Greetings from the American Girl
 
How to start? Where to start? Last time I checked in summer temperatures were barely registering in Paris, I was dipping my toes in the city's public pools for the first time and mentally fortifying myself for an alpine trek. And now, the ground is scattered with the first of fall's leaves, my trip to the U.S. seems like a dream I woke up too early from, and the big hike? Well...that was a nature nightmare someone could have rescued me from two days after it started. But, vacation is vacation even if you imagine twisting your ankle just to end the endless ascending and descending of mountain passes. And there's always something to put your struggles in perspective. In my case it was the thousands of athletes who zipped past us on the trail getting in their last practice runs before they competed in the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. No big deal or anything, but these runners were getting ready to tackle 168km with 9600m of altitude change. I can't even begin to describe how impossible this challenge seems after barely being able to hike the trail that would be their future race course. Insane? Inspiring? I'm not sure which, but you can't deny the amazing feats the human body is capable of when we push ourselves. Not that I kept that in mind as I pouted my way around the trail. I much preferred the first half of my summer holiday which included normal Lindsey activities liking walking on 0% incline surfaces, eating, a little running, and of course more eating!  
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And all the credit for the incredible first half of my holiday goes to my friends. These friends designed a nearly twenty mile long, minute by minute biking itinerary to visit Philadelphia's coffee shops and bakeries, gave tours of the Canadian capital better than any seasoned tour guide, mapped out visits to New York City's hipster hoods, danced the night away at the nuptials of the summer, kept me fit running along river and road, hosted me in their homes, and treated me like family. My visits were better than I could have imagined and left me wondering just how I survive over here without them, their support, and the happiness they bring into my life. 
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Despite wanting to keep up as much communication as possible with these amazing friends and my family in the U.S., including via this blog, I've been feeling equally hesitant about blogging and maintaining my social media accounts. I think as Paris feels more like home the need to talk about and comment on my experience with the big, wide world is slowly, even quickly sometimes, losing its appeal. And even though I've dabbled in writing reviews of the things we've done and seen here, this blog was never meant to be, nor do I want it to be, a "Paris" blog. That niche is well filled and within the first few months of blogging I quickly realized I couldn't reinvent the "Paris" blog in a fresh, meaningful way. Like many people experiencing something new and potentially challenging, the urge to get out the feelings that come with that difficult experience is overwhelming and you naturally seek out a community for sharing and commiserating. Blogging was that for me, especially when this life seemed more temporary than it's suddenly becoming. My attempts to make blogging more over the past few years were never as satisfactory as I hoped, and I learned that my poor follow through with blogging projects signaled a lack of passion--an interest that has almost completely fizzled as my presence in Paris takes on more shape and I've stopped looking at my time here through the lens of a passerby. Paris is home now. More beautiful than ever. More frustrating than ever. And I want to be in this life, loving and hating it all at the same time, but maybe not always sharing it.      

This will be my first September not heading into a physical classroom. No longer a teacher, no longer a student, there are no school supplies to purchase, no first day clothes to lay out, and no lunch box to fill, but there's the fall restart that every September graciously affords. This year it means refreshing my planner and deciding just where blogging fits in. Maybe less, definitely not more, but we'll see what la rentrée holds...
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Once again I've learned to never say never. I promised myself to never ever dip my toes into a public pool. Middle school mandated swim lessons at the local YMCA gave me what some might call a hyper-exaggerated aversion to communal locker rooms and the germs that lurk on slippery tile floors. Up until two weeks ago, it had been ten plus years since I stepped foot in the watery nightmare people call the municipal swimming pool. Like I said, this was as of fourteen days ago because I've done some major fear conquering this month--I can proudly say the city of Paris has a new, card-carrying, pool-going resident. Someway, somehow I managed to put my germaphobia aside to take a swim in my neighborhood piscine. And not just one swim--I've gone six times! And in those six swim sessions I've seen a lot that makes me really want to avoid going back--swimmers having head on collisions, obscene showering techniques, and way too much hair on the locker room floor, but in the end I've kept it up and it feels so good. Honestly, the worse part was having to buy a one piece and try on a million suits in a poorly lit changing room looking white as a polar bear with signs of a long, winter hibernation. Now I just need to re-teach myself breathing techniques so I'm not floundering around like a fish out of water. That, and avoid getting smacked in the face by another swimmer's frog kick.

