Backstage of pastry classes



The day to day of a pastry student 

At INBP (my school) there are different kinds of trainings. The one I'm doing is the CAP and it concerns the foundations of French pastry. Currently there are 4 groups of 16 people following the same program. 

My group is pretty balanced on gender and ages: half men, half women from 19 to 50 year old, from all over France and some foreigners like me ;)

3 times a week (the other 2 days we have a later schedule) we start at 6am, which means that I wake up at 4h30am (no, this is not a typo), get ready (I had to shorten my morning preparation to 45 minutes), leave home under moonlight for a 20 minutes journey.

At the school, we storage our tool case and cloths in dedicated lockers to get into the workspace, the 'labo' (short for laboratory) with the professional outfit, slip resistant shoes, apron and hat. No nail polish (hygiene issues) or jewelry (security issues). 

And of course, a life with no heels, no dresses, no colored nails... yes, I miss that! :p
Once in the 'labo' we are organized in pairs that lasts 2 weeks.



Teacher's demo
Every Monday the teacher distributes the recipes of the week and explain how the day will go. 
He demoes the steps we have to follow (key moment to get as much as we can from his knowledge and experience), then we try to reproduce the recipe by our own.
My teacher has amazing technical skills, so we have a very good reference to look up at.


The 'labo' during a break
Of course, cooking in a lab is way more comfortable than in our kitchens. Big marble worktops, professional ingredients and materials, huge sinks, huge ovens, huge freezers and fridges. 
We have a professional stand mixer, a gas hob and a scale per pair of students. 

In the beginning, I felt very much in a rush. Some days, I didn't even have time for a small break. 
Also all the changes, mainly on the schedule were hard to manage. I even lost weight, which is a paradox for a pastry program. No worries: I gained it back again since then :p. 
But little by little I've learned the gestures and now it feels much more mastered. 

At this stage (3 months of training gone and 1 month to come) we already covered most of the program. From now on, we are mostly practicing the stuff we did before and it feels good to see the big path we went through.

On the 23th of May, we'll have our last class. And on the 3th of June, our CAP practical exam. The writing ones will come on the 12th of June.

What we do with our production?

No, we don't eat them all :)
In some schools the students are allowed to take all their pastries home. 
At INBP, we can eat as much as we want during the classes. 
Then we can take all the breads (croissants, pains au chocolat, pains au raisin, chaussons aux pommes, brioches, etc.). For the other pastries (cakes, pies, single serving pastries) we can take one per month for free. For more, we pay the equivalent of 50% of the normal price.
This is pretty controversial as we would like to have more for free ;)

For the rest, they are frozen then sold to charitable institutions around Rouen.


Art classes

Arts classes exercise
Besides the practical classes, we also have Arts classes once a week for 2 hours. It's a very relaxing and 'open minding' class. Our teacher has a pretty impressive background that he brings to the pastry world.
Referring to artists, books, museums, he demonstrates that inspiration can come from very different sources. That makes me think of Pierre Hermé (one of the most important pastry chefs in the world) who gets insights from fashion and arts to create his masterpieces.
Very rewarding to then apply these learnings to our cakes. What kind of writing should we use? What colors? What form? How to apprehend space and volume? How to represent our ideas on a "croquis"? Exciting questions we'll try to answer :)






Technology classes: it's all about alchemy


Brioche dough ready to rise
6 hours/week. Pastry is known as an exact science. Indeed, the chemicals will play a key role in the results of a recipe: how salt, sugar, water, flour, yeast, chocolate, fruits, etc. will work and interact. 
Why the order of ingredients change the recipe, how to choose the right flour for the right product. How to play with different air and temperature conditions. And a bunch of other variables.

Pastry is alchemy and if you want to create your own magic potion, you have to understand these basis.


Sciences: the basics for a pastry cook

2hours/week. They are a mix of the basic stuff we need to know as pastry cooks: how electricity works, how to avoid food contamination, how the microorganisms develop, how a microwave oven, fridge or freezer work, hygiene rules, why it's important not to re-freeze a preparation, etc. Worthy as I've learned a lot of stuff about things we use but never think about.


Economic environment classes 

1 hour/week. All about the laws and rules of a pastry SMB (small and medium business) in France. We also get to know some basics about how to manage stocks and how to calculate benefits.

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According to wikipedia, a sabbatical is a rest from work, or a break.
Well, this pastry sabbatical is a break but definitely not a rest from work :p


2 comments:

  1. Sounds tough! Can't wait to taste the result of your hardcore 6 month learning :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. It would be so fantastic to see all of it live..I always enjoy watching the chefs and cooks to the beautiful and yummy food just like this,I hope all of you will be great chefs of tomorrow..best of luck.

    ReplyDelete

 

Meet the author

Hi there! I'm Lucia Tahara, welcome to my blog!

I'm a Brazilian living in France since 2002 and working as a Business Developer at Google.

This blog is about my 5 months sabbatical to become a pastry cook at the 'Institut National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie', one of the best French pastry schools in the world.

Recipes, tips, techniques, video tutorials, but also posts related to the sabbatical experience will populate this space little by little.

My favorite pastries

Saint honoré
Macaron (coming soon)
Fraisier (coming soon)


Tutorial videos

Crème pâtissière (pastry cream)
Millefeuille (assembly)
Pâte feuilletée (puff pastry)
Choux dough (coming soon)
Sweet pie dough (coming soon)
More to come...