Now that we’re in the work experience portion of the course, I’ve had a chance to take a look back and reflect on the the experiences of the practical portion of pastry school. At the end of week 24, we received our International Patisserie Diploma. For me, it was more of a midway ceremony, as I’m enrolled in the full 48 week course. I went into culinary school with an interest in both the practical and management skills, which included costing, supervisory, global gastronomy, and health and safety. Enrolling in the full 48 week course also made it easier for visa purposes.
Following the completion of my pastry diploma, I had a two week break before beginning the second twenty four weeks towards the Higher Culinary Diploma, of which I’m currently finishing up.
I think when you go back to school as a ‘mature student’ (man, I hate that phrase), after a decade-long prior career, it’s a bit of a mental roller coaster to come out in a different field as the new kid. It’s taken a little adjustment to remember that the course is building the foundation. Plus, while I might be the new kid in a culinary environment, I still have ten years of event planning and marketing to pull from which makes my skill set and experience unique in other ways. Hopefully. 😉
When I look back at the pictures from the first six months of my course at all of the skills we learned in such a short period of time, it’s pretty impressive. During the course I would occasionally get frustrated with my progress, or things not being completely perfect for exams, but I’ve realized that imperfection is a stronger tool for learning. It’s amazing to see how our group of seven progressed and what we were able to achieve in twenty four weeks.
Here’s a look back from the beginning to the end. Starting with a sampling of the skills learned and products produced during the first six weeks.
I started work experience between weeks three and four at sushisamba/Duck & Waffle on their pastry team. My friend Chan, who I knew previously and had given me advice about beginning pastry school, was the Head Pastry Chef and he graciously let me join his team for work experience.
Looking back, I was very green when I started, but it was great being able to learn and develop my skills simultaneously in industry and educational environments. Chan would occasionally quiz me on raising agents and other fun facts to keep me on my toes. Everyone on the team was so nice and helpful which made for a really nice experience from October to January.
After each six week period, we moved on to more advanced skills. This is a sampling of patisserie and breads produced during weeks seven through thirteen.
The start of 2015 brought around a new year, a new chef lecturer and new, more advanced skills.
I loved all of our confectionary arts lessons. We started out tempering chocolate, then moved on to making chocolates, their ganache centers, truffles, and finally bean to bar chocolates. We made a chocolate centerpiece, a pastillage centerpiece, and worked with isomalt on sugar pulling and blowing to create an isomalt centerpiece. Throw in some sugar flowers, marzipan modeling and more chocolate making and you’ve got a pretty sweet confectionary scheme of work. Get it, sweet, haha! 😉
Being in the chocolate lab was always my favorite! Even with the burns sustained from hot isomalt sugar, which hurt like hell if you’re wondering.
We had a really good group, so we had fun during the course as well. Including some Jackson Pollock-esk chocolate splatter painting, a good ol’ fashion dust up with cocoa powder (ha!), and some deep fried candy and Twinkies. We got a lot accomplished and had a good time and a few laughs along the way!
We had six weeks of food science learning about the science behind cooking and baking. I really enjoyed this part, although it took a little bit to teach my brain to remember how to learn an actual subject. 😉
The other six weeks, we spent in the science lab testing and experimenting. Jennie & I worked on recipes that used the centrifuge, mainly because I was won over by the words ‘chocolate’ & ‘wine’ in the Heston Blumenthal cookbook.
We had a few outings as a class. We celebrated the end of the program with dinner at one-Michelin starred The Clove Club. We visited Borough Market just before the holiday season (mmm…mulled wine!). Visited the pub a time, or two. We also enjoyed a decadent afternoon tea at The Ritz. I was blessed with a great group of girls that were fun to hang out with both in and out of the classroom.
We had a miniature graduation ceremony honoring the patisserie diploma. The patisserie diploma recognizes the practical achievements of the twenty four week course. It was a small ceremony since some of my classmates had to go home to deal with visa renewals prior for those completing the second part of the course.