Friday, November 2, 2012

Disney week 4: Take courage.

My car got a new sticker. That makes me official, right? LOL

This week was a hard one because I got sick while at work and was sent home. I also missed two days. So that not only messed me up physically, but it took me a while to get my head back in the game.

Missing so much work, I had guilt for the extra work that would be placed on the others. Additional hands may have been called in to help, but that still did not ease the guilt of not completing my responsibilities.

Also, all of that meant missed opportunities to be there and learning things! Sure, it’s been a month now, and even working for Disney is not immune to the work day blahs that seem to creep up no matter what you do. But I kept reminding myself, I’m working in Disney World!!?! How can I let something like a stomach bug keep me down like this?? But, at the end of the day, Sanitation and Safety comes first, and I decided to focus on getting better so I could get back there right away.

But I still had to overcome the irrational fear of returning to work after an absence. Would they be mad at me? Will I face disciplinary action? Is my program in jeopardy here?

Being a CP (Collage Program Participant) here means that I don’t have the same lee-way as a regular part or full-time employee, and I’m supposed to be available 24/7 to fill in the gaps as needed… But part of being a professional is learning to get there and do your best regardless of how intimidating the situation may be. And isn’t the whole point of higher education and internships about learning to become a professional and work to excel in your field? So, there was some growth there, and it was not insignificant.

While I was out sick, I watched a video about behind the scenes Disney World Food which was produced by Unrapped with Marc Summers for Food Network an unknown number of years ago. While I was preparing for my job interview with Disney, I watched this and many other videos to get an idea of what I was getting myself into. Here is the video if you’re interested:

Anyway, I haven’t seen this video since April when I found out that I got the job. But I thought it would be fun to watch it again now that I’ve been here, and maybe it would all make more sense. I recognized some of the food items and locations now, and many of my roommates worked those locations as well.

When I watched this video for the first time, the only bakery mentioned was The Boardwalk Bakery here at Disney World. Since I am a Baking & Pastry student, I hoped that I would be working there. I remembered the Chef they had interviewed on location, and wanting to work with him on learning more about plated desserts.

So imagine my shock when I realized the same inspiring Chef featured in that film which made me REALLY want to have this foodservice opportunity was the same Chef working in The Production Bakery at Hollywood Studios! I have spoken with him only a few times, as the Executive Chefs are rarely around in the afternoons.

Of course I had been polite and professional and tried to show respect and a friendly disposition during our brief conversations, as I do with everyone. But now I was kind of star struck! I can’t track him down and say, “Hey, Chef! Saw you on Unwrapped last night. Big fan. I couldn’t believe that was you! Can I watch you work some time??” … Yeah, that’s not quite the best approach.

But I was encouraged to go ahead and ask about shadowing him at some point. So, after a few days of work and showing that I am a dedicated hard worker who wants to be there and is grateful for the opportunity, I finally worked up the nerve to talk to him. I said something like, “Chef, I was wondering if it would be possible for me to Shadow you sometime? I could come in on my day off and you wouldn’t even have to pay me. But I would really love to observe your technique and learn more about what you do, please.” He seemed surprised and said that I was the first person to ever ask him that. He said we could maybe work something out some time, but didn’t make any plans, so I said thank you and got back to work. So…. That’s where that is for now. I don’t know what, if anything, will come of it, but I am proud of myself for working up the nerve to talk to him.

This week has been all about overcoming fears and intimidation, being a professional, and just getting back to work. I try to show up on time, do whatever is needed, work clean, work hard, be precise but also try to move quickly, and just observe and learn whatever I can.

Sounds like good advice for any part of life, actually.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What my Disney College Program Externship is like (in detail)

I am honored to be working at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Production Bakery in Walt Disney World for my Externship. The production bakery is inside The Brown Derby, centered in the Hollywood Studios theme park, and provides baked goods and desserts for The Brown Derby, Mamma Melrose, Hollywood & Vine, and various quick serve foodservice locations.

