Saturday, July 31, 2010

Week 3- The Heart of A Baker is Realized

Me and my cocoa- Oh the things I can make with this!

Internship- Black Star Farms
Steph Sheffer
Week 3

This week it is all about the baking!

I love this new characteristic of my job.  One important aspect of both the Inn and the Hearth and Vine Cafe is the fresh baked goods that we offer.  I am not allowed to do anything in the yeasted breads category, including laminated dough’s since Jen does these types of breads in the Brick Oven for Nine Bean Rows on a daily basis and we use her products.  I am allowed to make cookies, brownies, coffee cakes, quick breads and muffins of all kinds, and my most favorites, Macaroons! 

My beautiful Baked goods!

cookies ready and set out for hospitality for our guests

I am turning into the go-to girl for most of these items and I am having a lot of fun with it.  I even got to make some special requests when the Sysco order was put in this week for certain items that would help me put out even more delicious products.  I am learning to fit in my baking tasks with my responsibilities that are growing with Breakfast.  Chef Jon has given me a key now so I am taking over doing breakfasts more frequently.  My first solo breakfast without supervision was this week, twice!

Strawberry Waffles Stack with Pork sausage

Spinach quiche with Tomato Chutney, Bacon and Goat cheese

I also found out that I got a raise too!  Apparently it is the fastest one ever, though I just think they wanted to make sure I was a good fit before paying me the higher rate.  Either way I am thrilled.  How wonderful to be paid for doing everything that I love.  I am realizing very quickly that my dreams are becoming a reality and that becoming a chef is truly the right choice for me.  I can see so many outlets for me to pursue through Blackstar farms and beyond that I sometimes don’t know where to begin.  For now I will stay focused, since I still have a lot to learn and Blackstar is turning out to be a great foundation for my hopeful future success in this industry.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Week Two- Internship Experiences Galore at Black Star Farms

Revold Road Sunrise on my way into work 

Internship- Black Star Farms
Steph Sheffer
Week 2

I spent an entire evening researching what I could do for my very first breakfast at the Inn.  Once I came up with a plan and a recipe to work off from, I ok’d it with the chef the day before and then I experimented it on the family at home. 
My test run plate at home the night before

I decided to make a crustless quiche since I would be cooking for a smaller group that morning.  The Inn can accommodate up to 20 guests at a time, this particular morning we would be serving 6 guests.  I used ramekins to cook my quiches that had to be done in the oven inside a water bath.  At home when I practiced I found a few things that didn’t work quite right or needed to be changed.  This was good for when I recreated them for my first breakfast because they came out really nice.  
There are a lot of things I would do differently now- but for a first try this was alright :)

Most breakfasts at the Inn are expected to have a starch, meat of some kind, vegetable, sauce and a garnish.  There is a little bit of room for changing this up, in the case of a sweet breakfast like waffles you may omit the veggies or you could be creative and put your veggies in the waffles!  So for my first breakfast I made “A crustless roasted vegetable quiche with a Red House White and Crimson tomato sauce, finished with Raclette cheese.  I garnished it with a fresh chive and rested the quiche on top of some wilted spinach too!  I had two guests hug me after the finished breakfast that morning and one couple even clapped in applause.  It felt good to have accomplished my first breakfast at the Inn so successfully.

Another aspect that is required when you work at the Inn is to create appetizer plates for “Hospitality.”  This is the reception that the guests can attend when they first arrive that offers wine tasting and a few appetizers to celebrate their arrival.  For the second week I am put in charge of creating some of the appetizers.  Chef Jon helps me with a few ideas that have worked in the past, but gives me some room to come up with my own too.  One of my first appetizers I created was asparagus wrapped in prociutto and then baked in the oven with a Parmesan garnish.  They turned out really nice!