While swimming was by far by biggest spring "accomplishment", I've also started tackling my fear of mental math. I pretty much hate it. I especially dislike mental math when I'm under pressure i.e. when guests want to pay their bill at the cafe. I panic, my brain turns to mush, and my cheeks go from rosy to tomato in two seconds flat. Add French on top of these daily transactions and you can imagine how anxious I get. I'm trying not to rely on my mathematically gifted colleagues to take care of every client's check, but let's just say I'm suspiciously busying myself in the kitchen when I sense guests are preparing to pay the bill. My mental math fear hasn't been conquered, but give me a month and maybe I'll be a regular at the register. Maybe.

Finally, I've agreed to summer vacation plans that have me questioning my sanity so perhaps it's a bit premature to say I'm conquering any fears here. The promise has been made though--I've committed to a twelve day trek from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland, otherwise known as the Haute Route. Mon mari has assured me that this is a "non-technical" trek (whatever that means...), but when I read the guide book and see the words glacier and crevasse you can bet I'm doing endless Wikipedia searches about "crevasse rescue." My most recent Google exploration led to this email exchange with mon mari:
__________________________________
FROM: Lindsey Frank  Jun 5 (2 days ago)
TO:  FRANK


I  want to be clear. I AM NOT GOING WITHIN 1,000m of a crevasse. Just looking at photos of them makes me want to cry. I don't wait to die like that. Seriously. I am not stepping over one, taking a ladder over one, or going near one.


FROM: FRANK
TO: Lindsey Frank

“Today’s alpine hiking route follows a network of well-marked and signposted trails that stays below 3000 meters and takes advantage of the popular mountain huts and small inns and hotels in the charming villages along the way. The route is safe, entirely non-technical (requires no ropes, crampons, or protection devices) and while challenging because of its daily elevation gains and distances, is achievable by any hiker in reasonably good physical condition.”

We will not do ANYTHING DANGEROUS. And there is nothing you won’t be able to do easily, except maybe keep up with me on the uphills :)

__________________________________

I'm still not convinced...we may not have to put on crampons, but I know there's a portion of the trek that involves climbing up a very steep ladder. My palms are already sweating. Seriously.

Sometimes I think this fear conquering business is really about preventing needless Internet searches. I really just shouldn't look up things like "Paris pool cleanliness" and "risk of avalanches, Mont Blanc." So if you don't see any blog updates, know that I'm keeping myself away from the computer to avoid unnecessary trips down the Wikipedia vortex and practicing my mental math with flashcards. Plus, the sun is out! I gotta get outside while it lasts because we all know this could be a fluke. Time for lazy weekends in the park, evening strolls, and afternoons apéros with friends. 
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Spring has arrived with its accompanying craziness in tow, and like the rest of Paris's sunshine deprived population mon mari and I have been squeezing in as much outdoor activity as possible and celebrating the change in season. But, the weather isn't the only thing changing this month. Along with the annual wardrobe switch-over (goodbye parka!) and balcony transformation, this spring is marked by career change and new challenges. I'm excited to say that Paris's newest gluten-free cafe is up and running and we're so grateful for all the clients stopping in for coffee, lunch, pastries or all three! It's also wonderful to see repeat customers who've already made the cafe their new spot for hunkering down with a book and enjoying an afternoon snack. I hope you'll stop by too!
And just as my new job took off, I had the opportunity to show off the cafe to my parents and sister who were visiting Paris. My sister has celiac disease so it was a great feeling being able to take her someplace with yummy food that is safe for her to eat. On top of that she's a huge coffee lover so theCoutome roasted coffee was a big hit.
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Not only did my family get to visit the cafe, they also got to spend a few days with us in my favorite French city--Annecy! We visited Annecy last May with my sister-in-law and promised to go back again this year. Except this time around we decided to make it a running weekend and signed up for the Semi-Marathon du Lac d'Annecy. Remind me not to do that next time...the race course was beautiful, but tough, and I really would have preferred to stuff myself with ridiculous amounts of haute-savoie cheese dishes all weekend than worry about racing. Although, mon mari is convinced his pre-race dinner of frog legs and tartiflette is what propelled him to his personal best half marathon time. I've heard more than once now how the frogs legs put a hop in his step. Guess I know what we'll be eating before future races...
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It's good we did the run though because once back in Paris we went on an eating tour with delicious meals at 114 Faubourg, Verjus, Sassotondo, and our favorite restaurant, Pizza Grill Istanbul. From Michelin star to Turkish moon and star, and a few home cooked meals in between, we ate our way through the city. And once my family said au revoir to Paris, the party didn't stop. Pastry school graduation was on the calendar and you can't celebrate graduation from pastry school without pastries!
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Now time to find some balance, settle into a new routine, and probably go on a diet ;) Juice cleanse anyone?
 
