Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Week Eight- Reaching the End of My Intern Experience and the Start of Wonderful New Adventures

Internship- Black Star Farms
Stephanie Sheffer
Week 8

From the first moment I walked in the back door of the Inn, dressed for success in my school chef coat, my little black hat and pig tails I had a knowing that this experience would be phenomenal.  I might not have realized initially in the beginning that its impact would leave such a large impression on me, in how I am learning so much about myself, but I knew it would be more than a job.  This opportunity to grow, practice and learn in such an outstanding setting… its beautiful on the property of Black Star Farms- truly- and I feel like I have so many opportunities in front of me now because of my time here.

This journey as an intern, my metamorphosis into a true employee has taught me so much about the culinary profession.  Seeing the veteran performances of my supervisors and the way they so confidently carry out their duties inspires me to want to learn as much as I possibly can.  I want to know it all, right now.  I want to pick up my chefs knife and know that it is apart of me- together we create, we design, and we carry out the responsibilities that have been handed to us.  I want to raise the bar every day and go for heights that seem impossible to everyone but me.  My senses are confident that with the right amount of focus, I can accomplish all of my dreams.  I have seen my identity revealed in the thankfulness of the people that surround me… now even more importantly from my family and friends – both historical and new.  Once again it is their support and love that has brought me to this point.

In the kitchen this week we are busy with events, weddings, the daily details of delivering amazing breakfasts and dreaming of what we can do to make this business, our kitchen an even stronger presence in the culinary world.   We want to make this place a desirable destination to obtain memorable meal experiences, heart-warming food adventures, tastefully powerful encounters with the very food we need to eat to live.  More than ever I want to be apart of something like this.  I want to believe that this is the beginning of the next big thing.  With measured consent for my time and energies- my family still needs to be first always- I want to invest my passions for food with everyone I possibly can.  I want to share what I know.  I want to contribute my happy go lucky spirit to the success of preparing beautiful food and unforgettably delightful taste indulgences.

Roasted Vegetable Breakfast Egg Roulade with Basil Creme Fraiche

If this destination will allow me, I hope to contribute helpful suggestions and impressive concepts that fit their mission.  I still have so much to learn, and I am humbled by the enormous task of taking on each and every challenge that is presented to me.  My experience as an intern has taught me so much about being a professional, more than I ever dreamed it could.  I have so much clarity now and my passions for the food have matured and found a stronger, louder voice. 

I truly cannot wait to return to school this next month to share my new excitement.  I am charged up!!  I want to continue to be challenged.  I am secure in knowing that my support system is stronger than ever. (Thank you family and friends, you know who you are and I adore that you never stopped believing in me- ever)

I have an intense amount of respect for the opportunity that has been given to me to learn and grow during my internship at Black Star Farms.  I am looking forward to seeing the guests who already have made their reservations to return and asked me if I will be there still.  I am excited for my new friendships at school and work and how I we will encourage each other on our new and expanding life paths. 

This week:

-I received my very own chef’s coats that have the Black Star logos on them this week.  This is huge to me!  I love them and I am so proud to wear these uniforms.  I think they look pretty darn nice on me too! 

-A flurry of guests have come up to me after their breakfasts and thanked me for such a lovely experience.  This is almost overwhelming but it means so much to me!

-My article in GT Women came out this month too- I have been published!!!  Goals becoming reality. 

-My writing is taking on a whole new presence in my life- helping me realize more about myself than I could ever fathom before. 

Is this all because I was an intern?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The depth of this experience has definitely changed me though.  I have conviction now, and I see my purpose and myself even more clearly than I ever used to. 

I am thankful.  

I feel blessed.  

The hope and beauty revealed in a Black Star Sunrise

I have so much more to do, to work on, to learn still, but I am confident that the impact I leave on this world will be special.  Will you join me on this journey?  Lets eat some amazing food together and enjoy life to the fullest.  Being an intern has been an amazing experience for me!
Thank you Black Star Farms, Chef Jonathan Dayton, and the farm family that exists there for accepting me into this opportunity.

