Our first job this morning was to get trucks started (it's been very, very cold lately) and our vehicles full of kids and grownups transported into the city. We managed to find parking and one another, and our group was greeted by three senior Culiary Arts students who dressed us in lab coats and head coverings and then led us through all of the various kitchens and labs. This is a school where people learn to make all sorts of wonderful things to eat: there were bread bakeries, pastry kitchens, a room dedicated just to making garnishes and cold things like sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres, two full restaurant kitchens, and even a walk in freezer that housed a person working on an ice sculpture!
After touring the facilities, we were treated to a fabulous lunch at the formal restaurant that is the training ground for all the various hospitality students - everyone from restaurant managers to servers to cooks need a place to hone their skills, and this is it. All twelve of us were served with the utmost courtesy, and fed until we were ready to burst! We had a salad, which included the most fascinating pea sprouts on top (they taste like peas but feel like lettuce in your mouth ... they are wonderful), then a main dish of lamb with delightfully spiced mashed potatoes and a variety of other vegetables, and a plate of chocolate mousse for dessert! This feast arrived after plying us with samples of breads, chocolates, and meat dishes during our tour ... suffice it to say that in this place, "generosity towards strangers" certainly includes generous helpings of food!
After lunch, the head of the Retail Meat Cutting department took us to the meat lab, where he himself cut up a lamb carcass, explaining every step, so that we could see how the whole animal is transformed into the various pieces you see in the store (or on your plate). This was really fascinating for everyone ... you get a better idea of what the judges are looking for when they say "we want a long loin" or "the ribs should be wider" when you have seen what the resulting cuts of meat look like. We also gained a greater appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into preparing the various cuts of meat: the cut we had at lunch requires the very careful separation of bone from surrounding meat, not at all a quick or easy process, even for an expert. We have a whole new appreciation for the skills involved in getting our meat to the table!