We were warned at the end of last term what it would be like.
They told us that it would be several steps up from Intermediate, just as Intermediate was several steps up from Basic. They told us that the workload would be heavier, the standards higher, the marking harsher. They joked that we didn’t yet know the meaning of being fast in the kitchen and told us more seriously that we would be pushed harder than ever before and expected to rise to the challenge because we would be setting the example for those below us. We knew all this in advance, and yet I still don’t think that any of us were really quite prepared for the intensity of Superior Patisserie. (And trust me, it is intense.)
So, week one. Greatly anticipated, it came and went frighteningly quickly. While other classes had their first introduction to sugar work, my group completed two six-hour sessions of chocolate truffle and confectionary production.
For the first time, we were shown straight into the kitchens for our class, no demonstration beforehand to introduce us to what we’d be doing. We were divided into teams, assigned six items each and, for the first time, asked to produce a prioritised mise-en-place list, which is surprisingly challenging when you’ve never done it before. Then came twelve hours of chocolate tempering (which caused us all more problems than it should have), mould polishing and preparation, ganache making, chocolate piping, truffle filling, enrobing, confectionary making, truffle de-moulding, portioning and decorating. For many who were unused to being on their feet and in the kitchen for six hours straight, it came as something of a surprise, a completely different experience from the way classes were run in the previous two terms. Personally, I’m lucky in the sense that the last three months of staging have prepared me for long days, so six hours doesn’t feel like much of a stretch; it’s at times like these that my work experience really pays off…
That said, it was still an uphill struggle to get through the first week’s practical sessions. With problems ranging from chocolate tempering troubles to organisation issues, it was far from plain sailing and although we all produced some lovely things by the end of the two classes, it took a lot of hard work and proved to us, if we were still in any doubt, that the expectations are far higher now that we’re Superior-level students.
We also had our first technical class of term last week (the obligatory exam lecture) where two of our teaching chefs proceeded to spend two hours scaring the living daylights out of us by describing in great detail what we’d have to do in our final practical exams. (This term, there are no less than four. For the major one, we have to design and produce our own large entremet plus two identical plated desserts, to be judged not just by our teachers but by chefs from the industry, friends and ex-colleagues of our instructors. No pressure then…!) Nothing like a healthy dose of fear to start off the term!
Week two saw the second half of our chocolate module, where we moved towards the realm of basic sculptures and showpieces. Our two workshops saw us producing chocolate trains and chocolate display boxes, plus more moulded truffles.
Annoyingly, I made the worst batch of truffles I’ve ever made on the day that the chef chose to taste and critically evaluate them. Thankfully, the ganache was good, so at least they tasted fine. (It was just in appearance that they fell short of the standard, with the shells being slightly too thick and pocked with air bubbles.) Still, at least I know that I can make better ones; it just wasn’t my day for it.
Actually, let’s face it; it just hasn’t really been my day since term began. Although nothing has gone drastically wrong, I don’t feel like it’s been a particularly good start to Superior. My work has been acceptable but no more, which is frustrating when I know that I can do better and have done better in the past, (e.g. the moulded truffles). I know that it’s because of my crazy perfectionist nature that it bothers me to produce merely passable work, but I want to prove myself and my abilities to the teaching chefs. I want to show them how I’ve grown and developed as a pastry cook in the last six months. (Am I repeating myself? I fear I am…sorry to keep boring you with the same old things!) I still feel the need to prove that I deserve to be at LCB, because even now, two-thirds of the way through the course, there are times when I feel like I don’t. It’s silly and I know that some people (hi, Mum!) think this mindset is holding me back, but there’s nothing I can do; it’s just the way it is.
Part of me hopes that all this is just because I haven’t quite settled into Superior yet and that things will improve as we go further on. Fingers crossed that’s true, because next week is the beginning of our plated desserts module and it’s only going to get tougher from now on…