really expected it to be easy but my God, the amount of work I do outside of school? The long hours? The sheer exhaustion, frustration and tears? It is so very hard – I mean it when I say I’ve never worked this hard in my life, because every single hour of every day I am busting my ass on all things food. Whether it’s time planning for the following week, reading up on theory and notes from demonstrations, or practising skills at home, I am constantly working and I am exhausted, both physically and mentally. I’ve already gotten sick twice but I haven’t missed a single day because I just don’t feel that I can – you would be missing so much.

So this week when I ended up in hospital I have to admit that it was really no surprise – it was just something that was bound to happen sooner or later.

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Junk Food Week: Leiths Diploma, Week 6


Nov
12

Another week gone, another batch of recipes successfully made in the kitchen. Sorry for the slight delay and if you’re wondering why that is it’s because this week we had another long weekend! You have no idea how much I needed today to recover from the last few weeks – I have been exhausted. Happily, last week’s confidence boost carried me into this week and everything I made turned out really well. Obviously a few tweaks here and there needed, but I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride, even if sometimes I do feel like I could weep at the lack of sleep I’ve been getting.

This week I also worked my first corporate job at school, which not only involved washing up a never-ending stack of pots and pans but also serving food and wine. Good practice though I am not the world’s best waitress! This coming week I’ll be washing up for the baking and cakes evening class, which I’m particularly excited by – another opportunity to learn is always greatly appreciated! (I am such a geek…) The only downside to washing up work at school is that I don’t get home until ridiculously late (unless I’m staying at TS’ place, bless) and with all of the assignments we had due last week, I didn’t manage to get to bed until 2am one night. Frankly, I’m amazed I didn’t chop any fingers off the next day at school…

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By George I Think She’s Got It: Leiths Diploma, Week 5


Nov
05

Well, it took 5 weeks but I think I’ve finally found my stride. This week went remarkably well – I think it has something to do with the fact that we’ve been cooking in the afternoons which I find works much better for me. I think it’s because afternoon sessions seem much more manageable than morning ones; it could also be because I’ve finally started getting the hang of things and am in the kitchens a good half hour before we start, getting my mise en place started; maybe it even has a little something to do with the fact that this week we were mostly baking, something that I find infinitely more enjoyable (though at one point my classmate Lara laughed at me for staring too intently and seriously at my scones, lost deep in thought and pondering how done they were).

Either way, it was a week of successes – much needed after the past few weeks of disasters – and a definite confidence booster.

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The Storm: Leiths Diploma, Week 4


Oct
28

Hard to believe I’ve been at Leiths for a month now. In some ways I feel like I only started yesterday and in many, many others I feel like I’ve been there forever. I’m getting used to the 3 different kitchens we work in, starting to learn where things live and what they’re all used for (though, as one of my teachers told me yesterday: no tin is ever actually called a bain marie. This may have come about when I failed miserably at her “game” of “what is this tin and where does it live” and just kept shouting, “BAIN MARIE!”), had my first 2 wine lectures (and have our first exam this coming Tuesday, eep!), and starting to learn whom among my classmates I work well with and, er, the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I love my group, we get on very well socially… but getting along socially is not the same thing as working well together. You can love somebody’s personality but struggle to find equilibrium when actually cooking together – it just happens. I even did some washing up work for one of the evening classes this week – I didn’t leave school until 11.30pm but it was a fun evening and I made some money!

But this week… Lord, this week. I don’t know whether it was hard and stressful because the weather suddenly changed and the days were significantly shorter (one morning we even had to turn all of the ovens and some of the hobs on, just to warm up the kitchen so that we could bring ingredients to temperature), or whether it’s because last week we had a relatively light week, or simply because we’ve now reached week 4 when more is suddenly expected of us, but it was a very hard week. I asked a couple of the teachers if it had been just as hard for them as it had been for us and, eyes widening, heads nodding emphatically, they had heartily agreed. I think I’m also learning that I do not cook as well in the mornings as I do in the afternoons and I think that’s because I always feel rushed in the mornings; still, timing and speed is something I really need to work on, so that’s my goal for next week.

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The Calm Before The Storm: Leiths Diploma, Week 3


Oct
21


Asian Mario strikes again…

Happy to say that this past week there were no tears! It was actually a relatively calm week, possibly because it was week 3 when they anticipated all the students would be exhausted so we had our first long weekend scheduled (they give us a few long weekends instead of a half term), possibly also because we had our first test on Thursday and they were giving us time to study; either way, this week was nice and quiet in the kitchens but still packed full of essential learning.

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And The Tears Begin: Leiths Diploma, Week 2


Oct
14

This week was the week of tears, for me. It started off well enough – my pastry at the beginning of the week was pretty spot on, despite the fact that I forgot to add the salt to the pastry in my treacle tart (SHOCK, HORROR – in my defence when there’s that much going on and the salt is waaay down at the end of the table it’s easy to forget these things… but I did chastise myself plenty, don’t worry), but my leek and bacon flan was delicious, even though the crust was a tiny bit on the thicker side, but still blind baked perfectly. My teacher even said it, “melted in the mouth” so pretty happy with that!

And then everything went downhill from there.

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Learning From Scratch: Doing It The Leiths Way


Oct
07

If you read my little corner of the web regularly or Follow me on Twitter you’ll know that as October 1st drew around I started to get very excited about food.

Hold up, you’re thinking, you already get ridiculously excited about food, you massive fatty. How is this news?

To that question, my lovely readers, the answer is this: I was starting full-time professional culinary school, specifically at the renowned Leiths School of Food & Wine in London, and that is a reason to get very excited if there ever was one.

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