 Thank you Great Lakes Culinary Institute for making this internship such an important part of our learning experience.

Thank you most especially to my husband Tod, Lauren, Riley, Mom, Dad, all my special friends, the newest to the lifetime ones, and my enormous family- you have been behind me all the way and I can feel your support and love!

Week Seven- Realizing the Parts of my Real Purpose in my Work and Passions

This is Me!

Internship- Black Star Farms
Stephanie Sheffer
Week 7

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of my attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more than the facts.  It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company... a church.... a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.  I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.  And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes." -Quote from Charles Swindoll

That pretty much says it all in what I have learned this week as I progress in my internship at Blackstar Farms.  The pace is starting to pick up here and it requires me to be ever present and committed to meeting and exceeding the expectations that have been placed before me.  I feel so thankful to have found a place that addresses so many of the aspects of life that I love.  This place has given me a chance to put into practice a skill that goes beyond the cooking.  It gives me the opportunity to share my joy and happiness while providing a sustenance that is special and helpful and required for all people to have the energy to live.  I heavily realize now it is not just about the food that I am dealing with.

The beauty of what the property of BlackStar Farms has to offer is we make connections with the people that come here to visit, during their stay and experience.  We take time to assure that what we are delivering in our services is special, and unique.  This all became so clear to me with the first wedding party that we hosted of the summer.  Every detail that we had been put in care of for this group was met with a specific commitment to quality.  Seeing the time and effort that Chef Jon put into preparing the menus and how he planned our carrying out the production responsibilities was very impressive to me.  Seeing how Jill- our Event Coordinator put in long days and countless attentions to detail to make sure they felt special was equally impressive.  The owner Don Coe shows up for breakfast each morning to engage with the guests.  He is interested in their stories while sharing much of the wonder and excitement that has made this property what it is.  His commitment to being present at the Inn in this way is truly exceptional- it brings our teamwork level up to the highest notch.

So the mother of the bride came down to our kitchen on their first mornings stay at 5:30am.  She found me busy in my tasks already, preparing the breakfast that would start out their highly planned out day.  I would be the one developing and serving the meal that would provide the nourishment they would need to have a great start to this special day.  Realizing this fact was a major seismic shift in the way I would approach my job from here on out.  Her and I shared a beautiful conversation about being mothers, and wedding days, and about discovering what we are passionate about.  We had never met before that, but we made a connection that morning as I chopped and stirred the elements of their breakfast. 

This is not the first time I have conversed with our guests and felt this way.  I am feeling that they see me, and my gifts, and how they fit very rightly into my pursuits.  I understand that every one of us is searching for our purpose in life. Mine is being revealed to me every time I receive these kinds of affirmations.  Thankfully I have known this even before I came to Blackstar through the blessings of my family and friends- but in this journey for me in my internship I am ever more confident that I am living my purpose.

This week of my internship was full of many rewarding recognitions of my hard work and positive attitude.  To be successful as a chef, or any professional for that matter I have learned that it is so much more about my attitude than the final product of my work.  My creations will always be successful when I show up with my optimism that believes whatever I set my mind to I can achieve.

Week Six- Bringing it All Together

Internship- Black Star Farms
Stephanie Sheffer
Week 6

Warmth from a purposeful sun is radiating into our piece of this earth.  The calculated plans and the measured amount of time and effort that has been put forth into the slice of soil I call home is beginning to show a reward for our labors.  Our brood of seedling babies in the garden are bursting forth, shaking particles of dirt from their appendages and announcing their presence.  They will produce their thankfulness for our love and attentions very soon now.  We are prepared to foster them through their infancy until they have reached their successful potential.  Our commitment is declared and realized because together we will all appreciate the health and spiritual wealth that will arise from this natural partnership. 

