(Claire’s Story) Cooks Culinary Craic by Claire Canning

For her final day in Cooks Academy, Claire put together this incredibly in depth and poignant piece of whimsical poetry about all of our time together.

It is a great read and really captures the fun and excitement of life in the Cooks Academy kitchen. As she said to me herself, it seems so so long ago already. But this brough all of the memories roaring back. I hope you enjoy reading it too.

Cooks Culinary Craic

On a cold Monday morning January 6th, we gathered with nervous excitement

Cooks Academy Team all took to the stage; the energy was heightened

Founder Vanessa welcomed us all, introducing us to her team

they laid out the plan for the next 4 weeks, and how we might fulfill our dream

A dream to become more confident cooks for family and friends

how to rustle up a veritable feast from a fridge full of odds & ends

Or a dream to nourish our children; while cooking meals from scratch

with the finest of fresh ingredients, pulled from a vegetable patch

A dream of the ‘Ta..dah!’ moment when we’d surprise those we hold dear

with the culinary skills that our Tutors instilled for that ‘Special’ meal of the year

Or a dream of opening a little place, a place where friends unwind

offering warmth and comfort with great food, leaving cares and worries behind

So, kitted out in our Chef Whites, looking quite the part

we gathered at our stations; all keen to make a start

Knives sharpened at the ready, we began at quite a pace

“1 hour to service” Nichola called; heard a gasp, but kept a straight face!

“Colour is flavour, contact with the pan, get that nice and brown,

butter & cream” a foodie’s dream “that fat will render down”

Oh Nicola, you sure know your stuff; each dish was so delicious

with veg and salad the meal is balanced, ensuring each dish is nutritious

Chicken for saute, sea bream to fillet, onions chopped root to tip

Canapés were prepared, with our guests they were shared, some tasty nibbles and dips

All this was enjoyed with a chilled glass of wine, with Liam as our vineyard guide

old world and new, a glass of sparkly or two, with quail scotch eggs on the side

We sliced, we diced, we sugared and spiced, working against the clock

We had to press on while chopping baton, to get it all into the stock

Sometimes in the rush a finger would gush and first aid was quickly applied

a break was declared for the digitally impaired; access to the kitchen denied!

“Hygiene in the kitchen is paramount” Brendan explained to us all

especially food in the ‘Danger Zone’ which could upset our intestinal wall

“The responsibility of food safety falls to everyone in food preparation”

he shared the details with hilarious tales, enhancing our culinary education!

“A quick clean down then back inside, next demo’s about to start”

with flour and bowl, puff pastry to roll, Natasha took charge of the tart

“If you start with a circle you should end with a circle, a square should end up a square”

lift that sieve up nice and high, our sponge needs plenty of air

A pastry chef life’s not an easy one, first in and last to go

while everyone relaxes when service is done, Natasha’s still kneading the dough!

Not so for us, we’d lots of help to keep us right on track

collapsed meringue or curdled cream, they’d quickly bring it back

We’d Jill and Cuan close at hand sharing helpful tips

what once was quite a boring plate, we’d now posh fish ‘n chips

While Brian shared all his knowledge of the perfect cut to roast

Ciaran stepped in with all things sweet, and the secret of great French Toast!

Syl kept us enthralled as he sharpened his knives, and butchered a side of pork

we’d pasta & pesto with Ursula, tagliatelli twirled round a fork

Next James from Cornucopia made veggie cooking worthwhile

then Stephen rocked up, so cool and calm to share his Bistro style

Students, inspired by these Master Chefs, continued to raise the bar

doing trojan work in a supporting role, William was never too far

And Claudia, singing as she beavered away, making sure all we needed was there

with Garry on hand to spice what was bland, his knowledge he’d willingly share

The Certificate in Practical Cookery Course seemed to pass in the blink of an eye

covering every cuisine from East to West, the 4 weeks really flew by

It was time to test our knowledge, and how we cooked under stress and pressure

equipment in place for this 6 hour race, our ingredients ready to measure

At first you could hear a pin drop, then everyone got into their stride

“a piping nozzle for a Belgian waffle?” or “a mandolin?” they cried

Searching & hunting everywhere, becoming quite distressed

“does anyone know where we should go?” have a look…up in Jill’s Press!

