This is how cooking class went last term. Every Tuesday night, I and my fellow Rudd frosh, Tim, would walk over to Tom Mannion’s house at 6:30 p.m. Our group would sit around, listen to Tom teach a short lesson on the theme of the day, watch his demos, then go to work. We would fry chicken and cut tomatoes and whisk sauces. I would eat way too much and barely be able to walk on the way back, swearing not to eat so much next class. This would be repeated every week until the end of term.
When I signed up for this class, I had no idea how much…food there would be. It’s a huge production every week. This was part of the spread before Japanese night:
Each team prepares pans and pots full of food every night with the assistance of their almighty TAs. First term, my TAs were Peter and Matt. This is Peter sharpening a knife:
It’s okay, he’s really good at katsu. My team last term was quite small, so we usually finished the latest among the four teams. But we had fun!
Our single victory over the course of the term was on the first night, when we had a small competition. We were given trays filled with 40 different samples of sauces and solids, and tried mixing and matching tastes and textures to produce an appetizer, entree, and dessert.
Our appetizer was green apple with sharp cheddar, cranberry, and honey. Our entree was grilled chicken with spinach and reduced balsamic vinegar. Our dessert was candied orange peel with cucumber, dill, and semisweet chocolate chips. A rather adventurous spread:
Inspired by the delicious souffle, Peter hosted a souffle night in one of the Avery kitchens. We learned how to make meringue and prepare ramekins. We made chocolate souffles:
And lemon souffles!
Back in class, we continued our attempts at cooking. One highlight for me was the soft pretzels:
Sooooo good. There was one harvest themed night:
And one where we made sandwiches of all kinds — croque monsieur, Philly cheesesteak, Reuben, Italian subs…
At the end of class, we all go and feast on food prepared by the teams and by the kitchen assistants:
And this seared scallop with a red wine mushroom sauce:
And to top it all off, this salmon with cream cheese frosting and berry compote:
We thought it was good. The judges thought it was slimy, and the name “Salmonbella” didn’t make them any happier. We didn’t win, in part due to Salmonbella. It was a fun time, though, and we celebrated our loss with all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue:
Second term, I became a TA. It was quite a different experience. Rather than cooking and eating from 6:30 to 10:30, I prepped, delegated, and cleaned (in addition to cooking and eating) from 5 to 11:30. It was a big time commitment, but it also made me get my work done ahead of time. I TA’d with Peter and Matt. This is a cute drawing of us by Jenny, who was part of our group:
We had some classes that we hadn’t had first term, like Colombian, Lebanese, Italian, Indian, and Japanese nights. Here’s Jerry staring in wonder at an octopus on Japanese night:
At the cooking final, Tom revealed the secret ingredients: red snapper and pineapple.
During the time when we could use our phones, everyone called their parents asking for family fish recipes. The dishes were fish soup, pineapple chutney, broiled snapper, snapper with pineapple salsa, and pineapple mango pie:
We played a prank on the judges and entered these dumpling faces as our dessert:
We didn’t win, but we went out for Japanese food anyways:
All in all, cooking class spiced up my first two terms at Caltech. We may never win another competition, but we’ll always have fun and eat well!