Our garden rows ready to go

My garden at home is alive and so is the farm life at Blackstar farms.  We are using all kinds of products from Nine Bean Rows now- the CSA owned by Nick and Jen Welty that is affiliated with the property.  Just this week I made a dinner salad for our TAUCK group that had a foundation of greens from Nick and Jen.  The breads that we use for breakfast and dinners are also exclusively from Nine Bean Rows too. By the way- it’s the most beautiful bread- We are so proud to support each other with our products on the farm- the brick oven bread is truly phenomenal!   
Some of the breads from Nine Bean Rows- YUM!

This is just another component of my work at Blackstar that is so special.  Even the animals that are on the farm, all the new babies that have arrived recently are an important component to our commitment as an agricultural destination.  (We just got new babies on our farm too)  Once again I will say that I love how Blackstar is a well-rounded destination and especially that it is a food lover’s dream come true!  To be apart of it all is really exciting to me.

Our baby chicks

This week I learned that letting the food simply shine is soooooo important.  I tend to want to over garnish everything.  People don’t want a plate of garnish though- they want to see the beauty of their food- the garnish is supposed to only help highlight that.  Chef Jon has very patiently helped me work on this skill- it obviously takes a lot of practice, restraint and trust to know and sense that there is already enough there on the plate.   Even when it doesn’t seem like enough to me.  I have watched the ease at which this plating element can be achieved and I am determined to master it too! 

Cucumber radish stack with Fromage Blanc and Chive blossom garnish

 I am excited to think that maybe I will be able to contribute some of my own garden produce to my work at Blackstar someday soon.   I will continue to nurture our garden’s success and will love how this is a way to contribute something special from my family to the place I am so eager to be apart of.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Internship Week 5- Its Go Time Now

Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto platter for a catering

Internship- Black Star Farms
Stephanie Sheffer
Week 5

Lets get down to business friends!  Caterings, Dinners, Breakfast and Baking….  Rolling right along and learning, learning all the way through each day I am at the Inn and apart of the farm.  The components of my work are transforming and my responsibilities are increasing now.  The Inn is starting to get very busy.  With the new month ahead of us, this requires me to be extremely focused and attentive to completing the tasks that are expected of me to be completed.

The event space that is apart of the Inn is a large room called Arcturos.  This room used to be the site for an indoor pool in the house before it was transformed into the Inn.  It is a beautiful room with pillars, sweeping fabric swatches that span the room above.  It has doorways on either side that open to courtyards and intimate deck systems that can be used for wedding sites and gatherings for groups during events in the summer months.  One of the first events that I was apart of in use of this space was a catering for a group of 40.  It was an appetizer set-up with various food components both hot and cold.  Chef Jon had already prepared a menu that was accepted by the group and gave me certain components to work on to prepare the spread.  I was even able to be apart of the final table set-up.  I enjoyed the ability to show some of my creativity in this.  Overall the event was successful and all of the food VANISHED!  What an amazing feeling to have been apart of providing such a pleasing presentation.
I helped complete the little Leelanau Cheese fromage blanc filled cherry tomatoes on the plate.  The first of many many of these little tomato appetizers.  They are so yummy though- the effort in them is worth it!

Putting together the lamb skewers plate for the same event with hummus

I loved the variety of this plate and the special attention to preparing the terrines- it makes me excited for what I will learn in my Garde Manger class this fall when i go back to school, and the experience that i learned this summer that will add to my success in class.

I am working on my knife skills and attention to detail and continuity.  I have noticed that sometimes I let quality suffer slightly for my hurriedness when I feel like I might get behind.  The fact that I realize this right now I believe will be apart of my future success.  I am dedicated to excellence and want to be aware of any ways that I can grow and expand my talent.  My supervisors are very patient with me and not afraid to point out what is expected, while also telling me what they are happy about too.  Between the Inn Keepers, owner, and executive chef there is an open line of communication to me about what they expect.  I believe in the culinary profession this is just as important as the food aspects of the job.  We are in a service business and it is important that we are all on the same page.  When the Inn guests and event attendants express their happiness with our product it is an affirmation that we are on the right track.  The opportunity to practice this in the field has been an aspect of my internship I am extremely grateful for.

