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Starting pastry chef school tomorrow!


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#1 SusanNS

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 03:03 PM

Hey there, so I'm starting a 10 month pastry course at my local college and I'm nervous!! See, I'm the oldest in the class - I'm 40! I'm really excited to be doing this but how do I compete with the youngsters? I'd love to hear from "late bloomers" who became pastry chefs. Any words of encouragement? How do I survive? I'm sure the first day will be the hardest.

Thanks,
Susan :smile:

#2 chefpeon

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 03:07 PM

When I started pastry school at 28, I was not the youngest nor the oldest in my class.
In fact, my class ran the gamut from 18 to 60.....not everybody will be a youngster in yours, I'll
betcha.
Besides, at 40, you shouldn't be nervous.....you're already a leg up on the young 'uns
with some life experience under your belt. :smile:

Edited by chefpeon, 10 September 2006 - 03:08 PM.


#3 SweetSide

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 03:20 PM

Welcome to the wonderful world of pastry.

I graduated in January this year from my local culinary school, at the age of 42 -- midlife career change for me. I was the oldest in the class, and older than the instructors.

Don't worry about the "kids". Everyone is focused on the food -- use that as your common bond. I never felt out of place. I learned from the "kids" about being young still. I also rolled my eyes on some occasions about how little they really knew about the world. But, it was never a competition. We all learned from each other as well as from the teacher, and I loved every minute of going. You won't be "surviving" -- you'll be following a passion.

And, long ago, when I was in college, there was this older (50's? 60's?) woman in my classes. We all thought it was cool that she was doing what she had always wanted to do but didn't get a chance when she was younger. That's how I thought the younger ones in my school treated the older ones.

For the first time in a long time, going to work is now fun. I'm now a pastry chef (by title -- I am well aware how much I still need to learn) in a small bakery in an upscale town.

The only thing I had a hard time with was when it was time for externships. While they were young and free, I had a pre-teen daughter and a breadwinning husband to consider, so I couldn't search far and wide for the dream position. Oh, my husband said I could, but it was also during the Christmas season, and I don't think I could have mentally survived that time far away.

Best of luck to you, and by all means post again and let everyone know how it is going!
Cheryl, The Sweet Side

#4 maggie

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 03:34 PM

Way to go! Do not be nervous! You're going to be the one who will care the most and work the hardest, because you're the one paying the bills, making the sacrifices and knowing why you're there. You will be amazed at how well you will do! I started culinary school at 38, and 11 years later, I'm working at an amazing place with a great staff and a lot of talented co-workers. You might not be invited to the parties or show up to class "totally wasted, dude!" but that will definitely work to your advantage.

Good luck! A blog of your adventures would be fun to read, if you have the time.

#5 Desiderio

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 03:47 PM

While I dont have experience to share on the school matter , I can tell you that I feel relived (sp?) to see that I am not the only one that is going to have a middle life career change :biggrin: .I am 35 now and I cant possibly go to school and try to change job ,with a 2 year old son and a husband ( doeas he count as another child? :laugh: )and bills to pay I cant afford the time and the money, but I have realized , I am not in Italy any more and in a few years I can still do what I always dream and maybe succed why not!!!
I wish you the best time and I am very positive on the fact that at 40 , you will enjoy this much more , because like Maggie said you are the one paying the bills and you are really sure of you desicions ,you have lived and know what you want , I am sure as well that you will be one of the best in your class because the time you had to wait it makes this adventure even more valuable.

Best luck to you and yes ,please keep us posted I am very interested on the subject ( sp ? again ).
Vanessa

#6 FabulousFoodBabe

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 04:42 PM

Susan, enjoy the ride! I started CIA at close-to-45, and loved every minute of it. I was the oldest on my team, but met many who were older. Made some great pals with young men and women, and stay in touch with them still. The chefs respect anyone who works hard and stays focused, and you'll find that the really good sorts of any age, don't judge people until they see them work.

