Last week was one of beginnings.
Monday was the start of the new term at LCB, which means that I’m now officially an Intermediate Patisserie student! It’s good to be back and I’m looking forward to the next ten weeks and the chance to develop the basic skills and techniques we were taught last term. Also, it’s great to see everyone again, though it’s still strange to think that we’re no longer the new kids at school! It doesn’t feel like we’ve been there long enough to qualify as Intermediates, and yet here we are. Who would have thought it, after just three months? (To scare us even further, we had our exam lecture this week and things are definitely moving a step or five up from Basic. No pressure…!)
To ease us into the new semester, we started off with a Dobos chocolate slice, a cake that basically consists of alternate layers of sponge and chocolate ganache. Of course, being LCB, it wasn’t quite as straightforward as that. No, instead of the traditional round cake, we had to make a triangular version.
(If you’ve never constructed a triangular cake before, it really requires good knife awareness skills for the diagonal slicing!) We also prepared batches of puff pastry which we later used to make pithiviers filled with almond cream and strawberry mille-feuilles. It’s not the worst way to start a new term…!
Friday also saw a new beginning as I started my stage in an amazing pastry production kitchen. (A stage is basically what unpaid work experience is called in the culinary industry; it’s kind of like an internship, I suppose.)
It was a good day, all things considered; I learned how to finish the decorations on several different types of cake, helped the demi chef de partie set up the display counter, assisted with a stock take, filled moulds and chopped a lot of mangoes. It doesn’t necessarily sound all that thrilling when put like that, but for someone who aspires to work in a professional pastry kitchen, it was eye-opening in the best possible way. (Not least because the cakes which I finished decorating actually went into the display counter for sale…! I definitely felt the responsibility of maintaining the standard, let’s put it that way.) Saturday was fairly similar and although I’ve only been there for two days, I’m starting to see the difference between life in the real world of a professional kitchen and the relative bubble of culinary school. In particular, I’m coming to understand the reality of the industry that I want to go into and it’s proving to be an extremely valuable lesson.
On top of that, I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work in a place that is of such a high standard, especially considering that this is my first-ever stage (and my first real experience in a professional kitchen). I know that if I approach it in the right spirit, I’ll be able to learn a vast amount. By that, I mean that I just need to stop being afraid of making mistakes and remember that I’m there to learn and it’s okay to get things wrong from time to time.
Currently, I think I’m in danger of being held back by my fear of failure and of letting others down. People keep telling me not to be so hard on myself, but it’s only because I don’t want to annoy anyone by making stupid, rookie mistakes. At the same time, I also don’t want to give the impression that I need someone to hold my hand and reassure me all the time, because I don’t. It’s just that I want to do a good job and sometimes I can get too fixated on that, which is counter-productive. Basically, I need to lighten up and not worry so much. As with so many things, however, it’s easier said than done…!
In general, however, it’s nice to be busy again; I’m doing what I love and who could ask for more?
(Also, apologies that this blog is fairly low on actual cake/baking content – there will be more in my next post, promise!)