Saturday, March 29, 2008

The day of WMS auction

(This is Part 2 of the previous article. Please read the previous topic.)

This posting was delayed because my photos of WMS auctions along with my two laptop computers were stolen. I am hoping to create my tapenade and to post the picture soon.

On the day of Washington Middle school’s(WMS) auction, I arrived at St.Demetrios(1) at 4:00pm, two hours before the auction started. I went to the kitchen and saw Thierry who is the famous chef in Seattle and is the chef in the hat at Rover’s. (2) He was another volunteer chef to cook main dishes for the guests. Thierry brought his own three assistant cooks. JohnP from St. Clouds came soon and assigned tasks to us. My first job was to carry several large pans of bread pudding and other items such as vegetables from his van to a walk-in refrigerated room. Then I sliced fresh bread, wrapped them in cloth napkins and put them in a bread basket. My last task in the kitchen was dish up hors d’oeuvres. WMS parents donated a lot of appetizers.Although they all looked tasty, the containers of appetizers were tin pans and paper plates. They didn’t look fancy enough to serve to paid guests. Jayne who was the organizer of the food preparation team brought nice plates, freshly-cut leaves and flowers. Another volunteer and I dished them up to the plates and decorate with leaves and flowers. The results was remarkable. The hors d’oeuvres looked like ones served at a nice restaurant. The same hors d'oeuvres looked more delicious and appetizing on the nice plates with a flower in the middle. Now my work at the kitchen was over. It’s time for me to go to the other side of the kitchen to be the guest.
Our servers were the students of WMS. JohnP of St. Clouds gave them quick server training. They turned into the nice young waiters and waiteresses instantly. They served the guests politely and very well. I learned later that JohnP used to be a teacher (see St. Clouds’ website 3). He must have been a good teacher.

Hors d’oeuvres were first served on the plates to the guests who was bidding the silence auction items. I learned all of appetizers which had occupied four large kitchen counters were gone quickly.

The auction stated with nice jazz music played by Washington Middle school jazz band. I decided to peek in the kitchen to find out what was going on before live-auction started. I saw soup was simmering in the two huge pots.
After the silent auctions, all the guests were seated to their assigned seats. When the live auction started, our meal began with a glass of wine and a slice of bread. Our waiter brought white cheese in dark pink sauce on the plate. We wondered if it is for bread or for something else. It was for the soup. The waiter brought soup in the small pot and poured in each plate. If they brought soup with everything mixed in, we would not have seen pink and white inside. The nice colorful contrast made us hungry and wonder what would be the next. It was very pretty and the soup was tasty.
The main course was served the next. The roasted salmon covered with tapenade and bread pudding with sautéed green on side were on the plate. I thought tapanade was for the bread dip and this was the surprise. The salmon was bit salty but delicious. My husband who usually doesn’t like pudding loved this bread pudding.

After main meal, time for the Dessert dash. To get a dessert, the guest wrote how much they would pay for their dessert and the total amount of each table was presented to the auctioneer. The dessert bid of each table were compared with other tables'. The guests at the table of Highest bid can select their dessert first, the second highest select theirs the next and so on. We were the third highest bidder. My husband and one other guest brought a large delicious looking 6 layered-chocolate cake to our table. It was very hard to cut with all layers without smashing because some layers were mushy. The most of them were broken into several pieces. My slice didn't look good but it was very luscious. The cake was so large and after 10 of us at the table had our portions, more than a half of the cake was left to share with other tables.
The cake was so tall and was hard to be carried to the neighbouring table. As a matter of the fact one of the guest at our table took it to the teachers' table and part of the cake fell off. He made a big mess on the table. Fortunately nobody got hurt or got messy. I learned that the dessert which looks really great may neither be suitable to carry nor to be sliced into pieces.
These were my experience participating Washington Middle school's auction. I am going to help precooking chicken the day before the Garfield High school's auction soon. So please keep reading my blog.
Unfortunately my WMS auction photos got stolen with my laptop computer. So I cannot post any photos of WMS auction. Please imagine a lot of people in the Greek Church having delicious full course dinner with nice entertainment.
Website of references
(1) St. Demetrios church website:

(2) Rover's, Seattle website:

(3) St. Clouds, Seattle website :

Monday, March 17, 2008

My experience working at a commercial kitchen

I had an opportunity working at a restaurant kitchen for three days by volunteering food preparation for Washington Middle School’s fund raising auction. The restaurant was St. clouds(1). I was very excited working in the commercial kitchen for the first time. John Platt, who is owner and the chef at St. clouds, was very nice to let us use his kitchen and gave us cooking instructions. Our job was mainly peeling, cutting, chopping, and mixing vegetables and other ingredients. Some people may think it is boring and tiring. But I love cooking and loved this task. I brought my Japanese knife and tried it out then borrowed the restaurant's knife. I learned while my Japanese knife may be good to cut large pieces or slicing vegetables, I liked using the restaurant’s knife which was more efficient chopping vegetables into very small pieces than my knife.

One of dishes which I helped cooking was bread pudding. It is interesting coincidence that I helped making the bread pudding after I wrote about the pudding in the British food. I asked JohnP if this pudding was British. He told me we were preparing French pudding not British. According to him, French loved bread and made pudding using day old bread.

