(Scroll to the end of this post for the this weendend’s featured DESSERT WINNER 😃👇🏼) This Friday and Saturday chef Niall over at the Firefly Grill has given me the BEST graduation present! Since I’ve been doing my externship there as the final leg of my culinary degree journey with Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Niall asked me if I’d like to do a featured dessert for the Firefly. I very nonchalantly said…
“HECK, YEAH!!!” after I finished doing a horribly awkward happy dance in the kitchen.
This past Tuesday I made a carrot cake and a key lime pie for him.
I knew going into this that it was possible that neither one might NOT pass Firefly standards. Luckily for me, he liked both, but only 1 of them was the sure winner.
What really blew me away, was as he was giving me some top notch coaching on them, we (mainly Niall) came up with an awesome twist. I’m super stoked about it and I can hardly wait to share it with you… it’s at the bottom of this post. 😄
Externship at the Firefly Grill
This was what it was like working in the kitchen at the Firefly…
“Dear, God, please don’t let me F* this up!”
That was pretty much my mantra going into this externship. School and training are great, but they in no way shape or form replace the real thing. I thoroughly enjoyed the Escoffier program and learned a great deal. But I think I learned as much in these past 5 weeks working pastry at the Firefly as I did these past 12 months in school.
Biggest take aways
There have been quite a few new technical culinary things I’ve learned like:
- When making bread, if you put the salt in with the yeast immediately, you’ll kill it.
- Ciabatta rests for 20 min, then 15 in the proofer, bake it until internal temp = 190F @ 400F
- The bottom oven runs hotter than the top one
- Good yeast cake vs. bad yeast cake
- Don’t start spinning ice cream during the lunch rush.
You know, things like that. The kitchen is in constant motion, especially on a Saturday night.
Trial by Inferno
The best part, not to be confused with the most enjoyable, but the best part of my externship was Labor Day weekend… my 4th day on the job. Holiday… Weekend… Saturday… Night. O… M…G!
I work pastry. That means during the lunch and dinner rush I plate desserts. During busy times (the rush) that’s all I can do. On my 4th day working at the Firefly, Saturday Labor Day weekend the dinner rush just so happened to be 148 hours long!!!
Ok, so that was a bit of an exaggeration.
It went something like this:
11:00 – 4:00 Worked the mid-morning shift. Prepped desserts, cut some fruit, spun some ice cream. Good day! Went on break from 4-5pm.
5:00pm Got back from break, still feeling pretty groovy. Plating some fruit bowls. Life is good. I’m in my jam.
5:45pm Things are picking up. I have a cute little ticket dispenser that goes biszzt biszzt every time a dessert is ordered that I get to plate up. Cool. biszzt biszzt more orders come in. Ok I got this. Brownie sundae, 3 ice creams, and 2 Peach Cobblers. Andrea is 5 feet away bustin’ a move on the cold side plating up salads and whatever else she does over there. She’s super sweet and says, “Hey, just let us know if you need a hand!” Biszzt Biszzt : 2 more ice creams and a Bread Pudding.
5:47pm Biszzt BISZZT Creme Brulee. Oh crap. I haven’t done one of those yet. I use my petite torch at home, no problem, but I’m pretty sure you need a license to use these bad boy blow torches. Andrea comes over and helps me get the other desserts out. Whew! Biszzt Biszzt f* … 2 more Creme Brulees come in and I don’t have the other one done. Thank God Cory’s near by and shows me how to use the torch.
After catching 3 kitchen towels on fire and shooting nearly 3 feet of fire out of this blow torch thing, something somewhat resembling a Creme Brulee leaves the kitchen.
Then all I can hear from that damn dispenser from hell is: BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT BISZZT
You have GOT to be kidding me!!!! 2 Brownie Sundaes, 3 Peach Cobblers, 2 Bread Puddings and… 8 F*ing Creme Brulees?!!!
Uh, Andrea… I need help.
I’ve now gotten completely reacquainted with the restaurant term: Weeded.
Weeded adjective – /wee-duhd/ To be completely overwhelmed, so much that you can no longer think straight let alone think at all. See screwed.
Cue Raiders of the Lost Ark music! Harley comes over, lines them all up. I kid you not… he takes a blow torch in each hand and… En Fuego Baby!!! I am laughing, I’m so relieved. He’s so got this.
All that happened BEFORE it got busy.
Harley and Andrea really helped me out that night. I’m sure there were a few others that jumped in and lended a hand, but from 5:47 to close, the night is a blur.
Truly, guys… from the bottom of my heart: Thank You
The best part about all of that was everybody working there that night. They are all pros. They handled a busy night in stride with great attitudes all while being nice to each other. The 2nd best thing about that night was I didn’t get fired and every shift I’ve worked since then has been a cake walk… comparatively.
Your True Self
I was working a shift a couple weeks later when Niall came in and chatted me up for a bit. We talked about that night and (shocker!) he said the guys in the kitchen thought I did a really good job for being a BOH (Back of House) newbie. Then he said something pretty profound that I completely agree with, “I really think on nights like that your true self really comes out.”
“Well, Niall, my True Self says A LOT of really bad words.”
The one question people ask me is: “Now that you’ve got your culinary degree, what are you going to do?” I got this degree (really certificate… a degree would take an additional 3 years, no thank you) because I love the culinary arts. I love this blog. I love the why behind what to do.
I want to bring more value to your curious mind because you (like me) like to cook, and you love to eat good food. So now, I have a whole arsenal of mentor chefs over at Escoffier we can ask questions, probe their minds when something goes a miss in the kitchen, and tons of resource materials near at hand. Class might have just ended, but the journey has just begun.
Ok, granted, that was a little cliché sounding.
I can’t wrap this up without a shout out to Joyce, Trinity, Shawn and Cory. You guys are awesome. And Molly… so are you. That is one clean corner!
Thanks, guys, I hope I get to work with you again.
PS… did one of you really tell Niall I was an Assassin? If so, thanks, that’s totally bad ass.
And the Winner is…
UPSIDE DOWN KEY LIME PIE
Niall had the genius idea of flipping the key lime upside down. So cool! The custard underneath the crust is flecked with bits of lime. It’s loaded with tons of fresh lime that gives it the perfect balance between tangy zing and sweetly tart.
As much as I love this pie’s smooth creaminess, my favorite part of this dessert is the graham topping. I was totally shocked to learn the Firefly makes its own graham crackers just to grind them up for their graham crumbs. I made a 3 foot sheet of it yesterday for this weekend’s dessert. It’s light but super buttery with just a hint of cinnamon. This graham deserves a featured dessert of its own! Chef, I think we need to have another chat…
Make your reservations at the Firefly now (217) 821-2002 or use the Open Table App. I only made 48 so make sure you order yours!