Starting on NVQ Level 2 this year? This is my cheat sheet for how to succeed in the first year of this course.
Ok, so before starting this course you’ll think you can cook. Wrong!
I thought when I started that I would be fairly well versed in the basics of cooking and would cope confidently in classes for the first few weeks. This mentality simply doesn’t work! When starting the course I was unaware that I would need to train myself out of my home cooking ways as in the industry there is a correct way to do everything! Apparently for the first 16 years of my life I’d been cutting onions wrong (so had the rest of my class) and in my first class everyone became extremely nervous while peeling and cutting carrots under the watchful eye of not only my peers but esteemed lecturers. You will learn a new way to do everything in the first couple of weeks of the course, including things as simple as chopping, cutting and seasoning.
Being brave enough for any challenge is a big deal in this course. Before going to college I remember saying to my mum that I was going to refuse to do the units involving fish since I hate the smell, taste and feel and felt physically ill at the thought of having to cook, let alone gut one. However, when it got to my first fish unit I didn’t want to make a fuss in front of my fellow students or my lecturer, so I went ahead and gutted the fish. After a lot of sea slime, fish blood, guts and two popped out fish eyes, I couldn’t have been prouder.
Labouring away in the kitchen is going to be a massive part of the next year of your life. But doing a Professional Cookery course doesn’t mean academia flies out the window. Working hard in tutorials is just as important as working hard in pastry or kitchen and larder lessons especially as it’s the written work that determines whether you’re getting your qualification or not. My suggestion is to get started on that coursework as soon as possible. The sooner you start, the sooner you finish, and the sooner summer can begin!
It’s a cliché but it’s true: teamwork makes the dream work. One of the best ways to fast track your classes is to work together. Believe me, it’s so much easier working either in pairs or in a group. Using yours and your classmates’ strengths to the best of your ability can be an advantage over the year. For example, I often gave help when it came to a lot of the written work, whereas some of my friends are better when it comes memorising terms and techniques. Some of us flourished more in poultry, meat or fish classes or even some in pastry classes. So as I’ve managed to build a great group we’ve been able to utilise each other’s strengths without losing our individuality.
My advice before you start in September is to at least skim read your Professional cookery book (which comes with your uniform and your knives) and take a mental note of things such as knife types (boning knife, filleting knife or turning knife), knife cuts (mirepoix, jardinière and macedoine), types of vegetables (bulbs, roots, stems), classification of soup (broth and puree), and quality points of fish, meat and poultry as well as some cooking methods (poaching, steaming and braising).
So take a note of these things if you are starting on NQV Level 2 in September and as I will be on Level 3 feel free to talk to me at any point during the year for any tips and queries. You can send any questions to me by commenting below or tweeting me at @UCBloggers.