My mantra, though, for the eye-rolling, "she's a housewife with a hobby; go home and take care of your kids" types, was "one day you, too, will be 40!" :raz:

Enjoy yourself, and do post about your experiences.
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

#7 chezcherie

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 05:18 PM

i, too, went to culinary school in my 40s. one of the benefits of being older is that you have the wisdom of experience behind you. you will be surprised at the number of students in your pastry program who have never really baked...much of anything...and are really starting with a blank slate. since you have a base of knowledge already (even if it's just "at home" experimentation), you will know what questions you want answers to, what has happened when you have done "xyz" in the past, etc.
take a zillion pictures! i probably spent another tuition just in developing fees (no digital camera then!) but i'm soooo glad to have those photos to look back on!
have a terrific time going back to school!
"Laughter is brightest where food is best."
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Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

#8 reenicake

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 06:33 PM

As a teacher of such a program, I just want to chime in that enthusiasm and the willingness to put yourself out there are what will be most valuable.
I once had a student who expressed these same concerns to me -- she was a mom of 3 preteens and wife of a small-business owner. It turned out that she was one of the best students in the class because of these things: able to turn on a dime, eyes in the back of her head, and organizational skills learned from years of cooking dinner while supervising spelling homework, preventing a toddler from electrocuting himself, planning the company picnic and coordinating the Girl Scout activity on the phone all at the same time.
Young students, especially those in college because of their parents, often do not realize the extent to which a good attitude and showing up ready for class will put you ahead.

#9 chromedome

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 08:07 PM

Gee, who knew there were so many of us?

I sat up late one night at the age of 38, telling myself that it was time to decide what I wanted to do when I grow up. Cooking was the only thing that came to mind, so off I went to cooking school: one year at NSCC in Halifax, and one year at NAIT after moving to Edmonton. I was infinitely better prepared for school than most of the younger students in my class, even the ones with kitchen experience; and in neither school was I the oldest in my class.

I've been out of school for 2 1/2 years, now, and have recently been promoted to chef at my workplace. Even more exciting, I'll be travelling east in a few weeks to meet with the proprietors of a boutique tourist-trail hotel, who are interested in offering up an ownership stake to a chef who can help them grow the business. Without the years I'd spent in sales, and the varied life experiences I'd had before becoming a cook, I would not have this opportunity right now.

Follow your heart, kiddo! Age is no object, if the passion is there.
Fat=flavor

#10 chiantiglace

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 11:44 PM

the best advice I can give you, from a 21 year old, is to get all of this out of your head immediately. I suggest you do not bring it up at all. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and there is no point in identifying them.

Just let things work themselves out, if you do you will in fact gain extra attention from younger ones on an interested note.

I still dont understand why so many people are nervous about culinary school. The youngest of the young were/are just as intimidated, if not more. Some people are confused, some are confident, some will dodge back and forth. But if you show you love food and will do anything to be a part of the culinary industry, people wont question your passion, they will only question what took you so long.
Dean Anthony Anderson
"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This
Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

#11 Qui

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 12:10 AM

Way to go, Susan! Persue you dream! I went to culinary scholl in my late 20s, and thought that I would be the older ones on the class. But turned out that 80% of my classmates are about my age and older. We had a great class, because everyone was focus, modest and learn from each other. We had a great time as a class and learned a lot.

So, don't be nervous! Stay ficus, ask your instructors lots of questions... you will learn a lot and have ton of fun too!

Keep us posted on the claases go!

#12 Tweety69bird

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 04:39 AM

Good luck in school! When I was a student in pastry school, the ages went from 18 to 60, so you are right in there. Don't worry about being nervous, that will be over with after the first day. There is something very special about being in the company of so many others that (hopefully) share your passion for food. You will finally meet people that you can discuss all your pastry issues with (um... kinda like here!) and that understand where you are coming from. Age doesn't matter in class, seriously. My best buddies in school were 13 years younger, and 12 years older than I. And deffinately take pictures of all of your creations so you can build your portfolio, as well as memories. It was really one of the best times in my life so far. Have a blast!
Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

#13 nightscotsman

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 10:36 AM

i, too, went to culinary school in my 40s. one of the benefits of being older is that you have the wisdom of experience behind you. you will be surprised at the number of students in your pastry program who have never really baked...much of anything...and are really starting with a blank slate. since you have a base of knowledge already (even if it's just "at home" experimentation), you will know what questions you want answers to, what has happened when you have done "xyz" in the past, etc.
take a zillion pictures! i probably spent another tuition just in developing fees (no digital camera then!) but i'm soooo glad to have those photos to look back on!
have a terrific time going back to school!