 
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For more information, visit the event Facebook page here.

Spread the word and bon week-end.
 
 
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Can one word change your year? That's what Amanda Brooks from the blog Run to the Finish asked in a post back in January. I breezed through the post, thought briefly about a word, but never came back to it. Fast forward to last week. I'm coming out of my metro stop and a word, or really a phrase, hits me and I can't for the life of me figure out why it hadn't jumped out at me earlier. It's just two simple words: thank you.
Walking out of the metro entrance and continuing my walk home, I felt sort of stunned and silly. How had thank you not immediately come to mind when I read Amanda's post at the start of the year? I'd been using a printed copy of Anne Lamott's November 2012 piece Thanks in Practice as my preferred bookmark and had recently finished reading Ann Voskamp's book on gratitude, One Thousand Gifts. Thank you should have been the obvious choice all along, but it took something much more tangible for me to realize just how big a role thank you would play in my 2013.
A few weeks before I had my thank you epiphany at the metro stop, a message landed in my Facebook inbox connecting me with two girls opening a café in my neighborhood. These two girls were in search of a baker and they thought maybe I could be that baker. After a series of events which I could not be more thankful for, I will be joining the team at Thank You, My Deer to bring delicious gluten free food to Paris's 11th arrondissement. And it was then, after the decision to take the new position really sunk in, that thank you took on its more powerful meaning for the new year. At the risk of sounding too sentimental, I think that as I began to more fully embrace thankfulness as a daily choice, the power of gratitude came full circle. I feel incredibly grateful to have the opportunity in front me and couldn't be more excited to start this next chapter of my life in Paris. I invite you to learn more about the café here and visit us for a gluten free treat at 112, rue Saint Maur when we're officially open for business in just a few short weeks!
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It's been two weeks since race day, but here's the race recap for la 21e édition du Semi-Marathon de Paris.

Race Website: http://www.semideparis.com/
Registration Website: http://www.asochallenges.com/ (next year's race is March 9, 2014)
Cost: 40 euros
Size: 30,700 participants
Bib Pickup: Hall de la Pinède at Parc Floral de Paris, Bois de Vincennes
Goodies: T-shirt, wrist sweat band, plastic poncho, muscle relax gel, workout towel, race pamphlets (with helpful and hilarious tips...) and best of all--a small pouch of strawberry tagadas, miam! As soon as I realized the candies weren't "fuel" candies I ate them.
Course: 21km loop starting and ending near the Château de Vincennes. The run begins in the Bois de Vincennes, sends you through the 12th arrondissement before hitting the half way mark near Bastille, and then swings you through the 3rd, 11th, and the 12th arrondissements to go back to the Château.
Race day recap: Something magical happened on race day. You could call it a Parisian miracle. The sun came out! The rare burst of sunshine set the atmosphere for the race and you could feel the positive energy of all the runners basking in their chance to run the boulevards of Paris on a cloudless day. And while I did check the weather ahead of time, I was pretty surprised at just how warm it got. This resulted in a mid-race mid-drift flashing just as we rounded the crowds at Bastille. Pretty sure that's the most people I've ever undressed in front of! Thankfully, I had an amazing running buddy who helped execute this mid-run change and held my extra layers the rest of the race. I finished the race slower than I would have liked, but goal number one was to soak up the sights and goal number two was to take awesome race photos. Check and check!
Here are a few more pros and cons about the race and its organization:
+ You get to see Paris on the run!
+ The crowds are good once you move toward the center of the city.
+ Since it's a fairly big race, the information put out by the organizers is clear and concise.
+ Timing chip is on your bib so you don't have to wait in line at the end for the race organizers to snip a chip off your sneaker.
+ The expo is well put together, but...