My responsibilities include high volume production from mixes and recipes of ingredients scaled out and produced by the baker. None of our products are made using IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) items that are baked off and packaged like my first bakery job experience, or shipped in prebaked and just decorated like my recent bakery job before I pursued this internship with Disney. Being that it is a high volume facility, everything is on a bigger scale than anything I have ever done in the foodservice industry before.

I am on the afternoon shift, so after I clock in, get hat and apron on, and wash my hands, I clean up anything that was left by the morning shift and report to those higher-up than me and find out which of the two stations I will be working that day. The production list for that day’s work is divided into those two stations, either working on The Spot or baking in The Back.

The Spot is a machine with a pump and a hand-held wand designed to deposit an adjustable pre-measured amount of batter at adjusted speeds into various containers. For example, an entire batch of chocolate mousse can be made and the whole large mixer work bowl is wheeled over to The Spot. The intake is lowered into the bowl, the pump is run a few times into a waste bin to make sure everything is running properly, and then tray after tray of pre-set plastic cups can be filled with precisely 90ml of chocolate mousse at whatever speed the operator is comfortable with, to ensure an accurate, speedy, and precision distribution of batters and so forth. The Spot can portion out up to 100ml of product and speeds ranging from about once at a fraction of a second to once every 3-5seconds.

When we are done with one product, we run large amounts of super hot water through the system until it runs clear, and rinse the outside. Then start the next product with several pumps into a waste bin until the product forces any residual water out and is now consistent, and then proceed with portioning out the next item. At the end of the day, the operator takes apart the machine, thouroughly cleans all pieces with hot soapy water, lubricates key areas of the mechanisms with food-grade foodservice approved lubricant, reassembles the machine, and stores it for the following work day.

Products I have portioned out with The Spot include: red velvet cupcakes, individual carrot cakes, individual chocolate cakes, chocolate cupcakes, yellow cake for shortcakes, chocolate, pumpkin, and amoretto mousses into serving bowls for buffets and individual serving cups for quick-service, ganache on top of the individual chocolate cakes, plain and chocolate cheesecakes to make little marbled cheesecakes, mousses into silpat molds for celebration desserts decorated later, and so on. Once you get going on the spot, you keep working until everything is portioned out. This will usually take the first 5-6 hours of the shift.

During that same time frame, those working the back are focused on the bottom half of the to-do list. This involves scaling out ingredients, mixing the doughs and batters, portioning out product by smoothing onto sheet trays for sheet cake, scooping into hundreds of little cups or cupcake liners, mixing up gigantic matches of cookie dough and weighing it out into 8lb balls to be fabricated into cookies later, building trays if cereal treats or 7-layer desserts, large quantities of foccasia dough, sorbets, assembling the grapefruit cake entremets, and on and on and so forth.

All of the product to be baked gets done, and everything on the spot is finished before anyone takes our one break, which is also lunch. So, when we arrive at 11:30 we all work to get stuff done and take our break together for 30 minutes to one hour, depending on how busy we are. After lunch, our cooled items are un-molded, wrapped, tagged, and taken out to the freezers. Or the hundreds and hundreds of little black 6oz bowls of cakes are given their lids, placed onto a clean tray, and sent to the freezers.

Then we set bowls or cups on trays on speed-racks so everything in set for the next day. Finally, everyone helps scrub all work tables, carts, and the insides of our refrigerators, clean and dry everything off, put everything away, and clock-out as a group.

I am still progressing as I continue to learn the different recipes and techniques used in this bakery to accomplish such a high volume of product. I observe what others are doing around me to pick up tips and techniques from them as well. All so that I can work clean, quick, efficiently, and make consistently presentable and enticing products for our clients. As I have proceeded through this process, I have found better ways to do the different tasks that work well for me, and I will pass them on to the next intern as the previous intern has done for me. Every day we are all improving our quality, quantity, and speed of production.

