For a cook in this province, finding worthwhile work can be challenging. Culinary Arts is such a broad field with a near inexhaustible and ever-growing variety of dishes and techniques – it’s imperative that cooks get as much experience as possible to compete. Culinary employers know this and for small profit establishments, training an ambitious cook may seem detrimental knowing in time employees leave to further their careers.
In contrast, many establishments lack any staff with entry level certification let alone boast a Red Seal chef for apprentices to learn under. Knowing this, many Red Seals tend to use the rare learning opportunity to bait naïve cooks into belittling tasks with little to no education taking place – duped into what they present as a prestigious spot that any cook would die for but in reality is a waste of the cook’s time.
With so many hidden career pitfalls for Newfoundland cooks, it’s created a climate where job interviews often go both ways. Not only is the potential employer evaluating the would-be-cook, but the employer is being evaluated to make sure they can provide a stable, healthy work environment that allows for career growth. Thus, job interviews for cooks tend to be a bit more interactive with an exchange of questions and answers on both sides. One such interview is solidified as the most fun and creative interview I’ve ever had.
A few years ago I applied for a baking position to further my knowledge of cake making. My would-be boss was a man of some repute in the area with a chain of establishments stretching wide in all directions. I entered the baking establishment full of hope and swagger. After the standard meet and greet, the mutual questioning began. Check. Check. Check. He passed my criteria. Check. Check. Check. I passed his …but then he spontaneously asked me:
“How would you like to construct a cake for me right now?”
I was pumped.
He led me to a work area and told the other employees to take five. While I winced to see that the cakes weren’t from scratch, the decorating area was a wonderland of tools and ingredients I hadn’t had much experience with, offering the perfect learning environment and playground for decorating.
“What you like me to make?” I asked Mr. Powell.
“Anything you want.” he said. “You have five minutes, Mr. Bursey.”
And with that, he left me alone to assemble a cake that was very similar to my…
Double Chocolate Black Forest Cake
1 (461 gram) box chocolate food cake mix (w/ listed cake ingredients)
1 can (3 cups) cherry pie filling
2 cups icing sugar
½ cup salted butter, softened
2 ½ tbsp of coffee cream
2 tsp cocoa powder
4 cups chocolate chips
1 cup of milk
Bake cake as instructed, let cool and cut in half lengthwise. Whip butter, icing sugar, cocoa and coffee cream to make a buttercream frosting. Layer your cherry pie filling evenly onto the bottom cake and top with the other half. Spread the buttercream evenly over entire cake surface and cool. In a bain marie, melt chocolate chips with milk on medium heat. Let cool slightly and pour evenly over the surface of your cake being sure that it drips evenly over the surface before refrigerating to solidify outer chocolate layer.
The cake I assembled that day was not too different from the aforementioned recipe aside from being topped merely with buttercream frosting. I took greedy advantage of the cake wheels and assorted piping bags to create a number of decorative swirls and flowers before covering them in cherries. I also used some cherry red gel to write “Happy Birthday!” on the cake which was admittedly sloppy at best given the short amount of time I had left. Mr. Powell, however seemed impressed that I had time to attempt the writing in the first place. I’d like to say that I got the job (and I will, because I did) but before I could start my first day, I was snagged up by another opportunity that turned out to be one of the pitfalls I had mentioned before… and that’s a tale for another time.