The final project before going over to the candy kitchen was plated desserts. We had one week to plan a menu, figure out the costing of each plate, design and submit the menu, and present four dishes.
It was the hardest part of my schooling, hands down.
The menu planning was easy, once I stopped second guessing myself. I just thought back to every restaurant I've ever eaten at, and went with that. We had four categories to fill - chocolate, fruit, custard, and pastry. I went with a seasons theme, taking my dessert ideas from regional favorites and the times of the year each dessert reminded me of. I printed out a very fancy menu to go with everything.
I had my menu, and I actually enjoyed the costing. I'm a numbers nerd, when it suits me - I like doing taxes. I had my menu, I had my plan, everything was going well, and I was to present Friday at 10:30.
My menu was such that a lot of the components couldn't be completed until the last day. So it was on Friday that all of the sudden it was 10:15 and I hadn't finished one plate. I had a panic attack. A real life panic attack. I felt the heat coming off of my beet red face, my hands were shaking so badly I broke one of my sugar decorations, and I couldn't breathe. I was two seconds away from bursting into tears; the only reason I didn't is that I didn't have the TIME to cry. My classmates were crowding around, "Is there anything I can help you with?" when all I wanted to do was run away. My strongest impulse was to throw it all in the garbage, tell Chef Ian I couldn't do it, and then walk out. I kept that mantra in my head. "I can't do this. I can't do this. There's no time. I can't do this."
I was in such a fatalistic mood, I nearly didn't take pictures. "To hell with everything," I thought. "They look like garbage. This is not at ALL what I wanted." And the most frustrating part was that I knew I can do better than this.
It was only because of the calm assurance and assistance of my friend and schoolmate Ann Margaret that I came through at all. While everyone else was in my way and pandering, she asked simply, "What can I do for you?" She was the assistant I want to have, when I have my own place. And her calmness penetrated my panic, and I calmed down, and I built my plates, and I took them to the table.
End result? I was 5 minutes late presenting four desserts I was not happy with. I sat down with Chef Ian, still breathing hard, shaky handed, and red-faced. So it began. I was automatically knocked down a point each for being late, and it kinda went like that. I learned a valuable lesson; though I really couldn't have timed it differently, due to the delicacy of the components, I received solid evidence that panic solves nothing, and how to improvise when things break.
Ever after, in the real world, panic never occurred to me when something went wrong with my desserts. My first reaction anymore is, 'what can I use to fix this?'
I got a B for the project, and a lesson for life.