Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Must Have: Kitchen Inspiration

My first sugar showpiece in culinary school.

Creativity. I love it. I need it. I crave it.

I enjoy what I do for a living because I have this outlet where I can create something that is a part of me, for others to enjoy.

One of the things I loved about culinary school was the constant learning of new skills and techniques and it seemed like the creativity just happened being in such a conducive environment. I remember the first day of my Confectionery & Showpiece class, where the chef demonstrated a FANTASTIC sugar showpiece (which I wished I had taken a picture of to share with you). When she finished, she had us pick out three colors of cooked sugar and said, "OK, now it's your turn to make a showpiece in the next couple of hours."

I had picked three colors that didn't really seem like they would work together and the perfectionist in me began to panic. As I worked, practicing the techniques that the chef had demonstrated, I began to gain confidence in learning another new skill. Although we had a choice in the colors, we still needed to incorporate the hedge rose flowers and the pulled sugar technique in our project.

The above picture was my very first sugar showpiece and although it's not anywhere near what you might see on a Food Network show, I was very pleased with how it turned out and when I look at this picture, it brings back memories of the excitement and the challenge of learning something new and allowing my creativity to shine through. Overall, this picture represents a time when I thought something was impossible and how with a little direction, practice and creativity it became possible.

But every once in awhile, there are times where the creativity doesn't seem to flow and I need a little extra help to get those creative juices flowing. At times like these, I turn to those things or people around me to get going again.

Things or people that INSPIRE me:

Cooking Magazines
Collected Recipes
Created Recipes
Favorite Food Blogs
Other Pastry Chefs
My Mentor Chef D.
Seasonal or Local Produce/Ingredients
Bakeware/Cookware/Kitchen Gadgets
Culinary Classes
Places I've Lived/Visited

What INSPIRES you in the kitchen?


  1. Your first sugar showpiece was definitely a work of art, that's for sure! I have never worked with sugar, but it sure looks impressive!
    At the moment, food magazines, and other food blogs inspire me! :)

    Keep up the beautiful work!

  2. Jill, that sugar pieces is IMPRESSIVE!! It's beautiful! How did u bring it back all the way from CA? How I wish I could go back to culinary school too!! *sigh* So, in the mean time, I look for inspiration through books/magazines and blogs A LOT. Besides that, it's the cravings for food we miss back home! ;)

  3. Gorgeous show piece!

    I try to look for inspiration everywhere, whether its something someone says or in magazines and of course - food blogs! Sometimes it has to be about the feeling and not a specific dish.

  4. Sue: Thanks! I really enjoyed working with sugar showpieces in school. Because it's so humid in Oregon, sugar showpieces don't do well here.

    Jenny: It's a picture I took when I was in school--it's long gone now! It would have never made it to Oregon in one piece. :)

    Lauren: Thanks! I know what you mean by a feeling--I work like that too. :)

  5. Oh my, that is so spectacular. Amazing! My family and friends inspire me, always making me want to produce something better for them! :)

  6. It is certainly beautiful, Jill! You are very talented. And I really like the content of this post - made me pause and ponder what inspired me recently.


  7. Ooh, I like the swirliness of the base. Very nice and congrats to you for learning a new skill. I totally understand.

    I wanted to try some pulled sugar some flames on my son's upcoming birthday cake. I have no idea where to start... "oh Google...".

  8. Julia: Thanks for sharing what inspires you--I liked your answer.

    Kris: I'm glad you took a moment to ponder what inspires you.

    Jacque: Thanks! Good luck with your flowers. :)

  9. I'm going back and forth, back and forth about whether or not I should take the pastry program after I am done with the culinary program.

    I like the improv style of culinary - I rarely measure or weigh, I taste and adjust on the fly, I get inspiration halfway through cooking and make adjustments - so I'm worried about liking pastry. But, then I see your work and I know I must, just must, learn how to do that!

    Nothing is ever simple. Sigh.


  10. I am most definitely inspired by art!! (specifically still life paintings...)

  11. CookingSchool: If you have the opportunity to do both, I would do it! Although, I don't plan on opening a restaurant, I would love to just go through the other culinary program (if it wasn't so dang expensive) and just learn as much as I can. But you are right about the difference between cooking and baking, but the part where you can make improv decisions are in the decorating aspect--lots of creativity there. :)

    I'd love to know if you decide to pursue the pastry program. :)

    Megan: I should have guessed that would be your inspiration--you're blog is definitely one that inspires me! :)