Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Living It - Cooking 1

Sometime last year, when I was in a particularly vexing, frustrating and depressing point in life, I finally come to realize that life is about living, not surviving. I am not talking about splurging and living a high life I cannot afford. It’s about doing all the things that I had always wanted to – things that you put off till you retire – things that can become part of your life now. In short, I am Living It.

I have not been cooking "seriously" for very long time – only a little over 6 months. Yet, it had seemed like a very long but enjoyable journey. I was fast tracked into the business of “serious cooking” when Bernard rushed me into a Masterchef class with little skills beyond simple chopping, slicing and the occasional soups at home. But what an experience it was!

Masterchef classes are quite different from the usual cooking school lessons where you learn a dish or two by watching a presenting chef while taking notes sitting down – if you are lucky, they might even give you some to try and let you commit to memory what the end product is supposed to taste like. However the Masterchef classes at Palate Sensations are 100% hands-on. You have to work your own knife, season your own ingredients and sautéed your own food.

I can still remember the first class I attended where I ran around like a headless chicken. Bernard came to the rescue and told me where to go, what to get and let me do the cooking when we were paired as a team. I can still remember the first menu we cooked were French classics - Boeuf Bourguignon and a Vol Au Vent of Frog Legs. Real quaint, atas and fine-dining stuff - the boeuf bourguignon was served with a side of croquette (deep fried fingers of mash potatoes) while the vol au vent (stuffed pastry cases) was served up with a side of wild rocket salad and a vinaigrette dressing. Everything was made from scratch!

“Taste! Taste! Taste!” Chef Francois will remind us at every stage of cooking and we had to know not only what frog legs taste like after 3 minutes of sautéing, we have to remember the colours as well and adjust accordingly. I learnt two very important lessons on cooking that day; that 1) you cannot adjust when the product is finished and 2) you can always add but you can very rarely remove. At some point during the following lessons, Chef Francois also started to NOT remind us of our timing – we have to remember how long the stew was on, how long the tarts/pastry was in the oven. It’s all about being a real chef now and real chefs do not have teachers to remind them when 30 minutes had passed since the stew was lowered from a boil to a simmer.

To be honest, I did not fully understand the “whys” behind the “hows” of what I cooked that day until very recently when I decided to go through all my stew recipes and pick a favourite one (see previous post). It’s a little like going back to relearn my basics but it was all part of my own journey – if I did not start learning that day, I would never have tried to do my own culinary research and make myself cook better. 


  1. Looks very tempting!

    I can get to learn atas cooking and learn new French words at the same time :)

    I am always lost at western restuarant... Maybe should take some of those SDS/SDU courses on wine tasting or cooking.

    Wait! I over-aged liao :(

  2. How can anyone be over-aged for eating and drinking? :) I was paiseh about screwing up or making a fool of myself when I first started but I soon realize most people are. It is actually a discovery process.

    You just need to take the first step and you will be hooked. Guaranteed!