Exam day finally over, we could all breath a sigh of relief

Certificates awarded, mobile numbers recorded, then to Peter’s Pub to debrief

We said our goodbyes to our fellow cooks, leaving Orla, Mark and me

“It’ll be so weird” said Mark (with the beard) 25 shrunk down to just three!

We knew this was a great opportunity; Personal Training at it’s best

Experience and Expertise from a host of visiting chefs

Rozanne brought us Urban Foraging before creating an Indian feast

“Guys, Guys” came Johan’s cries, while crafting street-food from the East

We sampled Dublin’s own street-food, at the market, down by the canal

such friendly folk, to many we spoke, and got a real sense of true high morale

Silke dropped by with her Cavanbere Cheese, and we all made our own to bring home

following her technique, he’s washed once a week, and checked daily, he’s never alone!

So to host a soire of souffle and sorbet, we’d Vanessa catering large groups

chiffonade in a chaud-froid, a coulis through a chinois, glace served in big scoops

Brendan whipped up Christmas Dinner, topped off with bread & butter pud

‘special’ gravy for Jill, we thought she’d be ill…it could put her off turkey for good!

Then Orla (not you…it’s never ever you!) stuck her head round the door from reception

“Here comes Annette, stick on your hairnet, she’s in for compliance inspection”

“Calm down” said Niamh, she’d it under control; she’d everything organized

“It’s all in your pack, you’ll get there and back if you meet at the park ‘n ride

So, off on a trip to Kilkenny, we picked up a picnic for lunch

in Goodies & Glasari, near Borris-in-Ossory (we’re such a hungry bunch!)

At Highbank Organic Orchard, we met the Calder-Potts

took a tour of the grove, on Rod’s quad-bike we drove, pointing out all the organic plots

Next stop was Goats Bridge Trout farm, what a fascinating tale to hear

it’s a tough life all right; sounds like trouble and strife, he’s lucky Mt. Juliet’s so near

But we were seriously under pressure, and had to leave and get straight back

Mark’d be late, and customers won’t wait, he was having a panic attack

“Have u got your camera? have you got your pins? Stand proud and in you’ll sashay

with your confidence oozing, they could be confusing…you, with a chef from Pichet!”

We’d an amazing night working Steve’s Pop Up; we really loved getting stuck in

he’d such confidence in us; came away on a buzz, finished off with a Tonic & Gin!

Onwards and upwards, no time to relax, as Josefj set up at his station

desserts & bakes; real peas & fakes, our eyes open wide in fixation

Then in total contrast Andrew Lou drops by with ancient Chinese food

“little has changed, it’s just rearranged, so more of the ingredients are viewed”

Coming towards our final week, we all get quite excited

the Green Room has been booked for lunch, and us 3’ve been invited!

We rock up, all dolled up; soon our taste buds are attacked

assaulted with flavor, plate styling we’ll savour; I sure hope I’ll be brought back!

Helen had been there before, and enjoyed the Spring-time menu

Vanessa’s Ricotta would have fit right in, and in such a salubrious venue

Orla enjoyed her lunch so much, she could feel her waistband expanse

“I think I’ll go home, and be left alone, and jump into my comfy house pants!

Back in, after the weekend break, to more exciting classes

vegitarian, gluten free, vietnamese or sushi we can confidently now feed the masses

We’ve covered cuisines from round the world, and amazing sweet treats to impress

I used to be small, but after tasting them all, I can barely fit into my dress!

Wicklow wild foods was our final field trip, foraging for our lunch

we’d gorse and hawthorn, wood sorrel and blackthorn and wild garlic by the bunch

A visit from the Honey Queen taught us our wasps from our bees

nectar in the hive means the queen will survive before floating away on the breeze

Well Nichola, there’s nothing left to confit, no Turbot tongue left to fry

we’re all done here, we’ll fight the tears, but we must say goodbye

3 wonderful months perfecting our skills, with laughs along the way

we’ll keep in touch with Cooks Academy bunch, now it’s time to be led astray!

Thanks for the great memories! Claire x

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