Associate Chef and Instructor Training at Living Light

Hey all!

I’m super excited about sharing the adventures of my Associate Chef and Instructor Training here at Living Light.  It’s a two-week program and I’m only halfway through it, but we’ve made (and created!) some pretty spectacular food, and I’m pretty damn amazed at how much we’ve learned in such a short span of time.

If you want to catch a look at what I’ve learned up until this point, just check out the links below.

Associate Chef and Instructor Training
Associate Chef and Instructor Training, Week 2

Food We Learned to Make

We learned how to make some things that I’m really quite happy about.  First and foremost are these super-cute Vietnamese fresh rolls, or spring rolls, or whatever you want to call ’em.  I’m just so happy that I can work with rice paper now, without making ugly little blobby rolls.  We also used cabbage (pictured center) which was a little trickier to work with, but hey, now I know you don’t need to boil the crap out of cabbage leaves to make them pliable.

I always get happy about candy-making.  Because…yum.  These were soft and ooey-gooey, like caramel, and probably among the tastiest raw truffles I’ve ever made.

Now for some absolutely gorgeous raw lasagna.  Using zucchini noodles, we layered on “cheese”, marinara, marinated mushrooms and wilted and chopped spinach, and then stuck it in the dehydrator for a while, where magic happened.  The filling became gooier, the cheese on the top developed a cooked texture, and it was very warm and pleasant to eat.  The taste was incredibly hearty and creamy, and I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it to anyone, even picky people.

Another treat that I would eagerly serve to everyone I know were these adorable little lemon tartlets.

Think of everything you would want in a lemon pie – a buttery crust, a soft but jellied interior, and a sweet-tart taste – this pie delivered on all of the above.  The texture of the lemon filling was spot-on, and dare I say the flavor was better than the original pie it was modeled after.  It would be sheer perfection with a dollop of a cashew whipped cream.

Come on.  You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t eat the crap out of that.  Next holiday meal, I’m whipping this pie out of my bag of tricks.

Lunches, and More Food We Made

Lunch might just be my favorite time ever – but I already knew that before coming to this school.  At lunch, we always get to enjoy a huge salad bar with a vast array of condiments, as well as food made previously in class.

This plate features “not-tuna” pate, as well as some crunchy nori snacks (pictured right) that were so addicting and disappeared at the speed of light.  Making them was as simple as spreading a small piece of nori with some pate, folding it up, and dehydrating it until crunchy.  They’d be perfect for travel!

A big salad for lunch is nothing to be sad about at this school – with tons of options like seasoned nuts and seeds, avocado, ‘kraut, olives, and all kinds of veggie goodies, lunch here is neither boring or unsatisfying.  Plus, you can always go back for seconds!

This is a rather chaotic picture, but the noodles were super gourmet – linguini with a white truffle sauce.  Oh yeah.  Logan would have absolutely hated this because of the mushroom flavors, but since I’m a mushroom lover, I found the taste to be quite gorgeous, earthy and clear.  It tasted like something you’d get at a fancy restaurant.

And this plate…ahh, this plate.  Brunch day was a glorious day, and we helped make all of the yummy food pictured here.  The triangular goodie is a scone made with kamut, next to a buckwheat granola bar, and a cute round almond mila muffin.  It looks like I enjoyed these treats with some ketchup and mustard, but I swear it was strawberry jam and “butter”.  And of course, everything was made with whole, all-natural and organic ingredients.

This is all stuff I’d love to make for people upon returning home – especially the scones and jam.  Despite using whole grains instead of flour, they still had a tender, breadlike interior, and I appreciated that they weren’t nearly as dense as a nut-based treat would be.

Recipe Creations

This week, our teams had to collaborate on an appetizer recipe and a dessert recipe – a definite step up from the soup/dressing creations of last week.  I wholeheartedly love concocting recipes, so this is the fun part of class for me.  Alas, my recipes weren’t randomly selected this week, but it was still fun to help the team with theirs!

Pictured here is an appetizer from each team.  Aren’t they pretty?  Ours was the “tuna” and avocado roll pictured on the right, and the flavors were spot-on, almost eerily so.  

And of course, we received a copy of everyone’s appetizer recipes, as well as beautiful pictures of them!  In this segment, we spent some time working with a nice camera and a photo station, and learning little tips and tricks for making food photos come out great (read: must have attention to detail!).

Here’s a photo of all the desserts we created.  Dessert posed difficulties for many of us – for our group, the ones in charge of Nanaimo bars (bottom left), our main challenge was assembling it AND troubleshooting AND slicing it AND doing more troubleshooting all in the span of an hour.

They might have come out a little homely, and the recipe still needs work, but we did a good job in spite of the time constraints.  What we found is that the taste of the bars were great, but they’d need time in the fridge to hang out and set, and it’s just not a recipe that can be fully executed in an hour.  Oh well, experiencing difficulties during recipe development often leads to even more insight and knowledge than getting it right without much effort.

