For those of you unfamiliar with it: Hotel Ezra Cornell is a tradition that’s been happening once a year for 89 years in the Statler Hotel. Most of the time, Hotelies walk around saying things like, “Someday I’ll be a general manager!” and “Someday I’ll own my own restaurant!” Hotel Ezra Cornell is the weekend when the Statler says, “Okay…prove it.” For three days, every position in the hotel from prep cook to director is taken over by students. VIP guests travel from all over the world to attend the events, presentations, and roundtables that go on throughout the weekend while every student works to impress them. This year the theme of the weekend was, “Food for Thought,” focusing on healthy eating and sustainability trends in the hospitality industry. I volunteered to help out the pastry department this year preparing snacks and desserts for events all weekend. Here’s a look at what goes on behind the scenes.
Every student who works in the kitchen starts off by putting on chef whites. This includes a white sturdy linen jacket (not that mine will stay clean for very long…) and baggy pants comparable to pajamas. Complete the look with non-slip leather-upper shoes and a hat to keep your hair back. Super hot, right?
Next, it’s up to the food labs where everyone is already hard at work. These commercial teaching kitchens on the second floor of Statler Hall are usually home to HADM 2360, a core culinary lab class. This weekend, HEC has taken over. Pictured here with a sheet tray of madeline cookies is Darby Verdoorn, the executive chef of HEC 89.
I start my first project, garnishing spiced vanilla mousse cups with caramelized orange. It ends up being one piece for the mousse cups, one for me…
…But they turn out pretty nicely anyway.
Meanwhile, Catherine is hard at work placing vanilla cream on some almond cookies before finishing them off with citrus fruit filets.
They turned out beautifully.
Later, she had a ball making some saffron madeline cookies.
Here we see our fearless leader (that is, the executive pastry chef), Liz, piping some pastry cream into cream puffs. These puffs are made from a type of dough/batter called pâte à choux, or choux pastry. The pastry gets its name from the French word for cabbage, because the cream puffs tend to look like tiny cabbages. The same type of pastry is used in éclairs.
My next project is a big batch of apple cupcakes, which means I get to use the super-sized 20 quart industrial mixer. This is NOT your momma’s KitchenAid.
The batter is all ready to go into the mini muffin tins.
Voilà! But wait, they’re missing something…
…Ah yes, a drizzle of cider glaze. Much better.
The muffins will be set out for a breakout. No, not the kind on your face, but a post-meeting snack for the guests. They’ll be served along with some light mousses, chia seed cookies, and whole-grain shortcakes to keep with the healthy “Food for Thought” theme.
Once we’ve set up the breakout, it’s back to work. Here, Diana pipes out some espresso meringues.
Much later, they’ll bake and become dry and crispy to the touch but will melt in your mouth.
In the meantime, I make some zucchini bread.
Although, who could focus on a vegetable bread when a warm homemade caramel sauce is cooking across the bench?
Here, Liz and Jess pipe out some icing onto earl grey-flavored black-and-white cookies.
Finally, it’s time to plate the desserts to set out for the closing cocktail, an after-dinner party where a big buffet of desserts awaits the guests. The features include specialty chocolates made by Diana, mini cheesecakes with a sour cherry compote, maple chia seed pudding, and the black and white cookies.
The closing cocktail also featured a house-made sorbet/froyo bar complete with toppings like the caramel sauce from earlier. I was pretty excited about it.
And there you have it: that’s the way the cookie department crumbles!