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My First Pastry Job


jgarner53
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After just a few washings, my Chefwears started to look more like capris, and I looked like a dork.

:laugh::laugh: Due to my height (6'1" with a 36" inseam), I always feel like I'm ready for the floodwaters! :laugh::laugh: I did treat myself to a pair of Culinary Classics women's chef's pants which I shelled out extra bucks for to get them long enough, and they're all cotton (as opposed to my other pants, which are 65/35, but were cheap), and they're at least a little better, but really, who wrote the rule that chefs/cooks are short and round?? :laugh:

I really do feel now that I'm getting my groove together, when it comes to getting things done - a few things here and there that I realize later that I could have done more efficiently. I'm getting faster at some of the time-intensive tasks (pouring that damned custard!) and more efficient/less painstaking at others. I left work today really feeling like I'd done a lot today. I'm at that point where I have really very few questions, or if I do, they're about things I haven't done yet ("What ratio do we use for the swiss meringue that goes on the lemon tarts?") I have most of my recipes memorized, just need to look up the ones I've only made once or twice, or where we've upped the quantity.

I even had enough energy yesterday (admittedly, Wednesdays are light) to go to the gym after work!

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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After just a few washings, my Chefwears started to look more like capris, and I looked like a dork.

:laugh::laugh: Due to my height (6'1" with a 36" inseam), I always feel like I'm ready for the floodwaters! :laugh::laugh: I did treat myself to a pair of Culinary Classics women's chef's pants which I shelled out extra bucks for to get them long enough, and they're all cotton (as opposed to my other pants, which are 65/35, but were cheap), and they're at least a little better, but really, who wrote the rule that chefs/cooks are short and round?? :laugh:

I really do feel now that I'm getting my groove together, when it comes to getting things done - a few things here and there that I realize later that I could have done more efficiently. I'm getting faster at some of the time-intensive tasks (pouring that damned custard!) and more efficient/less painstaking at others. I left work today really feeling like I'd done a lot today. I'm at that point where I have really very few questions, or if I do, they're about things I haven't done yet ("What ratio do we use for the swiss meringue that goes on the lemon tarts?") I have most of my recipes memorized, just need to look up the ones I've only made once or twice, or where we've upped the quantity.

I even had enough energy yesterday (admittedly, Wednesdays are light) to go to the gym after work!

Jennifer,

So glad you love your job and your cat. I am 6'4" and kitchens are not made for tall people. At age 44 I had to leave the bar and the kitchen behind because of my back. I believe all that stooping and leaning down when I tended bar and cooked did not help my back.

Take care of your back! Never cheap out on shoes. Do stretches and back excercises. If it hurts, rest it as you can.

Luckily for me I found a second career I love. I hope you never have to.

Good-Luck, in spite of your hard work I envy you. Would love that job.

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Hi Jennifer,

Thanks so much for sharing.

Have you tried getting pants that are a bit oversize and wearing suspenders?

That's how I've worn my pants for years now.

I also can wear shorts, so that really helps in the comfort department. :biggrin:

Bon Chance

-------------------------

Water Boils Roughly

Cold Eggs Coagulating

Egg Salad On Rye

-------------------------

Gregg Robinson

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Today is Friday. Funny, but when I worked a desk job, Friday was my favorite day of the week, with the promise of the weekend it held. Now my schedule is upside down, and Friday's one of the worst days, and Sunday's my favorite day because it's slow at work and it's my Friday.

Fridays (and Saturdays) mean two things: lots of fruit tarts and lots of French toast. Some days, all I get done is the tarts, French toast, and cannelé batter, no matter how hard or fast I work.

It took me 4 hours (half my shift) to do all the fruit tarts: pull baked shells, fill with pastry cream, top with fruit. The strawberries are getting overripe (even the newer ones), and there are lots of mushy or downright moldy ones that I have to pitch, which slows me down, and there's an order for an 11-inch strawberry tart (something we don't normally do). That eats up a lot of berries, and I have to head back down to the walk in (when I have a load of tarts to take down) for the other flat. Pineapple, mango, plums, kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapefruit, oranges. That is the palette of fruit I have to work with, and I'm grateful for the berries; they make the job a little easier.

The problem with spending four hours doing fruit tarts is that by the end, I'm wiped. My back is tired from stooping over slippery, slimy fruit, and I feel like I'm behind on my other tasks. I especially feel behind because while I'm toiling away with the fruit, the other two are busy doing plenty of other tasks. Later I mention this feeling to one of the downstairs bakers, who helps out upstairs on Tuesdays, and she says to me, "everybody feels that way about fruit tarts." Well, at least I'm not alone. I've made myself a fruit salad from the scraps, and it's hours before I can even contemplate eating it.

