The next day I felt a lot more comfortable walking into the kitchen. It was as though I had found my sea legs. In the Bouchon kitchen chefs drink out of “deli containers” which are those round plastic containers that you get your potato salad in (if you don’t make it at home at least). I grabbed a “half deli” and put some coffee in and was ready for the day. My big task of the morning was turning a large quantity of foie gras into potted foie gras. The “foie” was still warming up a bit though so Chef M gave me a different chore to bide my time with. I broke down two huge containers (literally hundreds) of radishes into greens and the separate radishes. The greens were bound for quiches and the radishes for a variety of things on the menu. Then it was over to the “foie” which had to be forced through a mesh before being all mixed together and piped into the “pots.” This seems like something that shouldn’t be that hard but I have to say I worked up a bit of a sweat working away. In the middle of this I saw one of the chefs working with the kit I had made the night before for the “gnocchi.” Somehow this made me quite happy. I couldn’t resist shouting over that it looked like an amazing kit had been put together for him to which he smiled and agreed. After piping the “foie” into the jars they have to be tapped to get any bubbles out and then they are set into the walk in to firm up. Next I peeled fresh chick peas (never even seen these before!) and my final task was peeling pearl onions which, I have to say, is not very easy. With that, my time in the main kitchen came to an end and I was off to bakery.
Chef J was busy helping with the baguettes when I got to the bakery. Large pieces of dough are fed into this rather forboding machine and the baguettes come out the bottom. These need to be gently lifted, stretched just the right amount and placed into a couche just the right way. Let me tell you, they make it look easy but it sure isn’t easy the first time you do it. When all the baguettes were proofing in their couches we started making a giant batch of strawberry rhubarb preserves. First was had to slice up the rhubarb so we went about cutting it up and dropping it into a large bin. I hadn’t cut too many things so far so I set about the task with a bit of zeal. This of course was a bad idea because before long I had managed to cut myself. The good news is my fingers had been curled under the right way so it could have been much, much worse. The bad news was it sidelined me and embarrassed me a good bit. But soon things were back under control and we were making short work of the job. Interestingly enough Chef J recommends mixing the strawberry, rhubarb, and sugar together the day before and letting it sit. She believes she gets a better result and who am I to disagree. We loaded the Hobart up and stirred things up a bit and then with some mechanical aids I got the result sealed up in a container and in the walk in. Next up was some chocolate pudding that she needed for a s’more pudding she was making. Then it was on to a passion fruit curd. It was interesting to measure out sugar in kilograms and crack 50 eggs into a huge metal bowl. I mixed it all together and we put it over a simmering pot of water. She then decided to tell me that it had to be whisked for 20 minutes. Hah! I whisked and whisked away for around 15 minutes. I thought I was doing a nice job of things keeping it moving at a reasonable clip. She said she would give me a spell and started whisking like mad. She looked over at me and with a bit of a smile told me, “you whisk like a girl.” I laughed heartily but did insist on taking the whisk back and improving my pace ;). This went through a chinois in which was placed gelatin sheets and the whole hot brew went over a “small” quantity of butter. Then a small outboard motor was brought out to mix it together. Chef J even let me try it. This was then placed in the walk in to cool off a bit. Throughout the afternoon Chef J and I talked about all sorts of things since it was mostly just the two of us working together. She turns out to be a natural teacher and just dropped so many tips that I was struggling to write them all down. Did you know that you can remove the bubbles on the top of your chocolate pudding with a quick pass of the blow torch?!? She was also incredibly open in sharing recipes I just need to divide by 100 or so and see what I can do with my home equipment.
Chef J had a two items she was experimenting with for Ad Hoc’s brunch. We packed things up and walked down the street to deliver them. In the two days I’d been wearing the chef white’s I hadn’t felt very conspicuous but I have to say walking down the main drag of Yountville in white draws more than a few looks! We walked in the back door of Ad Hoc (their ovens are outside!) and into the kitchen. Ad Hoc has what I will call an “intimate” kitchen, in other words tiny! It is just one big open rectangle with not a lot of room and it was HOT. We walked over to Chef C and shared the experiments with him. He found some things promising and made a few comments. Chef J made sure he knew that I was actually coming to dinner at Ad Hoc later that night and sure enough I could see my name in what I now knew to be the “special” column ;). With that we headed back up to Bouchon and I was done with work. Chef J gave me a bunch of nice treats including a Passion Fruit pudding and I said as many thank yous as I could because I had had a great time in the pastry kitchen.