I also had an opportunity to shadow Chef Paul this week at the Hearth and Vine.  This was a really great experience as well.  Chef Paul cooks an entire meal for their patrons out of a  wood-fired brick oven!  They can only accommodate up to 20- 25 reservations at the Café, which does a lunch menu of pizzas, salads and sandwiches in the daytime and then transitions to the more formal dining restaurant in the evening.  I helped prep a lot of the elements of dinner that afternoon while also having the chance to create a few pizzas and learn how to use the brick oven.  I had a great time and was completely enthralled with the talent of Chef Paul, as he would create up to four entrees at a time in the brick oven that evening.  He was like a one-man band, completing five different tasks at a time to complete each entrée.  Every single patron that night was gushing with compliments. 
Chef Paul in action- cooking with the brick oven- very cool!

-The brick oven with dinner being created inside

One of the plated dinners that evening

I am starting to see why I love culinary so much.  There is a specific artistry that each chef applies to his or her craft.  I love how we are creating not only great food, but touching all the emotions and senses that are required to make our food memorable.  At Blackstar the culinary staff is contributing to a very satisfying experience for all their guests and patrons.  Every person that I have seen experience a meal here, leaves with such satisfied smiles and gushing with compliments.  I love it here!  

Monday, July 26, 2010

The FoodLover was an Intern :)

I have decided that it would be fun to share with you my weekly logs for the internship I just completed at Black Star Farms.  It is a requirement to complete 300 hours of experience in order to graduate and within 10 weeks I have finally and successfully completed this task.  For the next ten days I will post each weeks story- the synopsis that i had to send to my instructor.  I hope you enjoy- it was really fun for me to go back and read these now that i have been at Blackstar for almost three months.  So many amazing and wonderful things have happened since I started my journey there and I can't wait to see what happens next!  I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be doing what I love everyday- A foodlover's dream come true!

Internship- Black Star Farms
Steph Sheffer
Week 1

-Early morning scene outside kitchen door at the Inn in Late April

The sound of a rooster crowing is my very first indication that I have arrived at my dream job destination.  An “Agricultural Destination” is the branding slogan that Black Star Farms uses and I can’t think of any better way to describe it myself.  There are so many different venues on the Black Star Farms property that lend to the overall success of fulfilling this slogan.  I would like to start with the Inn where I will begin my culinary discoveries and learning process for the internship requirement that has brought me to this extraordinary and dream fulfilling employment opportunity.
For the first week at Blackstar I spent the majority of my time at the Inn learning and shadowing the process of creating Breakfast for the guests.  Immediately I am aware that this is going to be a very unique chance to exercise not only my culinary skills that I have gained from school this past year, but I will also be calling upon my decade of experience as a homemaker and the many times I have experienced opening my fridge and coming up with a meal based on what is there.  The pantry is stocked, don’t get me wrong, and the coolers and refrigerators have many different things to work with, but the only thing that is a constant is the egg.  That is because the farm has over 100 egg laying chickens and ducks to rely on.  This is a good thing since eggs are a classic when it comes to preparing breakfast.

On my first day the chef I am training with sent me out to the side of the shed to cut chives as part of the garnish for the breakfast entrees.  He also had me prepare the breakfast bar that daily consists of fresh fruit, homemade granola, vanilla bean yogurt and a variety of breakfast sweet breads and bread from the brick oven bakery that is another aspect of the farm.  I learned that the majority of the breakfast meats we use are also a product of some of the animals that are raised on the farm too.   The most profound thing I realized though is that this breakfast that is prepared for the guests has to have a “Wow” factor and by that I mean that we want our guests to feel extra special when their entrée is place in front of them.  This requires a lot of attention to not only flavors but also to presentation.  The chef I work with seems to have a lot of experience with this and I am excited to learn all of the tricks of the trade that have to do with composing a beautiful plate.

-Chef Jon plating up Root Vegetable Waffle Entree on my first day at The Inn

-Root Vegetable Waffle Stack with Shaved Ham, a poached egg and hollandaise- Yum!!!