View Post

I went to pastry school at 40 (I was not the oldest student) and I completely agree with chezcherie. I was SHOCKED at the number of people who had never even made the most basic things like italian meringue or pastry cream at before. You're life experience and any baking you've done at home will put you way ahead of many other students.

Yes, take lots of pictures. Ask lots of questions and take lots of notes. Be the first person to volunteer for any extra stuff. Arrive early for class, always have a professional attitude, work as quickly and cleanly as possible.

You're going to love it!

#14 SusanNS

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 11:28 AM

i, too, went to culinary school in my 40s. one of the benefits of being older is that you have the wisdom of experience behind you. you will be surprised at the number of students in your pastry program who have never really baked...much of anything...and are really starting with a blank slate. since you have a base of knowledge already (even if it's just "at home" experimentation), you will know what questions you want answers to, what has happened when you have done "xyz" in the past, etc.
take a zillion pictures! i probably spent another tuition just in developing fees (no digital camera then!) but i'm soooo glad to have those photos to look back on!
have a terrific time going back to school!

View Post

I went to pastry school at 40 (I was not the oldest student) and I completely agree with chezcherie. I was SHOCKED at the number of people who had never even made the most basic things like italian meringue or pastry cream at before. You're life experience and any baking you've done at home will put you way ahead of many other students.

Yes, take lots of pictures. Ask lots of questions and take lots of notes. Be the first person to volunteer for any extra stuff. Arrive early for class, always have a professional attitude, work as quickly and cleanly as possible.

You're going to love it!

View Post



Thanks to everyone for their kind words. I'm setting up a blog for my extended family and friends and I'll post the URL when I've done. I took a lot of pictures today and right now I'm exhausted!! I'm not used to getting up early and being in class by 7:30!! Thanks

#15 SusanNS

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 11:29 AM

Gee, who knew there were so many of us?

I sat up late one night at the age of 38, telling myself that it was time to decide what I wanted to do when I grow up.  Cooking was the only thing that came to mind, so off I went to cooking school: one year at NSCC in Halifax, and one year at NAIT after moving to Edmonton.  I was infinitely better prepared for school than most of the younger students in my class, even the ones with kitchen experience; and in neither school was I the oldest in my class. 

I've been out of school for 2 1/2 years, now, and have recently been promoted to chef at my workplace.  Even more exciting, I'll be travelling east in a few weeks to meet with the proprietors of a boutique tourist-trail hotel, who are interested in offering up an ownership stake to a chef who can help them grow the business.  Without the years I'd spent in sales, and the varied life experiences I'd had before becoming a cook, I would not have this opportunity right now.

Follow your heart, kiddo!  Age is no object, if the passion is there.

View Post


Hey chromedome, I'm at NSCC, too! Thanks for your words of encouragement.

#16 Darcie B

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 01:02 PM

Good luck in your new venture! I am sure that you will do well, and that what everyone else has said about having "life experience" is true and will count for a lot. I hope to follow your blog because this is a dream of mine as well. I'm 37, and it will be a couple of years before I can follow my dream, but I feel like I can still hang with the younger crowd (I have worn out some teens and 20-somethings in the recent past when working on other projects). Remember, "old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill" :raz: .
Visit my blog: Bakin-n-bacon
eG Foodblog

#17 aidensnd

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 09:11 PM

I know others have already said it but it can't be stressed enough, TAKE LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF PICTURES!!!!!!!!!! That's probably the biggest thing I regret about school, I took what seemed like a decent amount but now that I look back there were so many things that I didn't take photos of that I wished I had. It will help you immensely when later on you go back and make something that you learned in school but don't remember exactly how it was done.