This internship with Walt Disney World has an incalculable and invaluable direct impact on my work ethic in general, my skills as a budding pastry chef, my marketable skills for future employment, experience to see how a wildly successful foodservice operation works and how I would take some of those practices or improve or adapt them for my own foodservice establishment down the road. My goal is to use this externship resume and experience boost to continue to circuit all kinds of foodservice establishments to hone all of my skills and interests while I finish up school and work to a point in my career and development that my foodservice foundation will be strong enough for investors to launch me on to fulfill my dream to bring edible art to all corners of the world.

My specialty is chocolate and sugar work, with a high interest in plated deserts and edible sculptures and arrangements. I also want to learn fruit and vegetable garnishing and ice carving to supplement show pieces and such for resorts, conventions, country clubs, receptions, special occasions, and destination travel spots.

The Disney Brand includes all of these fields and more, and I hope to use this College Program internship to secure a professional internship when I graduate from Aii with Disney, which will lead to a full-time position with the company. This corporation is THE Benchmark by which all other brands and experiences are compared. I would not find a better company to grow in. And the clients who frequent these resorts and parks are the exact cliental that my passion for edible art is tailored to.

The best way to accomplish several lifetimes' worth of aspirations and accomplishments?

Those who study how to achieve these things say to surround yourself with like-minded successful people. Gain every work-set skill or experience possible; even if it means working for free. Market yourself as an adaptable, dependable, hard worker who is eager to learn and produce superior work. Network with everyone you meet and make not only a good first impression, but a positive lasting impression as well, so you can network with these people in the future and they will not only remember you, but help you.

All of these things are pre-built into the College Program internship with Disney. There is no better place where I could be pursuing my dream. After all, Walt Disney World is Where Dreams Come True.

Disney week 3: The Cheesecake Incident.

That moment when you screw up spectacularly but have to keep going like nothing happened b/c you're a pro. I had one today at the bakery. :/ A tray of 28 unbaked 6oz cheesecakes tipped all over me today. It was up high, heavy, and tipped in my haste. Never again. *humiliated* Now I have the honor of being that girl who dropped the cheesecakes... :p I am cheesecake girl. And this will forever be referred to as "The Cheesecake Incident".

As the shock wore off, I set the tray down while staring heavenward with cheesecake soaking into my clothes. A cook I'd never seen before slowly moved to my left and deposited a stack of disposable towels next to me on the table, then faded away out of sight. It was perfect comedic timing. One of the dishwashers appeared and started cleaning the cheesecake off the floor, and wiping it off my leg. That's when I got myself cleaned up found my composure.

When told I now have my first Disney badge of honor, I said ‘Oh no, that would be a burn scar. I think I'll try to avoid that for now!’ Lol Well, I can’t say that anymore either since I burnt my arm yesterday, but that goes in the journal for next week.

By the way, here are some baked cheesecakes:
This week changed dramatically from last week. Before, I was assisting other people while they did things and just jumped in with part of the task under their supervision. But now I was doing it by myself. Someone would point to something on the list, briefly explain an aspect of the task perhaps, then leave me to it. It was nerve wracking.

But I have done a couple of the recipes two or three times now, so I’m beginning to get the hang of it. I’ve also found my own way rhythm for how to get things done, which is good. They would say, ‘This is how I do it. But if you find another way that is easy for you and it helps you go fast then do it,’. And everyone is very kind about answering my questions and checking on me to keep things going well.

And now, a very important question:

Do these carrots look like they're wearing little green berrets to you?

Do they??!!

Stop laughing and look again.

yeah, I know, right?

But, in all seriousnes. I may have had a spill, I cleaned up, pulled myself together, and kept going. And, it has opened some conversations with others about their first spill or whatever. Fortunately, I have continued to follow all recipes very closely, and everything has turned out well.

One of the guys looked in on some cake batter I was making and said it was beautiful, just beautiful. He turned to another coworker and said, ‘You know why it turned out beautiful? Because I trained her! See, if you just follow me, it will always turn out perfect!’ Well, I’ll just keep trying to do that, and with a smile, and hopefully I’ll get some of that Disney Magic.

Disney week 2: On to the Good Stuff.

