If you’ve ever taken the time to flip through the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School catalog, hopefully you’ve picked up on the fact that there are no repeated menus. This might sound like an easy enough feat, right? To put it in perspective, the Cooking School is open for classes six out of seven days each week, with both day and evening classes on Fridays and Saturdays. During the summer months, classes are run seven days a week and are doubled up Wednesday through Saturday. That’s a whole lot of menus.
As one of the six in-school chefs, it is our job to come up with new and exciting menus about three months prior to a new catalog coming out. Considering that one of these comes out three times a year, that adds up to a lot of time spent trying to be creative! While we have guest chefs who fill in with their own recipes on occasion, it is still up to us to submit between 20 and 25 seasonal, inspirational and inventive menus each and every trimester.
So where are we all searching for inspiration? I can only speak for myself, but one of the first things I like to do is get my family involved. I like to cook things that I have a history with, and that I am sure will taste good. Admittedly, that doesn’t always result in the most exciting meals – however delicious they may be!
My next stop brings me to my collection of cooking magazines, including (but not limited to) Cook’s Illustrated and Bon Appétit. I have been receiving these in the mail for years, which always result in good seasonal ideas, plus trusted recipes when necessary.
Next I go straight to my cookbook collection. Like most people with cookbook collections, there are many that have hardly been touched over the years. Having these resources at my fingertips has fared well for the menu-planning process because it forces me to flip through many of the pages that have never seen the light of day in search of something that will spark some inspiration. Keep in mind, we are only submitting menus at this point, not recipes. Writing recipes is a topic for a whole separate blog post!
My last sources of guidance is the good ‘ol internet. While I try not to rely on it wholly, websites such as Pinterest have allowed me to create private folders in which I can store (i.e. pin) any ideas and inspiration I’ve come across on the web. The best part is that I can reference back to these ‘pins’ no matter how long ago I saved them to my folder – bonus!
Alas, that’s just the research part.
If you’ve picked up nothing else from this post, hopefully you now have a clearer understanding about the amount of time we all spend in our quest to create all of those tasty menus for our guests. I was fortunate enough to be involved with the editing process this time around, and with the release of our Winter 2015 catalog upon us (the reveal date is yet to be determined), I still find myself staring in astonishment of my own upcoming menus – not to mention all of the amazing contributions from our other chefs! The most intriguing part is that each and every chef, whether they are in-house or visiting, has their own regiment when it comes to finding inspiration of new and innovative menus. One of the best things about working here is having the ability to pick the minds of these creative people. So next time you visit our Cooking School, go ahead and ask the chef what sparks their creativity. It might just inspire you and your next meal!
– Kate Ellingwood
The Pantry Extra: Meet Kate!
Kate is our Executive Chef Instructor in the Cooking School. Prior to completing the Professional Pastry program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kate spent a decade working as an aircraft mechanic for the United States Air Force. Kate¹s military training was a great asset when she decided to explore a new role in the food and restaurant industry. Enrolling at the University of New Hampshire, she received her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and began to pursue her longtime passion into the world of pastry. She landed a position as Assistant Pastry Chef in the kitchen at the popular Italian restaurant, Tosca, in Hingham, Massachusetts. Here, she assisted in creating Tosca’s “made from scratch” dessert menu as well the menu at their sister restaurant, Caffe Tosca. Today, Kate feels that she found that perfect life balance she has been looking for and is enjoying both cooking and teaching others here at Stonewall Kitchen’s Cooking School. Look for more posts with the “inside scoop” from the Cooking School by Kate in the future!