#18 chefpeon

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 03:42 PM

I'm not used to getting up early and being in class by 7:30!! Thanks


7:30?!?!?!? :laugh: :raz: :wacko:
That's sleeping in for me!!!!

Did anybody warn you 'bout them wacky "Baker's Hours"????? :raz:

#19 johnsmith45678

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 04:21 PM

^ Hehehe, that's funny :laugh:

Is it even possible to be a baker/pastry chef and not be a morning person? :raz:

#20 jgarner53

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 04:29 PM

Ditto what chefpeon said! :laugh: 7:30 is sleeping in!

Congratulations and good luck! I started pastry school at 36 (?) and have been at a great bakery (though my boss is NUTS) for close to a year and a half now. I was neither the youngest or oldest in my class at all, and we all shared the same thing: a love of pastry. And not everyone in the class was interested in pursuing it professionally; some wanted to go into food writing, etc.

Definitely take lots of pictures! My own blog really helped me remember what we'd done. After getting home from class at 10:30, it was all a blur, and it helped to sit down the next day to write up the night's class and review the pictures. Also fun to look back later at some of the things I was so proud of at the time that I know I could do much better today, simply because of experience.

Do be prepared for what you're getting yourself in for, though! Long, tiring hours on your feet are a world away from sitting at a desk 8 hours a day. Kiss your weekends and holidays goodbye, and invest in a good stock of Neosporin for those inevitable burns. (We had a poor extern at work a few months back whose arms made me wince she had so many burns on them!)
"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

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#21 bibbotson

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 06:00 PM

Good luck, you won't regret this! I spent a decade relegating pastry to a hobby, afraid to make the transition to school and a career, afraid that my enjoyment and passion wouldn't survive the journey. My only regret? Not doing it sooner.

In my program most students were straight out of high school, but there was still a range of ages. My best advice is to be humble and eager to learn and always be on time.

Best of luck!!!!
Brian Ibbotson
Pastry cook

#22 Squirrelly Cakes

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 07:29 AM

Haha, well SusanNS, at almost 52 I can say this to a youngster such as yourself. 40 is the best age to do anything in the world you want to try.

At 40 you don't have the fears of not succeeding that hold many back at 20, you don't feel like you should have accomplished more before turning 30 and look back with regrets. You are a fearless 40 willing to give anything a shot and you will succeed! That is the wonderful thing about being 40. You get this attitude that you may as well strive for the stars because you have nothing to lose. Your knees are starting to give out anyway, so no point in crawling on them pretending humility as you will likely never be able to get off the floor.

And haha, also by 40 you get a mouth. And you basically get to use it without anyone thinking you are an arrogant youth, because hopefully by 40 we have learned how to choose our words with respect to the recipient.

Hopefully by 40 we have learned that it is more important to compete with ourselves and to improve, rather than to compete with others. Hopefully by 40 we have learned that working as a team and helping others benefits us all.

At 40, you are going into this course with home and life experience and as others have stated, there will be those in your classes that have never baked a thing in their lives before taking this course. And the advantage is, at 40, when you graduate you will not have some of the arrogance that some young people demonstrate after they are accredited and not think because you have your papers and 10 months experience, you know everything there is to know about pastry baking.

And probably the best thing of all is at 40 even though you have found your mouth, you usually know when it is appropriate to shut it.

(Oh, just to warn you, at 50 you still have your mouth and still know when it is appropriate to shut it but joy of joys, sometimes you open it anyway because you just don't care about the reactions, haha! At 60, well you are considered senior so basically you get away with almost anything as folks think you are in that doting stage anyway. I can hardly wait, haha! And the big advantage is, that stage lasts until death do we part! )

All the best of luck. I am sure you will fit in. And you will learn because you have a great attitude.

Hugs Squirrelly Cakes

#23 Teri Everitt

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 03:53 PM

Hey Susan!