Preparing for Storms

There is a storm rolling in tonight.  The flicker and flash of natural torment in the skies acts like caution lights begging for attention.  This is a scene that is nothing new to this terrain.  This landscape has rocked and rolled, accepted and denied the harsh reality of these momentary visitations.  The soil all too well recognizes the tempest outbursts of  course sensations that easily pour from the heavens.  Possibly sweet relief can come from this storm, growth, fruit, nourishment...  Conversely panoramas can wash out, the environment could transform into something new, something that can no longer sustain the utopia that was once expected.  Either way change is inevitable- tomorrow's sunrise will highlight the alterations.  Excepting the amendments that have been made to the soil and learning to labor the revolution into something unique and wonderful again is always a promising prospect with the right amount of optimism and treatment.

I sat outside as the clouds came over the sky like a closing curtain tonight.  The horizon's backdrop lights fading, and the delicate dashes of heaven's irrigation kissing my cheeks and forearms.  In front of me I admired my gracious garden and all its abundance.  I had just called on and tucked in our hens in the coop moments before, flip flops on my feet and a velvety glass of merlot in my hand as I made my rounds.  A little untraditional in my approach to this chore- maybe- but this is how I have always been.  This is the reality of my quirkiness and unusual interpretation of personal methods.  My style can be surprising even to myself sometimes but I want to think that I don't believe in all the man made rules.  Who says it has to be only one way, always.  OK, maybe the exception could be with chemistry- the finite particles and their policies of arrangement under certain elements of earth, wind and fire.  A bread will burn if the oven temperatures are too fierce, this is true.  A bread can also yield golden taste pleasures when affectionately prepared and tempered with love and care.

I am preparing for my final year of schooling.  I am recognizing very curiously what I like about who I am becoming.  It doesn't matter if I have the classification of chef in front of my name or not- the fact is that I know I love food. I love everything about it- creating with it is my art, my outlet of expression next to my writing anyhow.  The two together feel like an unstoppable force.  My pursuits will be successful, I am confident of this.  I get it now, I understand that I have to be unafraid of unknowns and that my creations will be satisfying when I trust that I know what I can do.  I am still and will always be learning...  I may not be sure of when the next rainstorm will arrive, but I know that if I stay optimistic and hopeful, the way that I am- I will continue to grow and mature and become the person I was meant to be.

Week 4- Becoming A Part of the Team

Internship- Black Star Farms
Stephanie Sheffer
Week 4

It has been one month since I started at Blackstar and I am starting to feel like I am a real part of the team.  It is nice to be getting to know my co-workers and understanding the expectations of my position in the team even better.  I made breakfast and hospitality appetizers all on my own five days this week with little or no issues. Chef Jon would check in with me and lend suggestions when I asked for help with ideas for things like garnishes or plate presentation. 

-"Chicken in a Corn Field"- as named by my 8 year old Lauren- Its a wedge of cornbread on top of Asparagus Lattice and then topped with a fried egg and cheese sauce.

This was also the first week that we started serving a group on Sunday evenings called “TAUCK.”  This is a travel group that comes every Sunday evening for a prix fix meal that consists of a salad course, entrée and dessert along with a glass of Blackstar winery’s wine.  The first group was a little on the smaller side, only 24, but it was a good size for me to learn the ropes on.  I worked mostly on helping prep ahead and then plating.  I was told that the group has the potential to be as many as 48 people.  We offer these dinners every Sunday all the way until the end of October.

Veggie Bundles tied with green onion

-Chef Jon putting entree plates together for TAUCK dinner

I also spent more time at the Café this weekend too helping with serving, bussing tables and more baking too.  I think I like baking in the Inn kitchen better than the kitchen at the Café but it was still good to experience working there too.  I feel like it was good for me to practice my serving skills too since this is such an important part to the food service industry and the overall dining experience of the guests we cook for.