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Cook attempting to cross over to the 'other side' :)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Where I work there is a strict dileanation between cookery chefs and pastry chefs. (This is actually quite refreshing given that a lot of kitchens I've been in mix the two).

Normally, never the twain meet. You even so much as get caught sniffing in the direction of the pastry area you get shafted :lol:

Here, before you start pastry you have to do your commercial certificate in cookery. (In that certificate you do do a few modules in pastry such as cakes, hot and cold desserts and an introduction to baking science but that's about it). Then you do your years, qualify and THEN you can do pastry. So, I must do what I have to do before I can go any further. That's okay. Good things come to those who wait.

However, due my continued inquiries (pestering), the Head Pastry Chef has allowed me entry on my own time and at night to "observe".

So to you established pastry chefs out there, any advice?

Is there anything I shouldn't do?
Anything I should? Like read up on a few things before I head in there?
Just chill and stand there, or what?

Seriously, some feedback in this regard would be appreciated as I want to be let back in.

Thanks :thumb:
post #2 of 6
I've been cooking for over 25 years now, 3 years ago I started my own chocolate and pastry business.

It's been my observation that MANY Chefs are scared shi*less when anything involving more than sugar and eggs are involved.

The cook who can whip up a "Happy B'day" or Anniversary cake with 3 hours notice is invaluable, the cook who can make a decent hot sabayon or crepes gets a cut of tips or drinks from the waiters.

Watch, watch how the baker moves, how he scales out ingredients, where he lays down his equipment, when he adds sugar to the eggs, when he adds liquid to the fat/flour mix for dough. If he's moving fast, don't ask too much, but wait for an opportune time.

True creativity is only obtained when you master all the techniques in your trade. Master the basics of pastry and you can be a lot more creative and free-er than most other people.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #3 of 6
Make the pastry chef's job easier if you can. But always make sure that it's okay with him/her first. You don't want to overstep your boundaries.

For example if you see dishes piling up in the sink ask him/her--"May I wash those for you, Chef?" If you see the garbage overflowing take the garbage out and replace the bag. Try your best to be a sponge and absorb as much as you can....but also to be helpful.

Keep two towels with you---one wet and one dry. The dry one is for if you are asked to assist with anything hot. The wet clean as you work...or to assist the pastry chef while he/she is working.

You'll be able to gage after an hour or so of watching the pastry chef as to how much involvement they want from you. Follow his/her lead. If uncertain as to what is expected of you...ask.

Most chefs reward interest and hard work. So spend as much time as you can manage (without losing your family or your job in savoury) trailing the pastry chef. When appropriate ask questions.....when the chef is really busy and racing around...stand at a respectful distance and out of the way. You need to be intuitive and discern when is a good time to ask a question and when to be silent and just observe. You'll learn alot just watching.

Bring a notebook to make notes if your chef permits you to. Some will not allow you to copy their formulas....I was blessed...the man who mentored me gave me free access to all of his. And I do the same with my apprentices. If there is no time to write anything....try to memorize things to write down later on at home. I have a notebook full of tips and formulas from the man who trained me. It is invaluable to me.

Most of all--have fun!
post #4 of 6
My situation is a little different so it's hard for me to pass on advice. The pastry chef I followed around asking questions was my mom. She was a professional pastry chef for most of her life and I started the following, asking and helping process at a very young age.

My first kitchen job was assisting the dessert guy at a large extended care facility so it was all large scale production of simple stuff. My first pastry experience that involved more complicated items and plated desserts was for a catering company. I now work as the pastry guy for a local restaurant. It's entirely my department and my call on what I do. It's not fine dining level but that's ok because I'm probably not either at this point. It's mostly production of dressed-up homestyle desserts because that's what works for the type of restaurant involved.

I call myself the pastry guy and not the pastry chef mainly as a respect thing to those who did their time... I've never been to culinary school. I consider myself a professional but I'm not a certificated chef and would probably be laughed at by many schooled pastry people if I worked with them because I've pretty much developed my own ways of doing things. I do have fun though.
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for your advice which is invaluable - including yours LWP which merely indicates a different way of doing things.

I admit I was encouraged to read this:
I have done this! :peace:
And I make sabayons most days as it is :thumb:

Phew. "The" day is Wednesday.

Thanks heaps again.
post #6 of 6
If you can whip up a b-day cake within 3 hours and can already do sabayon you are a step ahead of most. Keep an eye on how the pastry chef sets up station for service, that way if you clean up after him you will already know where the items belong and if he asks for a utensil you will be prepared to get it for him quickly.Read up on basic formulas and methodology for cakes and cookies, mousses etc. Many times I have had pastry chefs give me a list of ingredients, but no mixing instructions. But if you are familiar with the process of creaming butter and sugar together before adding liquid and flour for cookies, or when the merique goes into mousse before the whipped cream (knowing that the cream was to be whipped first). Helps to understand the order of mis en place and assembly. Ask questions when you can, take copius amounts of notes and practice at home for family and friends. They love it. Then if you have a problem with a procedure at home, open dialogue with the pastry chef about it. That also lets him know that you are truly interested and are actively pursuing the education of pastry.

Good Luck, let me know how it goes.:thumb:
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