- The expo is a million miles away from the closet metro. Seriously, the walk to Parc Floral is ridiculous.
- The T-shirt looks nearly identical to last year's marathon shirt. I know this isn't a huge deal, but you'd think they'd mix it up a bit. With Paris as the backdrop, think of all the amazing promotional materials they could come up with. Bright neon shirts don't scream creative to me.
- Oranges at fuel stations are dangerous! I know some folks love orange slices, but it screams old school and I see runners slip on the discarded peels all the time. For those running in a slower pace group the peels become especially problematic because several thousand runners have already passed through the fuel station leaving their trash along the route. Paris races are dying for good sponsors for fuel stations and after race tents! Untapped market, wink wink!

Final call: Would definitely do it again!
 
 
5 weeks of my internship done! Woohoo! Even though I have several more weeks to go before I fulfill my diploma requirement, these past few weeks are really something to celebrate because I still haven't crawled out of that pastry hole I fell into at the start of February. That hole is a slippery sucker filled up to here with creme patisserie, creme cafe, creme chocolat, creme pistache, and creme banane. Creme as far as the eye can see! Does that give you a hint to what I've been preparing at work everyday?

Every morning from around 7:30am to 9:00am my hand is glued to a whisk as I whip up batch after batch of flavored creams to fill the hotel's éclairs and religieuse. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill so I like to think I'm slowly chipping away at that number even though a change to this routine would be welcome. (If that 10,000 hours fact is true, then I should also be getting really good at organizing giant refrigerators because that's my pre-7:30am duty...) But, that's sort of the deal with working in a kitchen or at least a big kitchen where what's offered doesn't vary much day to day. And frankly, as much as I'd like to mix it up a bit, I feel comfortable knowing how to do something without having to ask for help every two seconds. Something new, while exciting, often equals confusing conversations in French, recipe mix-ups, and general anxiety. Whoever said you should try something new everyday that scares you never worked in a high stress kitchen!

From mid morning onward, I garnish choux pastry, decorate cakes, and put the finishing touches on a few other treats before they make their display on a dessert cart. Lunch is mad rush, quite unlike a typical French dejeuner, where I try to eat as quickly as possible before heading back down to the kitchen to do mise en place. Depending on the day, this could involve making a fresh tub of muffin mixture, filling macarons, or preparing a variety of other batters, cakes, etc. that need to be kept in stock. By the time 4:00pm rolls around, it's time to clean! Anyone who knows me, knows I don't mind the cleaning part one bit, but my hands and forearms are destroyed from the disinfectant. I've resorted to sleeping with Vaseline and socks on my hands to try to heal them, but combined with the cuts and scrapes I get on a daily basis, my hands are a mess. I also zested off part of my ring finger which doesn't help.
By the time I get back to my locker around 4:30pm, I'm moving like molasses and take an eternity to put on my street clothes and head out the door. You'd think I'd rush out of there to get home, but when I finally have a minute to breath I end up staring at my locker in exhaustion and dillydallying just because I can. I immediately regret this time wasted when my metro is packed because of my lollygagging.

Once back at home, I'm drawn to the couch like a magnet. It's been really tricky balancing work and working out. I'm trying to give myself the time to adjust to a new schedule, tired legs, etc. but five weeks in and I'm sort of still using that as an excuse to take as many rest days as I want. This didn't bode so well for the Paris half marathon (race recap to come soon!), but I'm calling this spring my season of baking, not running. Running is still happening, but not nearly as much as I want or at the pace I want. More than anything, there also has to be time for play and that means things like fairy themed, junk food filled birthday parties, girls nights out, delicious brunch outings, cafe dates, and generally enjoying life in Paris!
 
 
When I signed up for my first race in Paris back in May 2010, I was terrified I would have no idea what the heck was going on because everything would be in French. Looking back those feelings seem silly, but as an inexperienced runner I thought for sure I'd end up in the wrong time corral or find myself in a pastry shop instead of at the finish line. In reality though, most race day line-ups are pretty similar and once you know the drill, you're good. That being said though, I've never been able to find good descriptions (in English) of the races in and around Paris, and who doesn't want to know what free goodies you get with your registration packet? And, of course, whether the race route has you climbing hills for a million kilometers. In an attempt to get more information out there for anglophone runners, I'm going to start posting race recaps and asking friends to share their race experiences. Hope the running readers out there find the descriptions helpful and for those of you who'd prefer I never talk about running, I hope you can laugh about the weird (and sometimes kinky) freebies you get in race bags (ahem condoms and lube at the Saint Valentine's race...).