Fridays also mean over 100 portions of French toast. Today it's 122, which means 11 flexipans (10 full + 2), and as fast as I am able to, it still takes close to two hours to slice the bread, lay it out (4 rows of 6 stacks of bread), cut it, and place it in the pan, rotating the slices so that the crusty edges don't line up, then pour all the custard. I have a system, but it's still slow work. I get a small quiche lorraine from downstairs before I start pouring, heat it up a bit, and munch on it while I pour (one measuring cup full at a time, to make sure that each portion has the same amount of cream). Like I said before, you can only pour so fast. Pour too fast and the custard mix splashes out of the wells and all over the flexipan. Even working more slowly, it sometimes does anyway, dribbling out as the well gets filled.

The only respite I get is having to go out to check my car, first at 10, then at noon. Around the bakery, all the parking is zoned for 2 hours. Residents have stickers, but there's no such option for people who work in the area. Parking isn't usually too bad, and because it's the leader to a holiday weekend, there seem to be a few more spaces available. At 10 I move my car, just to cover my back wheels, and check it at noon - no chalk marks from the traffic patrol. Saturdays and Sundays this isn't enforced, but I kind of miss it, as it's really my only break during the day.

Just a small batch of cannelé batter today, which affords me enough time to mix our cornmeal upside down cake batter down on the 20-qt. Last week, when I made it for the first time, I did the full batch, when we've just been mixing half. We did have enough for a week, but I vow to get it right this time! We just switched from doing pineapple blueberry to fresh cherry. I imagine that they're very good.

By the time I finish the batter, it's time to check my car, then depan the French toast, wrap it up, and shlep it downstairs. On my trips back up, I bring up some of the frozen black and white mousse cakes for glazing and set those up (trim edges, remove the rings on the large ones), as well as start bringing up sheet pans. I can carry about 6 or 7 at a time now, and I think I bring up about 4 trips' worth.

A busy day, and tomorrow won't be any easier. Sunday we'll do more fruit tarts than usual to cater to the 4th of July crowd (we'll be closed on Monday, as we usually are). There's a street fair this weekend, and it's uncertain what the impact on our business will be. On the one hand, people will be buying food out on the street; on the other, they may pop in for something they can carry with them. Barricades on the street will also make it harder for people to get to our store (we're a couple of doors off the main street).

And now, I think it's time for a beer.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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Hi Jennifer,

Is Stephanie Cowan still working at Bay Bread? I attended the CCA with her, and I think she's been at Bay Bread since we graduated in 2000. Anyway, please tell her Renee says hi.

Also, so sorry about your kitty. I've got a dog and 8 cats of my own (before you all gasp, my hubby is a vet, so it's no big deal), and like many here, they are my children. I love them more than any humans. Anyway, I lost one to cancer just a few months ago. I hope yours fares better. Any chemo in the works?

Good luck,

Renee

dexygus
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:laugh:  :laugh: Due to my height (6'1" with a 36" inseam), I always feel like I'm ready for the floodwaters!  :laugh:  :laugh:

:biggrin: My wife is 5' 7", with a 34" inseam. Would it surprise you to know I'm a leg man?

Just a thought...one of my taller classmates used to sometimes place a towel and cutting board atop an overturned bus pan, when doing prep for an extended period. He said it was no good for serious cutting, but excellent for light work...like prepping fruit for tarts, maybe. It's only a few inches, but it makes a difference.

I understand completely about handling the damn fruit. I have arthritic hands, and while I'm absolutely fine with knife-handling, those slippery pieces of fresh-cut fruit give me fits. Without fail, when I'm working the dessert bench at my night job, there's always one dessert that calls for several slices of artfully-arranged fruit. Several times a night, I'll drop one onto an already-sauced plate and splash fruit coulis everywhere. Drives me crazy.

Shame my boss isn't into nice, dry, textured tuiles as a garnish...

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Is Stephanie Cowan still working at Bay Bread?

Yes, she is! I work with her every day. She's the assistant PC and running the show while the exec is on vacation. She's really nice, and great to work with.

Any chemo in the works?

Yes. He's been on prednisone/leukeran for about a year and a half, since his IBD was diagnosed (and we came close to losing him then). We scaled it back at the beginning of this year, but now stepped it back up again, and started vincristine yesterday. In two weeks, they'll recheck to see what change there's been in the tumor. He's doing pretty well right now, sleeping a lot, but has a great appetite, and no side effects so far.

