Pastry School – Week 16, Wrapping Up & What’s Next

After waiting several years to attend pastry school it was over, finished, done.  Four months, or sixteen weeks, had passed since Day 1, Week 1 and we had arrived at the end of the Certificate Pastry Program/midpoint of the Professional Pastry Program. Even if we had not missed so many days due to snow, I think it would have gone by in (pardon the cliche) the blink of an eye.  The intensity of learning so much in a short period of time, combined with a pastry internship and living between Gloucester and Somerville created a complete mental whirlwind.  Mostly in a good way.  Now Week 16 had arrived, bringing a review day, kitchen practicum and written exam.   I did not attend the review day as I work very well in a team environment, but definitely study better solo.  Chef reviewed the topics for the written exam and then the class spent the afternoon in the kitchen practicing any topics they chose, including cookies.   One of my classmates was amazingly generous and emailed me the outline of topics for the written exam.  I spent the day studying and made (Saint) Sam quiz me on all the recipes that would be covered in the practicum.  The morning of the practicum I drew the card for the St. Honore with Grand Marnier Cream and Orange Tuiles.  Of course the technique Chef preferred for tuiles was demonstrated on the review day.  I lost a few points for doing them differently.  Figures, luck of the Irish.  Overall I did well, both on writing out the recipe procedure (we had been given just the ingredients) and in executing the dish.  My pate foncer (pie dough) was a bit tough and my pate a choux didn’t puff as well as it should have, but the cream and tuiles came out beautifully, as did the “extra” rosemary fudge sauce and salted caramel hazelnuts I made to accompany the dish.

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When we’re living back in Gloucester full time this fall the pate foncer is at the top of my list to “practice”.  No idea what happened with the pate a choux, I have made it successfully several times at home and school.  That’s pastry, you make the dough/batter/sauce and hope for the best.  Some days are great, some ok and some inexplicably bad.

The written exam was a Saturday morning affair involving pastry and savory students along with a procotor I did not know.  For the most part the questions represented what we had been told to study for and what we focused on in lecture.  There were a few things that seemed a little random/insignificant and a couple of questions that IMO were a bit unfair as they were covered in our abbreviated “double subject” days.  Alas, I did fine and graduated with High Academic Honors and Honors in Lab.

So what’s next?  A question everyone seems to be asking these days.  For the first time I can remember, all the way back to being a little kid, I have no set plan.  In regards to school, I started The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts with the intention of doing the certificate pastry program.  The second half of the program, professional pastry, focuses on chocolate work, sugar work, plated desserts and wedding cakes.  None of those topics are particular interests or strengths of mine, although I do want to do a bit more chocolate and sugar work.  However, I am interested in the five weeks of savory classes, extra week of breads and more hands-on kitchen labs.  It’s a big time commitment, another 16 weeks, and a huge financial investment.  In the short-term I decided to stay with the certificate and consider starting classes again in the fall to finish at the end of January 2016.   As of now I’m leaning towards not going back and gaining the experience I need in the industry through work, stages and volunteer opportunities.  I would certainly miss my classmates, my chef instructors and the volumes of knowledge I know I would gain.  I would not miss the unpaid kitchen hours, stacks of dishes at the end of the day or trying to commute from Gloucester to Cambridge.  We’ll see….  On the work front, I finished one internship in April that started in February.  Wasn’t the best fit but I learned a tremendous amount – more on internships and stages coming this summer.  I started a new internship last week and so far, so good.  I love it.  Much better fit.  Come mid-September assuming I’m not in school and my internship is over?  Not sure.  Kitchen job is definite possibility, IF I can find something that I can commute to that also produces quality product in a SANE work environment.  That’s a tall order in the ‘burbs.  A job that combines my finance background with love of food/pastry/baking would be fabulous too.  I’m looking around, I know they exist but it will take some time and thinking outside the box to find it.

Looking forward to a summer of working and learning along with enjoying our last few months in the big city.  We’ve got plans to visit quite a few more restaurants, cafes and bars, tickets to a concert and central AC.  I’ll worry about the future when it gets here in September!

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