Life, lately: a new chapter.

It’s been an eventful few weeks.  The days are flying by and I still can’t believe how much has happened in such a short period of time.

Firstly, my time at Le Cordon Bleu is over and I am now officially a graduate of the Pâtissèrie Diploma.  (I have the certificate to prove it and everything.  It’s currently sat at home, waiting to be framed…)

The graduation ceremony took place in mid-September, just over four weeks ago.  Though it was a more formal affair than we’d been used to (in contrast to previous certificate presentations held at school, this one took place in a Park Lane hotel and featured a champagne reception and three-course lunch), it was fun to get dressed up, see my friends and chefs and have the chance to celebrate our achievements together.  Of course, it was a bittersweet occasion, the joy of success mingled with the sadness of knowing that our wonderful days at LCB had finally come to an end.  However, looking on the positive side, I’m taking away some fantastic memories and I’ll always be thankful for everything that the school and the experiences of the last nine months have given me. (Looking back, it’s hard to believe that the nervous, quiet individual who stepped through the school doors for the first time is the same one now about to embark on a new journey as a professional pastry cook.)

In other news, I’ve started a job as a pastry commis in a central London production kitchen – the very same one where I completed my five-month stage whilst studying at LCB – and have just completed my fourth week.  I feel extremely lucky to have secured what is essentially my dream job, straight out of school.  (To tell the truth, I was actually offered the position a few months ago, about six weeks into my stage.  I couldn’t believe it at the time and it still feels slightly surreal that I’m actually here now.)  It’s an amazing opportunity to work somewhere that produces pâtissèrie of such high quality, especially so early on in my career.

So far, it’s been great and although becoming full-time has taken some getting used to, I’m enjoying being in the kitchen every day and learning as much as I can.  Of course, with holiday season just around the corner, things are picking up both in the production kitchen and the restaurant, but it’s a great challenge and we’ve been working on some new items for Hallowe’en and Christmas that are looking pretty good!  I also had my first taste of service over the weekend.  While my preference is still to be in the kitchen, it makes an interesting change and I’m appreciating the chance to learn something new.

Finally, I was recently given an opportunity that was completely unexpected; at graduation, one of my teaching chefs asked me if I’d like to assist him with a competition he was taking part in.  (The competition turned out to be the UK Pastry Open, which took place a couple of weeks ago at The Restaurant Show.  He won the award for ‘Best Sugar Showpiece’.)

Winner of "Best Sugar Showpiece" - UK Pastry Open (7/10/13)

Winner of “Best Sugar Showpiece” – UK Pastry Open (7/10/13)

The job mostly consisted of washing up, cleaning down, organising equipment and carrying things, but I did get to attend a couple of practice sessions as well as the actual competition and had a lot of fun in the process!  The show was eye-opening.  The standard was extremely high and it was impressive to watch all the chefs in action, creating their amazing sculptures, entremets and plated desserts.  It was also my first taste of culinary competitions and introduced me to a whole other aspect of pâtissèrie which I’d never really seen before.

While I’m a little sad that it’s over, I’m also very grateful to have had the opportunity in the first place and feel quite privileged that my teacher offered it to me, especially considering all the other students in my year that he could have asked.  It has also served to increase my passion for pastry and strengthened my determination to push myself to be as good as I can be and discover my full potential, whatever that is.  It’s inspiring to see what these amazing chefs can do and what can be achieved if you have the dedication and commitment, coupled with good, honest hard work.

Anyway, I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that life has taken a bit of a turn towards the unexpected.  I’ve come out of culinary school and immediately entered a world that I never imagined I would be part of, one which includes fine-dining, Michelin-starred standard pâtissèrie, competitions and some incredibly talented pastry chefs.  I feel very fortunate to be in such a position at this point in my life as a young pastry cook.

Now I’m just curious to see what the future holds…