I went to pastry school at 30. I had 3 kids who were 8, 4 and 3 years old at the time.
The class "babies" were 18 and 19 years old, there were some twentysomethings, about 5 people that were 30, a 45 year old and a 50 year old. There were apprentices, some people who had some experience, and a few newbies. There was one woman who was completely deaf.
Anyway I had a blast, made lots of friends (I was completely over my high school shyness by 30) and was the only student to make the honours list that had children.
Almost as soon as I graduated my son was diagnosed with autism, and it was impossible to get daycare for him. This was discouraging, and I was worried it would be forever before I found a job that would accomodate my family's needs. I started part time and went through several jobs all of which added to my skills and experience. I now work for a really family friendly employer who pretty much lets me dictate my own schedule within reason. I don't always love the job, but I do love the work. I can't imagine doing anything else for a living. Starting out later and having a family will not hold you back.
There is a lot of room in this industry for people to find their niche.

Have fun! :smile:

Teri
If only I'd worn looser pants....

#24 chiantiglace

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 07:44 PM

At 40 you don't have the fears of not succeeding that hold many back at 20, you don't feel like you should have accomplished more before turning 30 and look back with regrets. You are a fearless 40 willing to give anything a shot and you will succeed! That is the wonderful thing about being 40. You get this attitude that you may as well strive for the stars because you have nothing to lose. Your knees are starting to give out anyway, so no point in crawling on them pretending humility as you will likely never be able to get off the floor.


If I am fearless now, what will I be when I am 40, crazy?

And haha, also by 40 you get a mouth. And you basically get to use it without anyone thinking you are an arrogant youth, because hopefully by 40 we have learned how to choose our words with respect to the recipient.


....yea.....I gotta work on that one.
Dean Anthony Anderson
"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This
Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

#25 johnsmith45678

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 09:19 PM

At 40 you don't have the fears of not succeeding that hold many back at 20, you don't feel like you should have accomplished more before turning 30 and look back with regrets. You are a fearless 40 willing to give anything a shot and you will succeed! That is the wonderful thing about being 40. You get this attitude that you may as well strive for the stars because you have nothing to lose. Your knees are starting to give out anyway, so no point in crawling on them pretending humility as you will likely never be able to get off the floor.


If I am fearless now, what will I be when I am 40, crazy?

And haha, also by 40 you get a mouth. And you basically get to use it without anyone thinking you are an arrogant youth, because hopefully by 40 we have learned how to choose our words with respect to the recipient.


....yea.....I gotta work on that one.

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:rolleyes:

#26 Squirrelly Cakes

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 10:15 PM

Heehee, hhmn, well the other one used to be "fat and 40" and that is the easy one to work on instead. There are always options for those that are ahead of the game, haha.

As to the other problem, hhmn, duct tape? Haha ok, duct tape and Krazy Glue. I keep a supply handy...

#27 Kerry Beal

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 04:32 AM

Heehee, hhmn, well the other one used to be "fat and 40" and that is the easy one to work on instead.  There are always  options for those that are ahead of the game, haha.

As to the other problem, hhmn, duct tape?  Haha ok, duct tape and Krazy Glue.  I keep a supply handy...

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A foot permanently planted firmly in mouth would help me at times.

#28 johnsmith45678

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 12:09 PM

If I am fearless now, what will I be when I am 40, crazy?


Abso-freakin'-tutely! Look at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :laugh: :raz:
Posted Image

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:laugh: :biggrin: :laugh:

I knew all they did to create cooks was cut the end of the sleeves off their straight jackets.

#29 Teri Everitt

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 04:54 PM

If I am fearless now, what will I be when I am 40, crazy?


Abso-freakin'-tutely! Look at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :laugh: :raz:
Posted Image

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:laugh: :biggrin: :laugh:

I knew all they did to create cooks was cut the end of the sleeves off their straight jackets.

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Fortunately we pastry people are even-tempered and sane (post-coffee anyway!)
If only I'd worn looser pants....