I’m writing to you from the other side of my first week of pastry school! It looks much better from over here, not nearly as nerve-wracking.
I started the Garnish Your Degree program at the North Miami campus of Johnson & Wales this week. This program is for people like me, who already have a Bachelor’s degree in something totally useless in the real world (for me, English). The program is nine months of classes, and an internship. After this, you’ll have your Associates degree in Baking & Pastry! It sounded like a pretty good deal for me, so I took the plunge.
The night before my first day, I was so freaking nervous. I read and re-read the uniform policy. I ironed all my chef jacket and pants to perfection. I even ironed my hat. The result? This:
The program consists of all labs, which are roughly nine days each. My first lab was Chocolates and Confections. I walk in on the first day and immediately notice that my neckerchief is the wrong color. It’s supposed to be green! All of my preparation was ruined, and I feared the chef would kick me out of class. When he did arrive, we spent a good amount of time handing out papers, going over the syllabus, and receiving our pastry kits and books. The kit includes different knives and tools that we would keep for the whole year. After that, Chef told us to line up in the hall for a uniform check. I panicked. But, it turns out that he is a really nice guy, and simply told me to get the right color by the next day. I finally relaxed a little bit.
After this, Chef spent a few hours giving a lecture on the different kinds of chocolate, how chocolate is made and class procedures. It was kind of surreal to be not only back at school, surrounded by 18-year-olds, but to be taking notes on chocolate. After this, Chef gave a demonstration on how to temper chocolate and how to make ganache. Then, we broke into groups and made ganache ourselves. It was great to be doing something on the first day! We piped them to make the inside of truffles, and left them overnight.
The second day, we molded (or at least tried to) the truffles. Most of ours weren’t quite round, but more of an oblong shape. But, it was the first time for many of us, including me. We also learned about different fillings for pralines, and started making a peanut butter filling. This is me pouring it between two metal bars to mold it.
On the third day, it was finally my turn to temper the chocolate. It’s harder than it looks!
We also made more fillings, including a mocha and a raspberry. After they’re hardened, these fillings need to be cut and dipped in chocolate.
At 6 hours, this is a long lab. And at the end of each day, we have to do a major cleaning. Dishes, floors, tables, everything has to be cleaned and is inspected by the chef when we’re done. The first couple of days, I came home exhausted and with a serious headache. But by day 3 and 4, I was no longer super tired and no headaches! I’m gradually getting used to it.
Next week, more chocolate! We’ll be making molded pralines and hopefully a chocolate showpiece. I was unsure at first, but so far, I’m really glad I’m doing this!
Thanks for reading!