Hi my sweets, sorry I've been away for months this time!
Since my last post, school intensified by leaps and bounds with projects all the way up till graduation, which took place on Halloween 2011! So as of 31st October, 2011, I, Tricia, am officially a pastry chef!! I have the tall paper hat to prove it.
Yours truly graduated with Honors, which required a 95% grade point average and above~ I also received awards for full attendance during the program as well as Outstanding Service. The icing on the cake, which was also unexpected, was that I was given an award for Best in Projects! That meant that all my scores accumulated from all projects from level 2 and 3 added up to the highest in class. The man that inspired me to do pursue pastry arts and to attend the FCI, Mr. Chocolate himself Jacques Torres, was the one to hand me a signed copy of his book as well for this award. That just rocked my world and I could not have been happier to have graduated the way I did.
It has been immensely fun but at the same time I worked my ass off. People always assume that baking and making beautiful chocolates and sweets is easy and if you go to school and have the recipes then anyone can do it. It isn't. Its one thing to be a home baker. Its another to be a good pastry chef. Its a whole other ball game to be a great pastry chef and an innovator.
I have the utmost respect for my chef instructors who have been my mentors and motivators over the course of the 6 months. Their amount of experience and wealth of knowledge for all things pastry is mind blowing to say the least. SO MUCH research, reading, watching, observing, doing, practicing, thinking, creating, goes into each and every dessert made- Projects have taught me that. To be able to come up with something that relates to a theme, that relates to the client, to integrate aspects that may not necessarily be your interest or forte- that is a true challenge. Not only that but it all has to taste good and look gorgeous!
Another thing that people don't usually know that goes on behind the scenes, is that pastry chefs don't usually just work on one thing at a time. We work to do a huge variety of things at once. Working in a restaurant for example~ I often do production work from 4pm when I arrive in the kitchen after a full day of school, and churn out bread dough, bake off desserts, prep and churn ice creams and sorbets till about 6-7pm before getting ready for service. Once the station has been set up, we don't just wait for orders to come in, we carry on production, making sauces, chocolates, baking bread rolls, decorations for plating just to name a few. When an order does come in, we stop, clear the station, plate asap and get back to whatever it was we were doing. Mind you, the station pastry chefs get are tiny in most kitchens. I was lucky enough to work for a one Michelin Star kitchen and still, some days I find myself working on a quarter of the top of a low boy. In layman terms, that's about the size of your laptop. By the end of a 20-hr day on your feet, you take the subway home, take a much needed shower, fall into a coma and wake up a couple hours later just to repeat the process. Such is the life of a pastry chef. Not as glamorous as one would think~
But then again that's life in restaurants and working restaurant hours. I also took up an internship at Jacques Torres chocolates~ Chef Torres has a factory in Houston St in Manhattan where I would go help out after school. It was pretty fun and the pace was very much slower than that in restaurants. I got to paint, mold, dip, scrape chocolate and make lots of Halloween candies which ranged from chocolate dipped marshmallows to HUGE chocolate pigs and turkeys~ When I said HUGE, I meant these were the size of a small child and probably weighed more.
You would think that delving into the pastry world with such intensity and having a diet consisting mostly of butter, flour, chocolate, sugar and more sugar would throw me off sweets by now. But oddly enough, the love is still strong. I, myself am surprised by this. In fact, I am planning to have a Macaron tasting day to sample some of New York's finest before settling in to my decision on where to potentially intern. I have only a couple months left and need to make this last internship count! I'm hoping it'll lead to a job or something that allows me to stay here for abit longer and most importantly GET PAID. Needless to say, that last part is gonna be the toughest part. As what I found out is most employers are not very willing to sponsor a visa for a foreigner. *sigh*
Ok enough of my babbling for now, I know its been awhile since you've seen any sweets on this page so here's some of the highlights from the past few months!
Chocolate Project Theme- Fairy Tales
Can you guess what I chose?
Yup! It was the Wizard of Oz :)
Technique for the base- I ground up white, and dark chocolate pistoles till they looked like gravel or small rocks, then sprinkled them on some parchment paper and poured over milk chocolate
Once set, I flipped the chocolate slab over and peeled off the parchment to reveal the above. I then used a heated bench scraper to carefully and meticulously scrape of the top layer of bumpy chocolate till the granite look was achieved. It took awhile but I felt that it was worth while! Chef Kir mentioned this technique the day before and I thought it best to try it out. Its always risky to try out new techniques during project days due to the time constraints but I figure, school is the best time to try everything you would like and to make the mistakes so the chefs are there to help~
I then made the yellow brick road out of white chocolate that I tinted yellow, and the house was made by marbling milk and white chocolate and carving wood designs into it after the panels had set.
Some of the larger ground up chocolate pieces then made for perfect rocks for the garden and that grass you see there was made by passing green chocolate plastique through the holes of a sieve.
This piece wouldn't be complete without the witch the house is crushing. That was modeled out of chocolate plastique along with her shoes and flowers.
Not forgetting the rainbow, which was made by painting a sheet of acetate with cocoa butter colours in the colours of the rainbow, then making a mold out of cardboard to fit around it and sticking it down well before pouring white chocolate in it and letting it set.
Looks like glass- But it isn't!
Yes, we made sugar owls.
Loved this effect of pouring sugar onto crinkled up aluminum foil, it come out looking really pretty
Really looks like water or glass
I love stained glass so I love sugar and the effect it gives. Too bad that humidity kills it instantly, or else I would specialize in it for sure
Like I said, humidity killed that last fowl over the weekend it sat in school, so I had to make another one
We then progressed to pulling sugar! Here are sugar ribbon bows
If you were wondering how we keep the sugar hot, we keep it under a heat lamp like this
Here's my first attempt at a pulled sugar rose~ I couldn't capture the sheen on camera well, so what you see here is a fraction of the shine that pulled sugar gives. Its so pretty.
This here is my rendition of an apple blossom
A whale from blown sugar!
Hardest thing to make was this perfect sphere of blown sugar~
Blown sugar lime! Adding granulated sugar to the sugar before working and blowing it adds realistic texture to the rind of the lime
Last but not least, I made a little blown sugar strawberry :)
Blown sugar pumpkins
My GIANT blown sugar pumpkin~~~
Ok. This one kinda looks a helluva lot like something else... If you know what I mean.
Sugar is coloured by pouring the molten syrup onto a silpat, and dropping a few drops of gel colours. The with gloves, flicking up the sides of the circle as it cools till you get to the middle and flipping it over
Once cooled enough it is satinized then left under the lamp to keep warm in pieces
From that I pulled and twisted vines and leaves
Details were etched in with a blade and the leaf shaped, before the sugar fully cools
The final pumpkin patch classmate Jesse and I created as part of our Halloween sugar showpiece!
More showpieces, my first 3 tiered wedding cake and final projects to come! For now I shall leave you with the above and promise to update more now that I'm back to being all alone here in NYC~~~