First up is the 10th edition of Les Foulées du 8ème 10km which was the second race in the Paris Running Tour Series.
Race Website: http://www.lesfouleesdu8.fr/
Registration Website: http://www.topchrono.biz/evenement_1917-Paris-Foulees-du-8eme
Bib Pickup: La Marie du 8ème at 3, rue de Lisbonne 75008
Goodies: Free T-shirt, but otherwise nothing special or fun in the registration bags. They did have two free books produced by the Association Promotionnelle Pour le Developpement de la Course a Pied en Ile de France listing all of the races in France and Paris which are pretty handy for planning future races.
Course: The course was two 5km loops starting and ending at Place Saint Augustin with a run past Parc Monceau and one rather long incline heading up to the Arc de Triomphe. (There's no map available on the course website and I forget to take a photo at registration--sorry, next time!)
Race day recap: Getting to and from the race was easy because the start and finish were close to three difference metro lines, Saint Augustin being the closest. Unfortunately the weather this year was terrible--rainy, cold, and just yucky. Everyone was bouncing around the start trying to stay warm and it felt like we waited forever to cross the start line. There were a few organized pre-race warm up routines, but they stopped long before the race got underway. The race was too small to have time corrals, although they did have five different pace groups you could stick with. I found the course pretty boring (only one band!) and not always safe. While there was always a section of road coned off for the runners, sometimes I found myself running side by side with cars which didn't make me feel super safe in the slippery conditions. Most runners took to running on the sidewalk just because it seemed safer dodging pedestrians rather than traffic. Overall I feel like race organizers had a hard time controlling traffic flow. There were a few moments where I wasn't sure if annoyed drivers were going to stop or plow through the crowd. After you crossed the finish line you received the dinkiest medal ever and a bottle of Powerade. I know medals are just to make people feel good and are often a waste of money, but this thing looks like something from elementary school field day. Lame. If you wanted to you could head over to the Mairie for some coffee and snacks, but they had the refreshment tent set up outside which didn't make much sense with the weather being so awful and everyone being chilled to the bone. Most runners huddled inside a basement room to change and keep warm. In more positive race news, my friend won the women's division! Woohoo! Despite there not being fun freebies in the registration packet, she did get some great loot for coming in first, including a free gym membership!

Final call: Sorry 8ème, but I probably wouldn't run this one again.

Did anyone else run the race? What did you think? Did I expect too much out of this neighborhood 10km?
 
 
My brain feels like it's been put in a Kitchen Aid mixer and turned into cake batter. I'm about two weeks into my internship and have fallen into a deep, dark, (admittedly delicious!) hole of pastries. That might have something to do with the fact that the pastry lab is in a basement and I don't see much sunlight, but I'm also running around like a crazy person for nine hours a day trying to learn everything I can, speak Franglish, and keep my uniform from looking like a baby threw up on it. Making sure my whites stay white is probably the hardest of the three. No matter what, within five minutes of changing into my new chef vest I've got a stain or ten. It's not even funny anymore. Thank god I'm not the one washing my uniform. I'm just the person in charge of going to the lingerie everyday and picking up the head's chef clean vest and apron (and quickly dumping my disaster of a vest into the dirty laundry and slipping on a new one). Not that I'm complaining. My five minute run to the laundry area is one of two breaks I get from the kitchen and the woman there speaks English so it's basically my personal sanctuary. I could hide in one of the giant clean laundry baskets and probably not be found for quite some time. It would be an awesome place for a nap. Probably not a good sign I'm searching for clandestine snooze spots so soon after starting!

While I'm drained at the end of the day, the internship itself is great so far. I might be dependent on sugary Valentine's day candy to function, but I actually make things people eat. I'd say that's a plus and there's never any standing around and just watching. All the chefs have been willing to show me the ropes even when I continue to ask stupid questions (really) or make them repeat themselves a zillion times. The whole thing is a whirlwind and I can't get my brain to stop spinning at night. Honestly, it's just exciting experiencing how another industry operates. The hotel I'm at is downright incredible and I feel like I've got a sneak peek into the behind the scenes operations. I sort of imagine it's like being on staff at Downton Abbey. Seriously! I'm waiting for Carson to spy my dirty apron and go bananas on me! I love it and keep asking myself, "is this real life?"

