Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shoes, Songs & a Soapbox

The sun has gone down, but I'm still up... and feeling chatty. Maybe it was the extended nap, the large Coke refilled multiple times afterward or the catchy tunes filling the air (maybe it was Memphis), but I'm having trouble staying seated long enough to ramble.

As far as school goes, there isn't alot to share. I'm still on the externship and splitting my time between the school's cafe and the cake shop. The requirement is to work 360 hours (for free) by early November. As of today I've hit 218.75 hours, so I should finish with time to spare, and I'm ready. Knowing that I'm working for free makes it difficult to get out of bed and drive across town some days. Okay, most days. The original plan was to 'graduate' in November, but the school has once again made a change. (Hold please. Climbing on soapbox.)

Apparently the decision was made to hold our graduation ceremony in February... even though we actually finish everything in November. And I learned of this change from another student who was told by a chef last week. It was confirmed today. Of course they have some reason and will say whatever it takes to shut you up when you complain, but it doesn't make sense. No, I wasn't the one complaining at school. I save that for you (saving all my love for you) and try to be all smiles for the most part there.

The main chef explained to the complaining student today that the 'completion' date is still November, but the 'graduation' date is set for February when there will be approximately 150 students from other programs ready to graduate. The school holds graduations once a quarter. This actually makes sense, and we had a very similar practice back in the corporate training world. The issue is that none of this was communicated up front in January, and it technically wasn't even communicated now - News is just trickling through the students (I heard it through the grapevine).

Honestly I shouldn't be complaining at all. I decided long ago for personal reasons that I wasn't attending the ceremony, so this new change won't affect me. It's just the fact that the school has yet again shown a significant lack of organization and the students, or at least the ones looking forward to it, are the ones who suffer. The enrollment folks need to know and explain the verbiage and have set dates up front. They also need to stop telling people that there is a course on cake decorating when there really isn't. The place really is a joke in many ways. Sadly the joke (excuse me, have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?) is on me and others who paid thousands of dollars to attend, deal with chaos and learn little of what we wanted to learn.

Maybe that's harsh, and maybe I contradict my words from previous posts, but tonight that's what I think. I have made some great friends and met some great people, but does that equal the huge amount of money involved? I could have a new car right now for what I'm paying for school. Or commercial ovens and a Hobart mixer. Or a whole bunch of new shoes (hey, I put some new shoes on...), which brings me to the next subject (Hold please. Climbing down).

At the cake shop last week, one of the assignments I had was to make three pairs of Tom's brand shoes and an iPhone for a teenage girl's birthday cake. Up to that point I had never heard of Tom or his line of shoes. After some research I learned that he is quite benevolent and donates a pair of shoes to a needy child overseas each time you buy a pair of his shoes locally. You basically get two for one. Sort of. In-progress pics of the cake are below.

The ear buds looked like boxing gloves to me.

The mom specifically requested a paint splattered pair.

The spots in the picture above were crumbs showing through the frosting. They were removed in the end.

This pair was especially time consuming.

The shoes for the cake made all sorts of songs about shoes pop into my head - so much so that I almost uploaded nothing but footwear related stuff tonight, but opted for additional ranting topics in the end. I'll omit some tunes from the list, but the following are either classics or too entertaining to leave out (in my opinion).

I wonder if it's possible to give fondant the look of suede. Hhmm...

This video made me laugh out loud [insert heard shake].

And finally... some classic Ray Stevens with his silver buckle slippers, though the video is obviously not his. I've not seen the movie but this one cracked me up too.

The last few weeks for personal cakes has been somewhat slow, and that's okay considering there was an amazing holiday weekend in the mix.

One recent cake was a first birthday cake for a one year old named Hunter. The mom found a picture that she liked online, and I attempted to copy it. The theme was Madagascar, and I was going to cheat and go with store bought animals but I wasn't able to find them. In the end the animals were hand crafted from fondant on sucker sticks. Unfortunately they didn't look exactly as planned. I'm hoping that carving/molding skills improve with time, that it gets easier (or sweeter) as the days go by.

In the end I thought the animals looked mean, and I could totally see them scaring the birthday boy. It ended up being fine though. I had purchased an impression mat to give the cakes a wood grain look, but it didn't work well. The next attempt will be better.

A dimly lit picture of the first of the animals. My go-to critic pointed out that he doesn't have fangs. Thankfully it was a simple fix involving a single sharp knife. I didn't take close ups of the other critters, but you're not missing much.

Another cake from the last two weeks was a birthday cake for a friend. The daughter of the birthday lady came over and helped decorate the cake, so it was fun.

The last cake that I worked on was a last minute wedding cake for a lady who attended the pastry program for a bit. She had originally planned to make her own cake but realized at the last minute that she wouldn't have the time. She called on Sunday and needed the cake on Saturday. Since it was the holiday weekend, there were no other orders and I'm the guy who can't say no, I took on her cake. Ooh. Is that another song opportunity? I think so.

The cake wasn't large and the bride was very easy to work with. All I had to do was make the cake with some basic piping decorations and ribbon, and she added feathers and silk flowers afterward.

First tier in progress.

A photo of the finished cake bootlegged from Facebook.

Faithful followers may recall my excitement at the progress of our local IHOP under construction. I'm happy to report that it is officially open, and I've been a few times! The food is good, and the service will improve with time. Each time I'm there, I can't help but smile, because I'm sitting in IHOP and only four minutes from home. That's even closer than Bueno! Is it sad to get so excited over such a mediocre chain restaurant? Naw. It's the little things, folks.

Finally, the weather has changed and we're heading into fall. This means the Tulsa State Fair and the Oklahoma Sugar Art show is just around the corner. I think I've finally decided to enter a cake or two. My stuff won't be in the main showpiece section where the all-stars are (hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on), but they will be in one of the lower divisions. Since this is such a huge competition and incredibly talented folks come from all over the country to participate, I'm not sure what I'm looking for or hoping to gain from entering. I know I'm looking for some feedback and suggestions from the expert judges, and some sort of confirmation (either way) regarding the future would be nice. I'm also looking for a sugar momma - but that's another post.

This song takes me back to Customer Service Appreciation Week of 1999. I was a newly hired associate who thought he had just joined the coolest company ever when the VPs donned gold shirts and sun glasses and busted a move to this tune at THE rally of the year. Good times.

Happy grubbing.