Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Twelve Days of...

When I got in the car and began today's race across Tulsa to get to class, the first line that came blasting through the speakers was 'Man, I been workin' too hard, ten-hour days and I'm tired (pronounced tard)'. The song then used the term 'knuckle bustin', back breakin' no paying job', and I thought that it was appropriate. The twelve days that have passed since my last post have been insane. It seems that I make similar statements at the start of many posts, but they're all true. I thought that I'd be living a life of leisure for at least a few months when I left the corporation back in January. How naive I was. Let me explain.

First the song from this morning. I feel like all I've been doing for the last week and a half is running, racing from one task to another just to keep my head above water (we'll be discussing water further in a bit) and meet deadlines. I would have traded any one of the last twelve days for a ten-hour day. The knuckle bustin' is appropriate based on the condition of my hands. Because I've taken up residence in a kitchen, I've been washing my hands more times than I care to count. This is actually a good thing other than the fact that the school must buy the cheapest hand soap available to man, and my hands have taken to cracking and bleeding. (Somewhere near the end of the week I started using Neosporin as hand lotion. It seems to be working better than anything else I've tried, so I plan to stick with it.) Politely suggesting to Chef and the Culinary Director that we shop around or spend more funds on soap led to Chef sharing her old lady smelling Mary Kay hand lotion with me today. When she walked over with it and said to stick out my hands, I thought it was a tube of purchased icing (like that found on aisle eight at Walmart), and I wondered what was going on. Then it hit me (and by it, I mean the stench), and I accepted with disgust her kind gesture. A man's hands should never smell or shine the way mine did today, and there was nothing polite or respectful that I could do about it. Back breakin' - Even the special kitchen kicks couldn't keep the back pain at bay last week, and it's no surprise considering I was probably on my feet more than I wasn't. This was due to multiple cake orders in addition to the frenzied footwork at school.

There were four cakes since the last post. The first was a simple chocolate cake with three layers. This was a small cake that looked awful when photographed. It was completely purple per the customer's request, and no, I wasn't going for a smooth look. This cake was delivered on the 12th.

The other three cakes were all due on the same day. All three were to be delivered within a span of about three hours on the 20th, and not one of them was as simple as the purple one. As the pictures show, there were extra shapes to be cut out of fondant, and rice cereal treats needed to be sculpted well in advance of the delivery date. Each night last week I worked on some non-baking aspect of the cakes. I would have had less stress if I would have started baking the cakes earlier, but I can't wrap my mind around baking cakes four or five days before a client is going to eat them - even if my professional chef/instructor says that it's fine so long as they're wrapped and stored properly. Instead I wait as late as possible in an effort to maintain freshness (in my uneducated opinion) and end up being incredibly stressed. As a result of this I had to bake 17 pans of cake in one night (yes, 17). This was a first (and hopefully a last) for me. The baking took place on Thursday evening. After class on Friday I hurried home to frost and assemble the cakes. Luckily two friends agreed to assist on the project. Without them I would not have made it. Even with their help on Friday night, I had to pull an all nighter to get the cakes finished on time, and even with no sleep I came very close to not making it (I, Dustin, do solemnly swear [by the moon and the stars in the sky] to never attempt three cakes in one day again).

To make the weekend even more fun, I had a water leak. It was discovered around midnight on Friday night. Water had somehow managed to escape the back bathroom and infiltrate my master bedroom closet, part of the dining room and hallway. The flooring in the dining room and hallway is the wanna be fake wood and is not moisture resistant. As I stepped on the planks and watched the water rise through the seams, I wondered just how much I could handle in one weekend. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do but shut off the water supply to the back bathroom, put out towels and get back to the cakes while hoping that it wasn't enough water to severely damage the floors. The clock was ticking, I'm no handyman and the cakes had to be delivered come hell or high water (literally). Since Friday night the water has dried, but the floor is visibly damaged in places. I'm debating on the next move to make (rug or repair?), and the back bathroom still has no water supply.

The first cake was for a lady who was celebrating her 50th birthday. I was told that she likes flowers and working in her yard. The customer said that I could do whatever I wanted with the cake. In the end I attempted a flower pot made from a stack of cakes. The cake had two layers of white and two layers of chocolate, buttercream, fondant and Oreo dirt. The flowers were made of fondant and glued on heavy gauge floral wires, but I thought they flopped around too much and made delivering the cake on snowy roads even more stressful. With every movement of the car, I feared the flowers were going to fall, because the royal icing used for glue wasn't great. The customer was pleased, and the cake was well received according to a Facebook message received later in the day.