Happy Valentine's Day! See you soon (hopefully) for a race recap from the Paris Running Tour :)
P.S. I took some Brach's Conversation Hearts into the lab today and one of the chefs said, "What is this merde? Oh, you brought it..." So cool.
 
 
I had big plans to blog all about pastry school, but after the first week of class I knew I'd be too busy eating tarts and keeping my uniforms clean and wrinkle-free to write more than the occasional post. And even though my last day in the classroom has come and gone, I'd still like to share what a typical day looked like and talk about the program I attended.
After comparing three different Paris-based pastry schools, I decided last November to apply to the international intensive program at Ferrandi. Every program has its pros and cons, but I was swayed by Ferrandi's internship requirement as well as the additional classes included in the curriculum (boulangerie, traiteur, French, oenology, and art). Ferrandi accepted me in March, but my program didn't begin until early September. From September through the end of January I went to class five days a week for 5+ hours. In the international pastry program we had two groups of twelve students each with their own chef. Every week the groups would flip flop and one would have lab in the morning (8am to 1pm) and the other would have lab in the afternoon (2pm to 7pm) with the additional courses taking place in the time slot opposite lab. If a morning boulangerie class was on your schedule, then you'd have a 6:30am start. Even though arriving at school that early could be rough, warm croissants for breakfast and getting to take home fresh baked bread always made my dark bicycle commute worth it.

There wasn't one day in five months that I didn't want to go to school. Not only does that speak highly of Ferrandi's program, but it means I made the right choice to go back to school and invest in something I'm passionate about. Of course, no program is without its flaws. If there are any readers out there trying to decide between pastry programs, I'd be more than happy to talk specifics via email.

Now...you've seen the pastries, admired the clown shoes, and been privy to secret classroom rules, but here's a day in the life of a Ferrandi student!
Starting the day off with the wind in my hair! And by hair I mean helmet. Biking to school worked for a few months, but once the temperatures started to drop I wimped out and joined the metro rat race for the rest of the semester.
Swapping my street clothes for my uniform involved winding through the underbelly of school and a quick change in the locker room. By January I had my changing time down to 5 minutes because that locker room smelled like a boy's gym sac and was as hot as a sauna. I seriously don't know what people were keeping in their lockers, but phew!
Here's Chef doing his thing! Our time in the lab was a mix of watching chef demonstrate techniques and practicing them ourselves. During the demos we were encouraged to take notes, photos, and videos which came in handy as the semester progressed. Although, I always felt like a mix between a really lame journalist and the paparazzi standing there with my phone in his face. And then there was the time I dropped my phone in a bucket of raw eggs mid demo. Amazingly, the phone lived even though Chef suggested putting it in the oven to cook the egg stuck inside the phone crevices...um bad idea Chef.
Tick tock on the clock--five hours go by in the blink of an eye. Time in lab would fly by and before you know it we'd be cleaning things up and prepping for a new day. The agenda for the week would be posted along with everyone's kitchen duties. Every two weeks you'd be assigned a new job in the lab. You might be dishwasher (my favorite), in charge of the oven (my least favorite), or one of 4 other areas of the lab. One person was also chef and another sous chef which was a nice way of giving us responsibility for "managing" the lab aka bossing our classmates around.
Lunch at the canteen...sometimes awesome, sometimes not. Mostly not, but at the end of morning lab all of us were looking forward to sitting down to a meal. Meals were 'free" with tuition and you'd pay using your student ID card. The cashiers would get a little Frenchypants on the Anglo students because we'd always mess with the four food item system by stealing the main dish plates and filling them with only salad bar sides. They eventually learned to live with our Anglo ways, muhahaha.
After lunch we'd either be finished for the day or head off to one of our extra classes (if we were on a morning schedule). Often times these classes were really just an opportunity to digest our lunch, take a nap, and/or do some sneak eat of what we made in class ;-) And learn too...
Once any technical classes were over or you'd had four glasses of wine in oenology, it was time to go home.

Repeat that day a hundred times over and you're a pastry chef.

If only...
 

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