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Choosing A Pastry School

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36 replies to this topic

#31 KarenS

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Posted 21 November 2002 - 08:17 PM

When I am not working, many evenings I can be found in the book store. I love to read (food writers, cookbooks, magazines, novels, etc...) I anticipate new cookbooks hungrily.(I just bought Paris Sweets and Nancy Silverton's Sandwich book). I read Saveur, Food and Wine, Food Arts, and Gourmet (it is so much better since Ruth Reichl became editor). I look at Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design. I never buy them- they are kind of boring to me. I am not interested in inedible garnishes, or desserts that are triangles on top of a circle, a stick and a tower with 5 dots of sauce. I like desserts that are pretty- at the same time you look at it and go "yum, I want to eat that".
I was very lucky to meet Nancy Silverton very early in my career. I think I used to know all her recipes in her dessert book. She has had a huge influence on pastry in the US. I worked at Spago in 1984, and later at Postrio. Nancy let me come and work at Campanile and at La Brea when they opened their first big "factory". Her ovens and retarding tunnels were so amazing to me! She has always been very giving of her knowledge.
Working at Spago changed my life- it really propelled me on my pastry journey. There are people out there that really are mentors.
You will not make very much money for a long time. Eventually though you CAN make a very good salary. With all the "business stuff" that I am not terribly fond of (well, it is a business!); I still have many days where I am "like whoa, I really love this and what can I make next?" I talk to purveyors constantly, always looking for something fresh and good. I go to farmers markets whenever I can. I read menus online, a various restaurant reviews from all over. I try to check out new places (and yes, my next vacation is going to be to Spain- lets pray that the oil spill does not do much damage).
I have learned over the years what I won't do anymore. I won't work 100 hour weeks for cheap tyrants. I won't work for evil, angry, and unhappy people. I work in kitchens where people are treated with respect and dignity. I don't tolerate sexual harassment. As a manager, I don't tolerate swearing. It is offensive to many.
I respect (and make) American desserts too. I have met pastry chefs "that don't make fruit tarts" "that don't make pie" "that don't make American layered cakes". I make them because I love them too. American desserts are part of who I am as a Pastry Chef in the US.
I also no longer give up my life to my job. If I am finished in 8 hours I do not feel guilty about going home

#32 Lesley C

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Posted 21 November 2002 - 08:30 PM

For late starters to catch up is a possibility but it depends in what. There is so much dexterity involved and to be good you just have to work FAST. So when you learn, I think you have to look for a program with a very solid base you can later build on. I'm always in awe of chefs -- sweet or savoury -- with strong technique. No one here has mentioned sugar work, which is still huge in France. There is a side to this profession -- a very elitist side -- where you become more of an artist. When I worked at Thuries, the people with the most clout were the sugar guys, and the best one of them was 17 years old. That's all about God-given talent. Pierre Herme would be Pierre Herme no matter who he apprenticed with. That's why it's important to find out who you are and what you can add. Otherwise you're just copying the person you learned from, and then, what's the point? It's just a job. I've seen young chefs completely stiffled working under big names.

#33 jaybee

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Posted 21 November 2002 - 08:36 PM

A friend took pastry cooking courses from Nick Malgiere at was once calle dpeter kump's School. He is a serious amateur and had very high praise for Malgiere.

#34 Eskimo

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Posted 21 November 2002 - 10:00 PM

Hello Everyone-I have been mentioned, but I haven't introduced myself to this forum.
I do live in Washington, D.C. and I am looking at a career change. Colleen asked why would one who has a skill set and a job change careers and move toward something where one has an excellent chance of facing low wages, bad hours, etc. In my case I think it has a lot to do with something as naive as feeling interested in and really good about what you do. I have a comfortable job and I do it quite well, thank you, but at the end of the day there is nothing to report. I went to work, I worked, I socialized, I had lunch and I really don't care about the subject matter behind my employment. In the moments of low workload at my job I am searching out pastry-related information on the internet and drawing cakes and desserts and day dreaming ideas for chocolate decoration and whatnot. I am not considering the finer points of issues that interest the company for which I work. I've always been an adventurous person traveling far and wide and never really all that shy (maybe nervous sometimes, but not shy :blush: ) and I am from a place that consistently requires a lot of a person (Alaska) and when one is from such a place, I think it makes one inherently resourceful, purposeful and directed in a way. In short, a career change into this profession does not really scare me--not doing it because I'd be scared and chicken out, that scares me. I think a certain part of a person dies when someone quits due to adversity. Also, I can always use a little more character. :rolleyes: :raz:

