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.