Time passed by so fast… and it’s already been one month.
After some minor hiccups when I was applying for my French student visa, I moved my departure date back to early January, two days before our mandatory orientation.
Up until this point, I can’t say whether it would have been better if I came here earlier and get settled down. True, it was a pain to set up my bank account and phone number at first. I mean… what do you mean I have to make an appointment to open a bank account? And I can’t get a phone plan unless I have a local bank account?
After taking a couple of deep breaths, I realized, “Yup, I’m in France after all.” Good thing I live fairly close to school so I was able to survive the first two weeks without regular Internet connection.
And without realizing it, today marks my first month in Paris. During this past month, we already learned a lot. It started with some diamantes (sugar-coated butter cookies), an apple tart, madeleines, fruit pound cake, gâteau basque, apple turnovers, palmiers, the saint-honoré, eclairs, chouquettes, marshal’s batons, rain biscuits, and dacquoise with floral decorations.
Every recipe we learn is split into two classes. The chef takes us through the step-by-steps in our demonstration classes and then we will have to recreate the product (while aiming for the chef’s standard) in our practical classes after.
It was much easier to pick things up. I remember learning about the sablage technique where we mix the diced butter and dry ingredients in the mixing bowl using only our hands and thinking, “Oh! This is actually a technique! I used to do this back at home when I was lazy and didn’t want to get my electric mixer out!”
After going through all these recipes, some of the most important things I learned so far are: Work quickly, always clean your work station, never rush to finish your product because the chefs grade on the appearance and don’t be afraid to ask the chefs to explain some steps again since they understand it’s difficult to observe everything when you’re sitting in a big room full of students during the demo!
In the beginning, I always stuck to my notes and did only what the chef did even though my inner R&D side wanted to venture off and start trying different things with the ingredients already. When we made our roses in our last class, I finally took that step (especially since I got a little carried away while having fun shaping my roses). I decided not to follow the chef’s decoration and decided that I wanted to make two roses instead of one big one. When I presented my dacquoise to the chef (who also happened to be Chef Nicolas Jordan, who received the MOF in ice cream in 2015), he said he liked my flowers. I guess, depending on the chef, we probably don’t have to stick too closely to the books here!
Happy eating (and baking),