December 31st, 2011

Skills Competition 2011 & Mrs T

(Pastry chef doing sugar craft, working under the heat lamp)

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Here’s something that happened back in October. – I told you I had a back-log of stuff to write about! :)

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In October I visited the Skills Competition* held at the Excel centre in London. I never knew about this competition before but it’s a huge event held every 2 years, where over 950 Competitors from 51 countries compete to be ‘the best of the best’ in 46 different skill competitions. I found out via Mrs T, who I’ll tell you about later.

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The type of skills competed are vast. Some of which are:

Wall & Floor Tiling, Cabinetmaking , Offset Printing, Floristry, Mechanical Engineering, Mobile Robotics, Hairdressing, Caring, Beauty Therapy. – And the ones that are of interest to me & probably to you are Confectioner/Pastry Cook & Restaurant Service.

– Below in grey-type are what those two categories are about in detail (copied & pasted from the Skills Comp. website.)

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Confectioner/Pastry Cook:

Confectioners/pastry cooks are skilled craftsmen and women. High levels of knowledge and practical expertise are required to produce the range of intricate items which they provide.

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Confectioners/pastry cooks create an abundant variety of elaborate and delicious products for all kinds of event, which employs artistic talent as well as gastronomic flair. They must be able to work economically and use their initiative, not forgetting the quality of products, ergonomics, and health and safety regulations. They make and present decorated cakes, pastries, biscuits, chocolates, modelled marzipan, hot and cold desserts as well as centre pieces in various mediums such as chocolate, cooked sugar, pastillage and nougatine.

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Contestants are all in individual booths. Observers are very close to these contestants, about just 1 meter, only separated by red rope. When I visited, the chefs were all doing sugar work. It was very exciting to watch as I have no experience in it. It was so inspiring that I pondered on finding a course that I can enroll myself on. And actually, even just looking at what equipment they were using was totally interesting & I was hanging around these booths for a very very long time.

– Many congratulations to Austria, France & Japan for winning the Gold medals!

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Restaurant Service:

Restaurant Service demands an extensive knowledge of international cuisine, of beverages and bar service. The waiter is the most important contact person in attending the customers. It is therefore necessary to have a complete command of serving rules and to know the preparation of special dishes and drinks at the guest’s table. Basic requirements are skill and resourcefulness, good manners, aplomb and practical ability.

- Restaurant service requires excellent skills in areas such as:

- – Serving food and drinks
– – Mixing international drinks and working behind the bar
– – Preparing food in front of customers, e.g. carving or flambéing
– – Serving wine
– – Identifying alcoholic drinks
– – Folding napkins

Service skills require competence across these types of restaurants:

– – Bistro ~ Plated service
– – Cocktail Bar ~ Gueridon service
– – À la carte restaurant ~ Cooking at the table
– – Fine dining ~ Gueridon service

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At the Cabinet making booth:

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Embroidered on the back of every Japan team member is がんばろう日本!- Meaning “Don’t give up Japan!” A message of strength with a deep meaning for the earthquake that happened on March the 11th.

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Now, you’re perhaps wondering why I went to see the cabinet making section right? Well, it was to try & find Mrs T, who was working there as a translator for the Japan team.

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Mrs T & I have been pen-friends for a long time now, first through this blog & then to exchanging long emails & pictures. But we never met, what with being in a different country. When she found out that she is to visit London for her work, she contacted me, but her busy schedule in London with the team, aswell as that coinciding with my baking schedule was such that we sadly couldn’t plan a proper meeting. But I said I’ll pop by her area & see her work from afar.

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!! There she is, there she is!!

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I immediately spotted her in the distance in the blue jacket. I was wondering if she’d look my way & then I’d at least wave to let her know that I did come, but she looked very busy… I decided to have lunch then come back & try my luck after.

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During lunch I struck a chat with pastry lecturers from Northern Regional College, their students were doing demonstrations at the show. We talked about the Red Devil apples that they were using in their desserts. – Red Devil apples are stunning bright red in colour, almost lipstick red, sweet & juicy. The unusual thing about these apples are that the flesh is pink stained (how beautiful!) & that the juice is pink too. Now I want a red-fleshed apple tree for my (small) garden!

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Satisfactory lunch & pleasant chat over, I moved on to go for a final visit to Mrs T’s area. I’m so glad I did go back because I finally managed to catch her & wave! – And even better, Mrs T came out to have a chat too!

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I think we both felt a little weird & giddy from finally meeting after so long! And Mrs T was such a lovely, warm, friendly person!! What touched me was her faith/ confidence in how I will be successful in what I do – It kind of blew me a bit because most of this year I have been on the ‘down’, feeling tired all the time & consequently feeling uncreative. – But Mrs T, your such supportive words must be working its magic, as it propelled me to finally get going with experimenting in the midnight kitchen again for new recipes! I’m glad that I met you. One day (& God only knows when), I’ll finally visit Japan, & so I hope to meet you again! (& hopefully in beautiful Miyakojima)!

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* The next International WorldSkills Competition will be held in Leipzig, Germany in 2013. It’s a fantastic event for everyone, I think especially for the young students to see first-hand what options/ opportunities there are for their career ahead. Visit highly recommended!

December 24th, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

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“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” – Dr. Seuss
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Hello dearest blog readers~! How are you enjoying your Christmas weekend? :) What are you up to? (Or if you’re reading this post-Christmas, what did you get up to??)
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I’ve decided to not work this 24th despite the market itself being open. Instead I’ll be at home, it’s Christmas Eve afterall & so I’ll hopefully reward myself to a long-ish sleep-in in the morning (until the kids jump my bed & annoy me out), then go for a walk, perhaps stopping over at the new ice cream parlour in my neighbourhood to top up on calories lost! Lol. (my current fave flavour is pistachio – what’s yours?)
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And yes, before you say it, I know, I know, I’ve been slack with updating on this blog. Time marches on quicker than I’d like it to & I rarely have a moment nor space in my mind for creative writing.
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Yet so many things have happened this year, so many blog posts overdue. I’ll try my best to fill you in before long – I’m not working at the market for a whole month, first market day in 2012 is 28th January, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to write lengthy ones! I especially want to write about the first ever baking class I taught – it was so exciting! And about Mrs T from Japan, and the thoughtful Christmas gift from G, and about my twitter, and and and… also hopefully write a recipe too!!
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But for now, a little bit about the text from Dr. Seuss above. As seasoned blog readers know, I like my Christmas blog posts with a poem/ quote every year. This time it’s a nice bit of text about the “little bit more” that Grinch finally became conscious of. – This year I am also aware of this a little more than ever before.
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May each & every one of you have the very Merriest of Christmas!! Hope the holidays bring you lots of reasons to smile.
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Warmest thoughts, love & appreciation,
Tamami xxx