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The Leiths Diaries: The preparation

This is a post in The Leiths Diaries series. Read more here.

Preparing shoulder of lamb at Parson's Nose

With just over three weeks to go until I start at Leiths, I’m feeling prepared and ready. Or at least that’s the way I should be feeling.

The knives and chef’s whites are ordered and paid for, my Leiths Cookery Bible and Leiths Techniques Bible are becoming well-thumbed and a five-figure sum has exited my bank account by way of the biggest cheque I’ve ever signed. Then there’s the months of preparation: cooking the recipes, learning the theory and attending as many cookery courses as I could get my hands on to hone my skills.

I should be ready.

And yet when I received an email querying how I was progressing and whether I had been in touch with a teacher to assess my progress, I panicked.

Suddenly I doubted whether I had any skills at all let alone enough to jump in on a professional cheffing course one term in. Were my knife skills going to be good enough? Have I committed enough recipes to memory? Do I even know what a carrot was?! Maybe I should have just bitten the bullet and did the full three terms – this is what happens when you choose the two term diploma instead of the full diploma. Watching Masterchef: The Professionals certainly hasn’t helped.

It seems that meeting with a teacher was one of those things that was apparently compulsory. I had evidently moved it to the back of my mind as something that was inevitable but that I would avoid for as long as possible. And yet there I was, going through the list of skills that I should know to skip the first term and reassuring myself that I could do them while at the same time trying to sift out the areas that I need help with.

The recipes I’m comfortable with but the skills aspect is always harder to assess. Reading through the meat preparation had me wondering if I should buy five of each animal to practice on despite having gone through all the cuts with various butchers. And being no great fan of seafood, I’ve really tried to get involved with that side of things this year and have found a strange affinity for the aquatic organisms. The baking, so far at least, I seem to be able to tackle with ease. But pastry and sugar work I’ve had little opportunity with.

Here’s my guilty admission – I’ve never taken pastry seriously and haven’t had to make it properly since school. Puff and filo were the only two that I really enjoyed eating and as a result, I never even explored the others. Plus, with chefs proclaiming that bought pastry was just as good if not better and much less time-consuming than home-made, I was happy to be a consumer. Does that make me a bad foodie? And sugar work, well, that’s just not something in the repertoire of cooking for one.

So in the final week before Christmas I will be meeting the said teacher and absorbing all that I can in those two areas. I guess that means in the next week or so I will be very busy committing things to memory. I hope I’ve left enough room for that. If not, I will have to keep pushing out words.

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Qin Xie
Qin Xie is a London based food, wine and travel journalist and trained chef. When not infiltrating Michelin restaurants as a kitchen tourist, she writes about food, drink and travel. Her work has appeared on Yahoo, FT, The Times and CNN. Her first cookbook, co-authored with YS Peng at Hunan Restaurant, is out March 2014. According to friends, her watch is always set to UTC -- ready for the next big adventure. In reality, she is happiest at the dinner table or by the sea.

3 thoughts on “The Leiths Diaries: The preparation

  1. Hi Qin Xie, I’m also starting the 2 term diploma and relieved to hear I’m not the only one with concerns about being up to speed. I’m sure it will be all be fine and look forward to meeting you tomorrow!

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