After the first day or two the Chef tells me that I will do my first solo breakfast towards the end of the month- a day later he decides I am ready to do one as soon as week two!  I am ready for the challenge and I can’t wait to show them what I can do!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Boots the Cat- Total Foodie at Heart

**Boots is the Black Star Farms kitty who basically thinks she owns the place.  From what I have learned she is the sole surviving barn cat, particularly good at avoiding coyotes and rabies infested mice.

She comes to visit us at the kitchen every morning for a small plate of half and half cream.  On my first day at the job she was an ambassador, making sure I was aware of her routines and that i shouldn't take too much time to prepare her morning treat.

I've come to learn we aren't her only stop and that she has various venues throughout her day that she greets, even if only for a scratch behind her ears.  I've also heard she is not allowed in the Inn for anything since on various occasions she has apparently been found sleeping in some of the guests beds.  I don't blame her at all- from what I understand the Inn beds are AMAZING!  Finding traces of cat hair on bedding comforters might not be a great way to keep that reputation though.

Overall I like Boots approach to farm life.  She makes her rounds about the property in style and she is a foodie too!  She is well liked by everyone and never over stays her welcome.  Every morning various different employees come up to the Inn kitchen to fill their coffee cups, I like that Boots has her only special morning pick-me-up too!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Photo Gallery: Breakfast Fun

"Fresh picked flowers from the orchards on the farm :)  I love them!"

The kitchen in the morning has become my stage. Where upon any given sunrise I can be found collaborating some of the finest fresh ingredients around.  Fresh eggs from our chickens and newly picked herbs that have just shook off their morning dew.  So many components that we cook with have traveled only just across Leelanau county if they aren't from our farm already.  Some mornings I arrive and haven't a clue to what I will create.  I let the objects of the refrigerators guide me, dependent usually on what is available and making sure not to duplicate the menus of the past few days in cse we have had guests stay longer than two nights.

This opportunity to cook and prepare breakfast meals from some of my own original ideas is truly exciting. I've been given license to make whatever I want within the guidelines of certain expectations and aspects.  Meat, egg, vegetable, starch, sauce, garnish- these are the items that should be the major players of my creations. The reactions from our breakfast guests is sometimes overwhelming.  It feels so great to see their enjoyment. Their gratitude in the form of clean plates is especially wonderful.  I absolutely love this part of my new job at Black Star Farms.  What a fabulous opportunity to practice my passion for cooking and food.  The fact that it is farm fresh food makes it even more amazing!

Here is a few pics of some of my creations.    I look forward to every morning that I get to cook and create in the Inn kitchen.  So thankful to be apart of this successful "Agricultural Destination."

Feeling Poetic Lately...

I have been thinking about all of the stories I want to share with you lately....

But every night when I get home from my cooking adventures, the moment I sit down becomes the trigger to my quick decent to sleep and dreams.  Basically I am too tired to focus my scripts into typed out form. The remedy for this time and space I am lacking to confess to you all my passionate food experiences is to turn my journaling over to poetic exploration.

The beauty of poetry is that it can transform the familiar and simple into an adventure in expression and intense interpretation.  Suddenly the way I see the world can be illustrated in an entirely new and fresh form.  The greatest attribute to this type of writing is that I have discovered it is generated quickly and I can write these short and sweet verses anywhere and at anytime.  My epic analysis through poetry for my love of food has been especially adventuresome- whatever this new revelation is, I am confident it will continue to strengthen.  Stay tuned and try to keep up with me.  I look forward to sharing my innovations in my writing ambitions.

Here is a quick first taste:

If I could eat the Sun 
I'd drizzle it on Homemade Toast
Radiantly Delicious
It's glistening goodness drips over onto my fingertips

Warm and Smooth
Golden and Buttery
I'd lick its Richness away
and leave napkins to attend to Crumbs

Turquoise skies embrace the golden warmth of the sun 

While crystal waves kiss the sandy scruff of the shoreline's cheeks 

Gentle breezes float by with momentary relief 

and I can hear the lazy dragonfly on its courses across arid landscapes 

 My cinnamon toes have disappeared beneath the warmth of sandy earth 

and I will drift off to daytime dreams.