Today I upended a stack of sheet pans to work the tarts on, which seemed to help some, but I was leery of setting a cutting board up the same way (or on an upended hotel pan) because of all the damned juice (first day for peaches!). But regardless, it's Saturday, and it's gonna be 4 hours of fruit no matter which way you slice it (and that was with help on 4 of them). ha ha

I guess it could be worse. I could be the one separating case after case of eggs, prepping apples, or sheeting dough all day.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jennifer, I received my new book The American Boulangerie and have just now made the Wild mushroom and goat cheese tart on page 66. It is incredible. I will serve it with a light salad for dinner tonight. I did add some carmelized onions that I cooked while I cooked the mushrooms and waited for the pate brisee to chill.

When I called to order the book, the web site store was not finished yet, the lady I talked with out front was just so nice. And when they sent the book, they included a beautiful linen shopping bag. How cool.

What should I cook next? I saw the Marquis and want to try that. ANd the Buche de Noel is very interesting looking. You all have rethought how it should look. I like your version and am thinking of having christmas inthe middle of summer.

I think you work in a very good place, and I have never been there. Of course Ihave not been in SF since, oh, about 1981. Now I will have to plan a trip.

So please thank the folks you work for that I said thanks for the shopping bag. And I love the book.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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If you have leftover goat cheese, try the goat cheese tart with figs. It's not very sweet at all, and if you can't get figs yet, just about any other fruit will do (berries, pears, plums, apricots). It's one of my favorites. The macarons de paris recipe is a very reliable one, producing great macarons. If the flourless chocolate cake (I think it's called chocolate fondant? or gateau au chocolat) is in there, and I'm 99% sure it is, it's really good, too.

The pictures of the kids in the book are Pascal's kids. My very favorite picture in there is the one of Oscar with his face covered in pot de crème. He's about to turn 4 now, and is about the cutest kid there is. (The pot de crème and crème brulée are great, too)

Most of the people pictured in the book (staff) are there still, and reading the acknowledgements and looking at the pictures made me feel like I was reading someone else's yearbook, probably because I know these people and work with them every day. (I do not have the cookbook, but was perusing it the other day).

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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  • 2 weeks later...

Almost at two months now. Yesterday my boss says to me, as I'm nearly done with the day's fruit tarts (11 of them, plus tartlets), "So, I don't know if anybody told you this [uh, no, why would they have?], but we try to shoot for about 15 minutes per tart, and 45 minutes total for all the tartlets. Just to give you a goal to aim for."

Immediately, my head went into a spin. She could only have been telling me this because I'm too slow, or else why would she tell me when I was finishing the last two tarts? Why not tell me first thing in the morning when I could do something about it? I started calculating. The 11 tarts plus 45 minutes would have had me finishing by 8:30 to be done on time. I finished at 8:35. Not bad considering I'd had no idea I was supposed to be timing myself.

When I'd finished, I mentioned to her that I had just gone 5 minutes over, figuring that she should know that without her prompting, I was pretty much already at that goal. Today I pushed myself and finished half an hour early (8:15 vs. 8:45), only by doing a few tasks just a bit faster (slicing fruit, spreading pastry cream in the shells).

I'm glad to know that I'm pretty much already at this goal, but it did throw me to have it handed to me so late in the game yesterday. I know that speed is a big part of this career, but I hated feeling like there was a time clock over my head all day, timing every task I did. Gadzooks, tell me this will go away!

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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  Gadzooks, tell me this will go away!

Nope. Nothin' takes the fun out of pastry like feeling time pressure, huh? I hate it too.

I hate to tell you it won't go away. Best thing to do is make a game out of it. Challenge yourself....

see if you can beat your time every day.......

Then one of two things will happen:

A) you'll get promoted because you're kickin' some serious pastry butt; or

B) you'll be stuck doing fruit tarts for the rest of your freakin' life, since you're so good at it. :laugh:

Just kidding. Sort of. :wink:

Oh, one more thing....the good news.

If you work on your speed skills now, and keep challenging yourself, pretty soon you'll be working fast without even thinking about it. The pressure won't seem like pressure anymore because speed is now a habit instead of an effort. Fast, will in essence, be your normal speed. And I can't emphasize enough, how being quick and efficient makes you a VERY valuable employee! :smile:

Edited by chefpeon (log)
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