Elizabeth Hart, who handles job placement, among other things, sends out e-mail notices about external event opportunities. Some of them are for assistants at events put on by the Culinary Guild of New England. Unfortunately, most of these seem to be more appropriate for culinary students.One was specifically for a pastry-related event, but they had their complement of assistants in no time; I’m on the waiting list for that in case someone can’t make it. In the meantime, they were still looking for assistants to help in the kitchen for the opening meeting of the Culinary Guild of New England. I was worried that they wanted someone with culinary training and brilliant knife skills, in which case they did not want me. But Carrie Richards, who was in charge of the event, assured me we would only be heating up prepared hors d’oeuvres and passing them around on platters, so I signed up.
Guida Ponte was in charge of the kitchen for the event and showed us what to do. Chef Guida was corporate chef for Legal Sea Foods for 20 years; now she works for Verrill Farm, where she gets a lot more fresh air and sunshine. Because I’ve never worked in a professional kitchen, I had no idea what we’d be doing. The job was pretty straightforward. We had packages of prepared hors d’oeuvres and several premade pizzas, and we laid them out on baking sheets and heated them in the oven according to the directions that accompanied them. Guida showed us how to prepare the serving trays and how she wanted the appetizers arranged on the trays. Then we took turns getting things heated and taking trays around to the guests.
When it was my turn to hand out food, I made a point of looking at everyone’s name tags; some of the guests were people we would want to meet in the food world. One was Guy Crosby, Ph.D., an organic chemist who is now officially retired. Nonetheless, he teaches at the Harvard School of Public Health and he’s the science editor for Cook’s Illustrated. Guy and Kenji Lopez-Alt are responsible for the famous vodka pie crust formula. Guy made a point of coming back to the kitchen to chat with us, and we exchanged e-mail addresses. I need some cards to hand out at these things.
The guest speaker was Kathy Gunst, resident chef of NPR’s Here and Now and a food writer and cookbook author. She completed the culinary program at the Cordon Bleu in London years ago. At that time, there was the Cordon Bleu in Paris and this one in London, which had been started by a graduate of the Paris school. Kathy worked in New York for a time, and then she moved to Maine, where she still cooks professionally but at a different pace. These days she’s interested in getting kids to eat good food both at home and at school, and she’s starting a program at the school her children attend. She also cooks for a soup kitchen. I was reminded of Babette making delicious food for the village poor. Kathy came back to the kitchen and chatted with us, and she said she’s impressed with the programs at CSCA. I haven’t had any doubts about this program, but it was nice to hear such an endorsement.
I’m so lacking in professional kitchen experience that I was learning at the most basic level what to do in a kitchen. I’m glad I did this one, even though it’s not specifically a pastry event.