Well, I am all moved in and unpacked into my new four bedroom apartment, which I share with six other roommates assigned by the Disney Housing team. I know you're just dying to know what it all looks like. Well, you're in luck because I took a video. Here's a picture while I figure out how to upload it. LOL
And now, on to the good stuff: Working at Walt Disney World! *squee*

The first half of the week was finishing up my training before I could actually get into the kitchen. I did get to spend one of my off days visiting the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, which was interesting. But I didn’t get as much out of it as my roommates did since I don’t drink. I did try the cheese trio plate which was delicious. But I did not understand why the cheddar was drowning in a puddle of honey for example.

I've been working hard at the Production Bakery inside The Brown Derby at Disney Hollywood Studios here in Orlando, FL. Today marks the last day of my first week of On the Job Training, so I then get to remove my "Earning My Ears" ribbon from my name badge. That also means I can't point at it and say "Sorry, I'm new here!"

I've been so very very lonely down here. I hardly ever see my roommates, and I'm the only one at work who doesn't speak Spanish, so they're always talking to each other in Spanish and even blast Latin music so I'm constantly out of my depth on what is going on. On the other hand, when they do switch to English I can be pretty sure to look up since they're probably talking to me.

Everyone is so very nice. We work well together, and I try to just do whatever I'm asked to do with a smile, learn their procedures, try to do it well, do it right, get done quickly, and work to get faster, and just watch everything around me and learn everything I can. I've already learned so many little tips and tricks for better ways to do things just from watching how the others prep their trays or whatever it is. Since this is the first time I've had dozens of trays at a time of product to do, there are ways to do high volume stuff that I'd never had to come up with before at either of the bakeries I’ve worked in.

I haven’t made any major mistakes and I work hard. I try to at least be working as fast as the seasoned person working next to me, and if I can keep up with them I figure I'm on the right track.

I absolutely love it here. I love this job. I love the work and the company. I don't really want to have to leave. I want to work for this company for the rest of my life. I haven’t seen much if anything of any of the actual parks or attractions yet since I've just been working. But I love the area, the warmth and humidity, the palm trees and the geckos everywhere. They remind me of trying to catch geckos as a child at Grandma’s house in Pearl City on Oahu.

The kids seem to be doing fine without me, which is sad but a huge blessing. I happened to get two days in a row off next week, so I might be able to fly home for smk's b'day for an all too short visit. I'm not sure I will have made enough money from my first week to cover a plane ticket, and I'd feel guilty for not spending it on the bills. But at least I've been blessed with the opportunity.

But, enough of that, what you really want to hear about is the bakery work. I am confident that my previous two bakery positions and my years at Aii have prepared me adequately for this job. The best part is that we don’t have to deal with the public or taking orders since this is all just production to replace what was consumed at the various restaurants and quick service places we supply here at the parks on the previous day. Each morning said foodservice places order whatever additional product they want and the morning crew pulls it from the freezers from previous production. They also make some product, but that’s primarily it.

Then when we get in for the afternoon crew they see how many trays of this or that got pulled and we make product to replace that. We have 4-6 people working each shift. We all work together to get all of the baking done which takes 5-6 hours, and then we get our one break to go to lunch. Which should be an hour, but sometimes they only give us 30 minutes because we’re so busy. But after lunch all that’s left to do is put lids or whatever on the hundreds of cakes or whatever we did that day, tray them up, put them away, clean up, and wait around until it’s time to clock out. Some of our freezers are outside the bakery in the back lot, one of which is several hundred yards down the way, so we have to push the product down there, rotate the older stuff up or in front, and basic FIFO stuff like that.

Anyway, not only did they give me expensive new non-slip restaurant shoes I get to keep, but each day I work I get a voucher for lunch ($3.75) and we get free drinks anytime we want inside the restaurant. (soda, or coffee) I usually just get ice water, though.

It took me so long to figure out that they were calling the speed-racks a “tram”. I just couldn’t understand what word they were saying over the noise and stuff. It was funny.