At my first day at St. clouds, my job was peeling and slicing onions. Two of us tackled many onions. Amazingly we had no tears in our eyes. Next I chopped and minced fresh thyme. All chopped onions were placed into huge metal pans with melted butter and oil on the bottom and spices and minced fresh thyme and other spices were added to it. I mixed these onions with all sort of spices with my rubber-gloved hands. Onions were ready to be cooked to be caramelized in the oven. Meanwhile, other volunteers were cutting the crust off from day-old bread which the head of food preparation volunteers got free from Essential baking Co.(2). Essential baking Co. is one of the best bakeries in Seattle. The day-old bread was still tasted delicious. I helped cutting crust off bread and non crust part into smaller pieces while I snacked delicious crust which would go to composed bin soon.

At the second day, onions were already caramelized and ready to be used. I spread one layer of chopped bead into 8 large metal pans. Other volunteers were chopping pears into small pieces and cooked them with caramelized onion in a large frying pan. The pears looked like red potatoes. Two of us spread onion-pear mix in the pans. We added another layer of bread pieces. Meanwhile, two ladies were mixing eggs, milk, cream, and blue cheese with spices in the large container. We got this egg and milk mixture and mixed well and pour into the eight pans. Our final task for pudding was pushing bread down to soak into the liquid to prevent being dry. JohnP told me push floating bread pieces down every 20 minutes. While I waited to press bread pieces into liquid, I helped chopping a lot of pickled green olives into paper corn size to prepare Olive Tapanade.

Final day at the restaurant kitchen, I chopped chives for the Tapanade. I washed many pans, knifes, pots, spoons and everything. I was surprised that dish washing machine was not like one at my house. I scrubbed and rinsed to remove any food waste on the pans. The dish washing machine rinses dishes or anything inside twice and sanitizes them. It only took about 5 minutes. The restaurant doesn’t need many plates using this machine. Only it need person pre-washed dishes and insert it to dish washer. The last task was to help rotating 6 bread pudding pans clockwise from bottom to top, left to right every 20 minutes. This will help cooking pudding in the pans evenly. The pan was very heavy. The chef has to have muscle.

These were my three days’ experience working at restaurant’s commercial kitchen.

I enjoyed meeting and talking other volunteers at St. clouds. I was excited going to auction to help final preparation for 2 hours in advance. And I will be the guest to try out the final meal after 3 days of our hard work. Please read my next blog article to find out the meal at the WMS auction night.

(1)St. Clouds restaurant website.
(2) Essential Baking CO. website:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Is Breakfast the most important meal of the day?

According to 2007 International Food Information Council foundation survey ( ), 90% of consumers named breakfast as the most important meal of the day and only 49% of consumers eat breakfast 7 days a week. Also recent research found that not having breakfast affect children’s intellectual performance. (,
I believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I eat breakfast 7 days a week. I am not sure my intellectual performance is good by eating breakfast. I felt nervous and drove badly when I had to fast to test blood glucose. My family hardly skips breakfast and we are in good health. My family members usually have quick American breakfast such as cereals and Waffle except my older son who has often left over rice. I often have cooked oatmeal with Banana and raisins. Although it is not my favorite breakfast, it contains fibers, lowers my bad cholesterol and supposed to be good for my health. The website ( ) describes the benefit of healthy breakfast.
Most popular breakfast in US is cereal with Milk. It doesn’t require cooking, and supposedly includes with all necessary nutrients to start the day. The companies who sell cereals have fun sites to attract youngsters (, and to promote its health benefit ( ). Disney’s family food webpage ( ) includes two recipes, banana peanut butter smoothie and breakfast burritos for children. Burritos seem OK but I don’t think I have smoothie for my breakfast. This site also includes other good breakfast recipes such as some delicious muffins, cinnamon rolls, and scones recipes.
I like eating big American breakfast once a week. My American breakfast contains bread(toast, muffin, pancake, cinnamon rolls, pastry or Croissant), eggs, meat which usually is choice of bacon, sausage, or ham, cooked potatoes, fruit, orange juice, and coffee. It fills my stomach well and I feel warm after eating this although I feel the need of some vegetables. Some people in US including my husband have supplements such as multi-Vitamins, minerals, and fish oils as a part of their breakfast. I don’t like putting many tablets into my half-awake stomach.
I love traditional Japanese breakfast although I grew up having thick slices of toast with butter and Jam and coffee for breakfast. Japanese breakfast contains Cooked white rice, Miso (soy bean paste) soup, cooked eggs, meat (the same as American), or fish(roasted dried fish, cooked salmon, and etc), Nimono(cooked vegetable), Tsukemono (pickled vegetable), Nori (seaweed), and green tea. I often cook this for Saturday lunch instead of the breakfast. After I have this breakfast, I am comfortably full and am satisfied with all nutrients although I think I took too much sodium. My American family love Japanese breakfast.
I seldom eat out breakfast. Breakfast is cheaper than lunch or dinner. However, most of the breakfast items are easy to make including muffins and Cinnamon rolls. I love to order and taste something new and tasty at the restaurant and it is hard to find something new for breakfast except contents of omelet and freshly baked bread.