Catered Dinner

On Friday, we catered our first dinner!

We set up the tables all pretty-like, and I learned how to fold napkins like cute little fans.  And while I was excited to help prepare food for the event, I was even more excited about getting to eat a 4-course meal, something I’ve never experienced.  Saskatchewan, you see, is a land full of farmers and people who pile up their plate and eat quickly, not a place where you typically eat slow meals and “courses”.  That’s practically a foreign concept where I’m from.

The canape, or appetizer, was “Golden Flax Shards and Almond Pesto Torte”.  Um, yum.  The torte was rich and cheesy and made a great dip for the light and crunchy crackers.  I loved the addition of the lively minced red bell peppers and capers.

For the starter, we enjoyed “Avocado, English Cucumber and Pepper Confetti atop Chilled Gazpacho Soup”.  A wordy title, perhaps, but this was hands-down the best gazpacho I’ve ever eaten.  I don’t know how someone could eat a bowl of this and then say “meh”.  Happily, I have the recipe and I fully intend to remake it at home.

Another thing that I’m very ready to make at home is the lovely “Classic Caesar Salad tossed with Creamy Caesar Dressing finished with Herb Croutons”.  I know you’re thinking, “Salad as a main dish?  Really?”  But this is no ordinary Caesar.  This is the best Caesar known to the universe.  It’s not your typical white dressing – it’s better.  It’s so flavorful and not nearly as heavy as a typical Caesar salad.  The herb croutons are very lovely, and superior to any bread-based crouton I’ve made – and they’re just made from almond pulp, flax meal and some seasonings.

I was the leader of the Caesar Salad production, which meant keeping preparation time to a minimum, and making sure all the flavors were a-ok.  It also meant a lot of math, since we made such a huge quantity, but the process went very smoothly, and the end result made it all worthwhile.

Who could forget dessert?  We greatly enjoyed “Vanilla Ice Cream, Brownie Crumble and Mocha Glaze”.  The ice cream was fantastic – I could have eaten an entire bowl of the stuff.  I practically licked my plate clean.

What I Learned

Of course, making food wasn’t the only thing we did all week.  We also learned the basics of teaching classes, how to present a food demo, and everything in between the two.

Honestly, one of the most important things I learned this week was more in the self-revelation category.  I love creating food, such as making old favorites vegan-style, healthifying desserts, and coming up with new ideas.  What I don’t love is spending all day in the kitchen.  This means you will never see me run a restaurant or work in a commercial kitchen, no matter how nice the kitchen or how fancy the restaurant.

And while the catering experience was very valuable and I’m eager to make food for people I know, I will never be a caterer, for the very same reason I don’t want to work in a restaurant.

When it comes down to it, I’m a cerebral gal.  For me, time in the kitchen needs to be balanced with brainy things like research, writing and developing ideas.  So what you can expect from me in the future is more of what I’m already doing – I plan on taking this blog to the next level, using the skills I’m learning here in school to create lots of awesome food, especially kooky healthy food.  And I want to share it all with you guys!

And oh, I’ve got lots of plans up my sleeve for the next few months. 🙂  I’m participating in MoFo again this year (gulp!), with no theme at all – way I figure, I’ll be arriving home just as MoFo starts, and I need to spend some quality time with Logan, and my band, all of whom I dearly miss.

So ta ta for now as they say, and I’ll catch y’all later on in the week.  And until next time, enjoy lots of beautiful food. 🙂

  • Erin

    Epic post! Everything here looks absolutely amazing, especially the raw lasagna and the tuna rolls. You're convincing me that I might be interested in taking some courses at Living Light in the next few years. Also, it can be just as important to figure out what you don't want to do, as much as what you do, so it's great that you're figuring it out!

  • Allysia

    It was a rather huge post, wasn't it? 🙂 Yeah, school's been a blast, just a really positive experience. I'm really excited to get back into my own kitchen and play! And the good news is if you ever took classes here, you're not across the map from it like I am! I'd love to come back for more, but yeesh, it's a hike. …I'll probably still come back. And I'd love to have a chance to explore Cali more, especially the bay area!

  • Jesse

    I'm am so impressed!! I'd love to take a class like that – and find your brave to roll up your sleeves and get in there! I don't know what I was drooling over more – that lasagna, the truffles, or the lemon pie. But it ALL looked fantastic! Good luck with Vegan MoFo! How does one enter?

  • Jolene – EverydayFoodie

    What a great post!

    That food all looks incredible – especially that lasagna. Mmmmmmmmmm!

  • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan

    Isn't Living Light like a dreamland of awesomeness? I was there attending classes in May, and I'm already dying to visit again someday.

  • Allysia

    A dreamland of awesomeness is probably the best way to describe it. I want to go back, too! I think pastry arts would be the best.