Monday, September 14, 2009

Extra Credit

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to cook for the USO at the Atlanta airport for soldiers passing through the airport on the way home or way out.

Well, not exactly.

A year ago in my first class with the teenyboppers, Chef explained his expectations for the class. Besides the mundane like being there on time and every day and wearing your uniform, one of the expectations he mentioned was being involved in extracurricular activities. Chef said from time to time he will organize trips to ACF meetings or host ACF meetings. Also he will volunteer us to cook for various projects. We don't have to be involved in all of these activities but he does expect us to be involved to some extent and our participation is taken into consideration for our grade. A year ago he said that he had signed us up to cook for soldiers at the Atlanta airport, Labor Day 2009. But that was all the detail he knew at the time.

The original plan was to go down to Atlanta, cook in a real kitchen, and then serve the soldiers as they went through the line. That didn't happen. Instead we were going to prep the food in our kitchen and then Chef was going to deliver the food on Monday, Labor Day. Chef said it was strictly voluntary, I saw it as extra credit, so I showed up at 3:00pm on Sunday. No one else from my class showed. Another girl showed up about twenty minutes after me. Coincidentally she was in my first class. Another guy showed up about an hour later. He's finished the program and works for Chef at his restaurant. That was it.

Our menu was roast chicken, barbecue pork loin that Chef had smoked at his restaurant, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, roast potatoes, corn, and more of that key lime pie. I started in on the chicken. I think there were two cases worth, about 200 pieces. I filled five sheet pans. It took some time only because I had to wash the chicken, separate out the wings and pop out the bone in the thighs. I brushed the chicken with olive oil and seasoned the pieces with garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and tarragon. Chef reported back no complaints.

Pizza Girl worked on chopping up vegetables to jazz up the canned beans. All of the food that we were cooking was donated by Chef's vendors. He was pretty disappointed with his vendors' contributions. Apparently they don't donate any more. A sign of the economic times I suppose but but pretty sad given the cause. Just goes to show you where loyalties really lie.

Sous Chef sliced the pork loin on the big meat slicer. I think there were seven loins. I have a really hard time remember meat cuts. It would help to learn the why they have the names they do. One would assume that pork loin comes from the leg or thigh area of the pig but it comes from the back. The barbecue sauce was a combination of two sauces. One was Bulls Eye but I don't know what the other one was.

Imoved onto the potatoes. This was basically the same as what we had done on Tuesday, except I think I had sixty pounds of potatoes! I filled a huge roasting pan with about forty pounds and then Pizza Girl started a second roasting pan. I seasoned both pans just like we had on Tuesday. Again, no disgruntled eaters reported by Chef.

Meanwhile, Chef made the macaroni and cheese. It was canned cheese sauce. Chef put some other stuff in it but I'm not sure what.

The last dish was the corn. Pizza Girl set out three large aluminum foil pans and filled them with the cooked frozen corn. The corn was pretty tasteless. We hit it hard with salt and a pound of butter in each pan!

We were done around 6:30. It was hard work but it was fun. And there was a nice warm fuzzy feeling for doing something good for these soldiers. Chef's plan was to come back in at 3:00AM! and cook everything, load the van up and head to the airport at 7:00AM. Chef said it was a tiny kitchen when he got there. He was worried that he had too much food, only enough for 200 but was told that was great, they were expecting 300-350 soldiers passing through. I'm sure each one of them loaded their plates up too. They had USO volunteers serving but Chef, his wife and Sous Chef also served. Chef said they announced each of our names over the PA system thanking us. And each of us received a flag patch from Operation Chefs Unite that we are supposed to iron onto our jackets. How cool is that!

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