The second cake for Saturday was for a sports themed baby shower cake. My main issue with this cake was the fact that I failed to come up with a topper until the very last minute. The white fondant used for the baseball was a little too soft and caused a flat spot on the bottom of it. The red stitching on the baseballs on the middle tier was also too light. The three tiers were made of white, chocolate and cinnamon cakes.

Saturday's third cake was the largest cake dimensionally that I've ever done. I had the board for it cut at Home Depot. The base cake was 33x15 before frosting. There was also a 10" round cake that sat atop this base. The theme was western or cowboy (shoulda been a...), and the customer chose the design of the larger base and round center. They also wanted a cowboy hat and boot. The hat and boot were made of the rice cereal treats and covered with fondant. The cakes were white, chocolate, strawberry and cinnamon.

I was told that the customer would provide a cowboy with a lasso to add to the center. Upon arrival I was given all manner of cowboy items to add to the cake. I didn't mind doing it, but it wasn't what I had in mind. On one hand (I could stay and be your lovin' man) I wondered why I went to the trouble to make the edible hat and boot if we were adding plastic toys. We could have added a plastic hat and boot and saved alot of time. On the other hand (there's a golden band to remind me of someone who would not understand) I thought it was the customer's cake, and they were paying for it, so if they want it to look like Atwood's threw up on it, so be it. The ornamented cake is below, and I guess the toys weren't bad. They probably helped to be completely honest. I just wasn't expecting so many.

After this cake was dropped off, I headed to Sonic and almost fell asleep while waiting for the food to be delivered. I made it home and stayed semi-conscious just long enough to eat most of the meal before staggering to the couch and falling into a coma.

Last night was the Chef's Ball, an annual charity event supporting local chefs in training. I was asked to work the event on a volunteer basis. Other than making for a long day after a long weekend, it wasn't bad. I left school and reported to the Silo Event Center (which is impressive) for duty. I was assigned to assist the waitstaff. Waiting tables is not my forte. I know this after attempting it as a part time job some years ago. (I lasted all of a month before walking out in the middle of a shift one night.) Since last night was an upscale event attended by the who's who of the local chefs and food purveyors, they wanted it to look fancy (Here's your one chance, don't let me down). Groups of five carried two plates each, followed the leader to and around a table and then placed the dish from their right hand in front of a guest when given the cue. Then the dish from the left hand was deposited on the table. Things were going smoothly until we made it to the soup. I spilled half a bowl on the first table (There's no use crying over spilled perfume). Thankfully it all went on the table and not a patron, but I was mortified. I didn't really know what to do and handled the situation very poorly by doing nothing but apologizing and trying to avoid that table for the rest of the night. That type of environment is totally out of my league (I dine at Bueno five times a week). A little later I tried to take an empty plate from a different table only to be corrected by the person to the right of the person whose plate I was trying to bus. The person who corrected me was none other than Mr. Devin Levine, the Executive Chef of Southern Hills Country Club. Before the end of the night, Chef (who was in attendance as part of a group of 10 from school) told us that she had spoken with Chef Levine earlier, and he told her that he wants to hire ten students for the summer. She strongly suggested we apply. I didn't have the heart to tell her that he may not be interested in someone who couldn't differentiate between a bread and butter plate and a near empty saucer with a few crumbs of bread on it. In the end the other student volunteer from class and I sneaked out as early as possible.

Because of the above schedule of events (and I haven't even really mentioned school yet), I've been away from the blog. I've also nodded off multiple times while typing this, so I'm going to close for now with hopes of returning tomorrow.

Before I go I feel the need to clarify something. For those who may be confused by the seemingly random phrases that appear in parenthesis from time to time in my ramblings, I want to let you know that the phrases are often song lyrics. For some reason words of conversations trigger lines of songs, and I feel compelled to share. It happens all the time (in this crazy world of mine) and has for years. Situations remind me of songs. It's as though everything has a song that goes with it (To everything turn, turn, turn, there is a... song, turn, turn, turn). Sometimes the lines lead into other lines (turn - turn up the radio, let freedom ring in harmony, I hear the healing go - healing - Pick up your heart and carry it to healing hands - hands - there was always love in daddy's hands - daddy - smile for me daddy, I wanna see your grill...) It just happens. The lines flow (pouring like an avalanche coming down a [go rest high on that] mountain), and I can't shut them off. I just wanted to explain, so that you don't think I'm crazy. I'm not. Really. But I am tired.

Happy grubbing... especially if you visit the free Grand Buffet available from 11:00 - 2:00 on Wednesday, March 24th, at Platt College at 3800 South Sheridan in Tulsa. I hear it's gonna rock (forever, rock, rock, rock).


  1. OMG D, the last part is too funny! I do miss the seemingly random song references.

  2. I bow to your lyrical greatness and awesome cake-making skills.

    You are Sir-Mix-Alot...in MORE ways than one. =)