I’m going to ask if it’s okay for me to take any pictures inside of the bakery, maybe just of the equipment after we’re cleaned up or something.

The Hobart mixers here are huge! One of them is taller than me by a lot. And the mixing bowls are proportionally as huge. We use all four of these sizes of Hobart Mixers… The smallest one is the same size as the floor misers we use at Aii in the Baking Kitchen…. Just some perspective.

The ovens are the same as the other bakeries, but they hold two speed-racks at a time instead of just one. I’m still a bit nervous leaning into them to get product rotated since I got the side of my arm burnt off at my first bakery that way.

The best machine is The Unfiller Spot which is a pump that you wheel the entire mixing bowl or cambro over to, put a pump in, and measure out exact amounts of batter or whatever into your prepped containers. You can change how much product you want to come out, up to 100ml, and adjust the speed. The nozzle also swivels a bit to give the operator some control to aim with as they put the product into whatever it’s going in. Mostly individual cups or bowls for the quick-service places. It’s harder than it looks and it’s rather involved to clean each day. But you can tray up a dozen or so speed-racks of product a day, so it’s an obviously beneficial investment. I got trained on it during week three, but I’ll tell you about it next week.

Disney week 1: The Journey begins.

The first week of my externship was mostly getting to Florida and getting settled in. We finished loading the car and left Indiana the afternoon of Sunday, 30 Sep 2012. We drove straight through to Florida, and arrived in the early afternoon of the following day. We got a motel a few miles from the check-in place and tried to relax. But I was far too nervous to relax.

After a brief nap I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep again before checking in the following morning, so we just stayed up and drove over to the Housing Check-in at Vista Way. They started at 9am, but since housing is first-come-first-served, it was recommended to be early. We arrived shortly after 7am, but weren't allowed passed the gates yet. Though, the other cast members arriving by taxi or bus from the airport got to sit inside the gates, so they got first dibs... :/

Here's me on my way to check-in:

It was quickly apparent that everyone checking in for the Disney College Program that day were in the culinary program. At least one other person in the group was also a Baking & Pastry student. There were only about 30 of us that day.

We hiked across the complex to a building at the back where we checked in, signed paperwork, and had our photos taken for our housing ID cards. We also received our housing assignments. So after finishing up there, we all departed to our new assigned living spaces and allowed to unpack before being required to meet again at the casting office for more background checks, I-9 documentation, direct deposit, and so forth.

The next day was a housing meeting, were we went over rules and stuff, and found out that Iron Chef Cat Cora would be giving a presentation, demo, and Q & A the following day, and we were all invited to attend! I was able to capture all but the last couple questions of the Q & A on video when my phone decided to stop working. But it was an amazing experience to say the least.

When asked what the most difficult Secret Ingredient she ever had on Iron Chef was Barracuda. “That is one ugly fish. It’s got teeth. It’s got no meat on it. It is the toughest, wiry, chewiest fish you have ever put in your mouth. It’s not a salmon. I did rock it and I did not make ice cream out of it.”

She answered one of my questions, which was “As a female Celebrity Chef, do you feel pressure to wear make-up? And if so, do you have any tips for those other females in the kitchen on how to try to feel that we look professional and pretty but not have it melt off our face while we’re trying to cook?”

She said that she doesn’t feel any pressure to wear make-up, she just loves make-up. But she didn’t wear any of that for a very long time in kitchen. Everything has its time and place, when she’s on Iron Chef she doesn’t wear high heels while she’s running around. She said, “You should wear what you feel good in. If you don’t love wearing make-up don’t wear it. If you love jewelry, wear it. You should do what you feel comfortable as woman, don’t ever feel pressure from anybody to do what you don’t feel good in.”

The remainder of the week was spent getting settled in and starting Traditions training. I will never forget that the four keys here are, in descending order of importance: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency.
Some pictures from Traditions:

Am I the only one who draws parallels with coming to The Happiest Place on Earth and going to The Castle with working to get to The Celestial Kingdom and going to The Temple? .... hmmm. Just some food for thought.