Thursday, June 09, 2005

Q; Why Pastry?

Portia asks, "Why pastry?"

First, there are some very practical considerations: (a) it takes less time and schooling than it would take to become a "regular" chef, (b) pastry chefs tend to work in the early morning hours (many places want to get the baking done--and, therefore, the ovens turned off/cooled down), (c) my soon-to-be in-laws are celiacs, and a lot of the desserts available to them are awful, so I'd like to be able to make good stuff for them. (If I can also sell some products in my sister-in-law's store, all the better.) It's less difficult for them in terms of the rest of the meal--meats and vegetables aren't a problem for them. Some celiacs are also lactose intolerant, but not all are; for the latter group, cheese, butter, etc. are also possibilities. I made a completely gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner this year, and much of it was also dairy-free; my SIL's husband is celiac, lactose-intolerant, and seems to be allergic to corn, soy, sage, and cinnamon.

Second, though, I love to bake. I like making desserts, and I particularly like trying to make desserts that aren't quite so . . . rich, let's say. In order to make modifications, though, whether to reduce the fat in a dessert or to make it dairy-free or gluten-free, you have to know the science behind it. I could probably pick up a lot on my own, but I'd really like to learn the classic techniques. The program has sections on plated desserts, chocolate, spun sugar, cakes and tarts, breads, and puff pastry (IIRC), and I've attempted all of those except sugar and puff pastry. (Working with filo doesn't count.) In my rich fantasy life, I actually get to open my own bakery/patisserie; in order to get anywhere near that goal, I think it would be useful to have more of a clue about what I'm doing.

Third, there's something really philosophically interesting about producing food of any kind. For one thing, we all need to eat (even breatharians, thanks to the impurities in our world), so making food for people is literally a way of nourishing people. At the same time, the thing that you produce must be consumed in order to be useful--I like that the product is both substantial and ephemeral or transient. I'm also interested in the challenges inherent in making food that has at least a passing acquaintance with some of the principles I've espoused, but I have no idea whether I'll be able to pull that one off, at least right away.

Finally, I'm tired of trying to make a living using the skill set that sent me off to graduate school. I would have been a good professor, I think, but that door was shut. The other arenas for using my skills haven't seemed interested in me, or not all that much, or they're large organizations where I'd have to work a zillion hours a week, provided I could even get a job. When I couldn't get interviews for jobs that had my name all over them, I sat back and asked not "What else can I do with this skill set?" but "What else do I love to do?" I'm hopeful that my organizational and management skills can be put to good use wherever I work--front-of-the-house help at a smallish catering/gourmet/patisserie business, for example, at least as prep for owning my own business--and one of my friends (who has met many of the Young Turk chefs in the city) insists that I"m going to be smarter than most or all of my class; we'll see whether or how I can use that to advantage.

I should add that I'm terrified about this. I have no idea if I can support myself this way, and I have no idea whether I'll be any good at this. I got my schedule for the beginning of classes. We have a couple of days of intro stuff in the classroom (plus the safety/sanitation training), and our first day in the kitchen is going to be my 47th birthday. But sometimes you have to say what the fuck.


Blogger alps said...


just read your past postings and just had to say that i could have written your last words myself. i'm starting pastry school in november and it's a 'what the fuck' deal for me.......i just turned 46 and bored of my old work and needed some new skills, new learning but have no idea whatsoever if i'll like it or even be good at it! just seemed like something i always like to do and would be fun to share the love. so......wondering what school you're in and to let you know i'm enjoying keeping up on how it's going for you.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Hunt and Fish said...

Good post

3:14 PM  
Blogger Basket said...

Bon jour. Le temps amer que je vois.

Chercher le temps et quelques comment terrien ici.

Blog agréable.

Je devrai revenir plus tard.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Hunt and Fish said...

Good post

11:13 PM  
Blogger Hunt and Fish said...

Great post, I enjoyed reading it.

Adding you to favorites, Ill have to come back and read it again later.

5:34 AM  

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