Besides, I have had a number of jobs and I can tell everyone from experience that every job has a part of it that can suck beyond anyone's imagination. It depends on the person to make it work and the only job I have walked away from was baiting long-lines for fishermen in Southeast Alaska: In short, rotting fish on the old lines. Pulling the rotting fish off. Putting the squid on. Untangling the lines. Finding rotting fish heads in the tangled lines. Smelling rotting fish and fish heads. Smelling squid. Hands and arms and chest covered in squid ink. Smelling bad coffee wafting from break room. Smelling bucket of hot bleach water poured on floor to kill all other stenches and keep floor clean. Throwing up. Quitting on spot. Can pastry really be all that bad? :biggrin:


#35 Steve Klc

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 06:14 AM

Actually, Rebecca, you've just made peeling potatoes or dicing carrots sound downright glamorous. You have real potential, within our little eGullet community and when you begin your career change. Good to have you aboard.
Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant
Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo


#36 Eskimo

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 07:33 AM

Thank you. Really glad to be getting aboard.

Rebecca :smile:

#37 nightscotsman

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 12:14 PM

In short, rotting fish on the old lines. Pulling the rotting fish off. Putting the squid on. Untangling the lines. Finding rotting fish heads in the tangled lines. Smelling rotting fish and fish heads. Smelling squid. Hands and arms and chest covered in squid ink. Smelling bad coffee wafting from break room. Smelling bucket of hot bleach water poured on floor to kill all other stenches and keep floor clean. Throwing up. Quitting on spot.

Yikes! If that's what it takes to be prepared for work in a professional kitchen, then I'm doomed. :unsure:

My first love was graphic design. coming out of high school I was completely passionate and obsessive about it and yes, I had very little social life while I went to school and during my beginning years of long hours on the job. But I loved it. I wanted to do everything - no detail was too small to be finessed and no project too ambitious to be tackled. Flash forward more than 15 years and I still care very much about design, but it's hard to shake the feeling I'm just making pretty pictures, and it just doesn't seem as important as it used to. For the past couple of years I've transitioned away from design toward more programming, production and usability on Web sites. Interesting and important work, but I can see where that track is headed and I just don't see myself happy there. This is actually not an uncommon scenario amongst graphic designers. The field does tend to be youth oriented, trendy and superficial which can begin to feel inconsequential as one matures. Am I just "burned out" and need a break? Possibly. But right now and for the past couple of years, I've dreaded going into the office and struggling to care about what typeface a headline is set in, or what the visited link color should be on the web site we're working on.

My interest in pastry did not start until a bit later, after I was on my own for awhile. But unlike some of the other hobbies I've been into over the years, my involvement in baking and pastry has only grown and deepened. Often I would find my self at work watching the clock until it was time to go home and work on the cake, or pie, or dessert that was my latest project. I love the hands-on craftsmanship of it, the ingredients, the sculptural and visual creativity. I also love the science of it, which still feels like magic to me, when a set of specific ingredients is combined in a certain way to create more than the sum of it's parts. And of course I love to give people the delight of a well made dessert when all the aspects are working together: flavor, texture, temperature, presentation and how it flows from the previous courses into complete experience. That is something you never experience in graphic design - the direct giving of pleasure - as you mostly never actually meet your audience or get to see them experiencing your work. Pastry becomes much more like a performance in that way.

I've seriously considered the big career change several other times in my life, but each time it just didn't feel right. I still had the fire in me for design and there were so many things I wanted to do. Well, I've done those things and the fire has died down. I feel like this is something I have to do, and that if I don't do this now, I never will. I think everyone keeps a list in their heart of "things-I've-always-wanted-to-do", either consciously or sub-consciously. I've worked through many on mine, but a career in pastry has slowly worked it's way to the top of the list. It's time.