Monday, October 24, 2005

Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts

I'm thinking of that song because of the incessant drilling outside today ("the cabaret was quiet except for the drillin' in the wall"). Yes, just what this neighborhood needs is yet another luxury high-rise, because the 50-60 that have been built in the past ten years surely won't be enough, and the two that have gone up within a block of the latest one aren't enough for the immediate neighborhood. As best I can figure, each of the development companies went to a different bank for their financing; otherwise, someone would have figured out that there really isn't enough demand for all of the buildings. But hey, what do I know? I'm a marginally employed pastry chef, and I'm not even working AS a pastry chef yet.

We switched chefs and partners today, and both will be fine. This chef (let's call him Tom) is also quite interesting. Each of the chefs has been demanding in his own way, despite the things they have in common. The things they have in common include a passion for the art and craft of French pastry; an absolute insistence on cleanliness (which I love; even though I'm not good enough to work as cleanly as I'd like, I have every intention of instituting those principles in my shop); and a real interest in teaching us, provided only that we actually want to learn, which most of us do. I think it's been an adjustment for each of them, in different ways, to make the switch from a hotel or restaurant to teaching.

I'm guessing that, in a hotel or restaurant kitchen, a chef might take someone under his or her wing if the person showed promise of some kind, for example, or if s/he was enthusiastic, and, of course, the chef must also want to share what s/he knows--but none of these things is necessary, and a chef might very well focus on production and not be interested in novices like many of us. That is, it would have been difficult for me to get any kind of job as a pastry chef or assistant, given my near-total lack of experience, and it's pretty much impossible that I'd be able to find a position where I could learn all of the things I've been learning here. Any good place of employment would have many people ahead of me, people who have culinary school educations and experience I don't have.

This setup enables people like me to take a crash course and then, with the help of the chefs, find places where we can hone our skills further, in the direction we'd like to go. The chefs have connections all over the world, and the school has a good reputation, both of which help overcome the many-people-want-this-position problem. I don't want restaurant work, for sure, and I probably don't want hotel work, either, unless the chefs think it would be particularly useful for me, so that helps me focus, and other people are similarly focused. (Some really want to do wedding cakes, for example, the thought of which makes me break out in hives. Some want to work in restaurants. Some want to move to other cities or countries.)

Anyway, today we made a pistachio dacquoise (remember that a dacquoise is a meringue--whipped egg whites--with sugar and nut flour(s) folded into it), an apricot-passion-fruit gelee, some apricot glaze, two sablee dough shells (we didn't get to do those, as the only sablee dough left was too soft to work with, so we'll do it tomorrow), and each of us made an inverted puff pastry recipe and put four turns in the dough. Inverted puff pastry is a trip--the butter layer is on the outside of it! It's not as difficult to do as I thought it would be, but still. Tomorrow I think we finish lemon tarts. In addition, I was supposed to give a presentation today, but we ran out of time, so I'm scheduled to do it tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

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