Monday, January 22, 2007

Going green: two ways

Despite being sick with the flu for the last two weeks, I have been working hard at Ganache. Unfortunately, everybody has been sick at Ganache! After the initial fever/achy stage, I have followed my usual pattern of illness...coughing, coughing, coughing...and then more coughing.

Getting to Yaletown has been easier than I first thought. I am now a BC Transit user! This is very exciting for me because I have been the typical Vancouverite for so many years, travelling solo by car wherever I went. Luckily, the Number 16 bus conveniently passes down Arbutus, right by our street and drops me off at Seymour & Davie about 20 minutes later. This leaves only a very short walk to Ganache. At the end of the day, I conveniently catch a ride with Eric home. My new routine is making me very environmently conscious as well as richer by saving gas and I encourage anyone who is reading to do the same!

The other way in which I have been going green is in the kitchen. In fact, I am feeling less "green" since I am more comfortable with the new techniques and products at Ganache. My involvement has now moved beyond just making components of random entremets. I have been assembling finished products (although still not doing the final decorating touches, that is Chef Peter's job) which include cutting out joconde sponges, cake bases, making the mousses and assembling the whole product. For example, on Saturday, I made 48 Matcha-Exotique 3" entremets and it took me almost 4 hours! Trimming each black sesame joconde sponge to the right size and fitting them into the rings, cutting out the sponge rounds, making the green tea mousse, then putting them all together with the frozen mango-lychee gelee inserts is a very time consuming process! My multi-tasking skills and efficiency are works in progress but I think I am improving. Getting faster and neater are my goals for this practicum.

To my pastry classmates out there, I must say that I have been fascinated by the new techniques I have been learning. Did you know that you can freeze left over mousse, then defrost it in the microwave until the right consistency again and use it? Undoubtedly, there must be some loss of volume but it still works!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

An introduction to Ganache Patisserie...

This has been my first real week at Ganache Patisserie in Yaletown. It has been a combination of excitement and nerves. Let me first explain how I ended up here...

Early on during my pediatric ophthalmology fellowship in Ann Arbor, Michigan two years ago, I was already so unhappy and so I started looking into pastry schools. My sister, Michelle, had a friend, who has a husband, who has a sister, who is married to Chef Peter Fong, the owner of Ganache. (Confused?) He gave me some valuable insight into his own pastry experiences at Dubrulle. Two years later, my Pan Pacific Hotel practicum was in place but did not start until April 2007 and so I had January to March to fill up. Not wanting to lose momentum in my young pastry career, I contacted Peter again and as luck would have it, he needed someone temporarily during this time period!

My time at Ganache is spent 3 days in the kitchen and 2 days in the front. Having absolutely NO retail experience ever in my life made the experience out front the most stressful so far. Dealing with credit cards, making change, and entering items in the register are novel experiences for me. Measuring strabismus in squirming 2 year olds still seems much easier to me oddly. Regardless, I am learning as fast as I can and it is becoming much less stressful.

The kitchen experience has also been overwhelming mainly because my body is not used to the physical demands in the professional kitchen. Everything is heavy. Making 30 litres of italian buttercream was a wild and messy introduction into the professional pastry world. Within the first hour of working in the kitchen, I also had hit my forehead on the oven handle and was bleeding! My feet and back have been aching after an 8 hour day (I can't imagine doing this for 10 or 12 hour shifts!) and so I have invested in some compression stockings and professional kitchen clogs. We shall see if these help...

Ganache makes at least 20 different entremets/cakes as well as several traditional types of cookies (madeleines, financiers, canelles, macaroons etc) and chocolate items. Most cake items are made from 4-5 different components at least, which are then assembled and decorated. So far, I have made a handful of components, all in big quantities much different from school - for example, a raspberry-balsamic gelee, caramel-milk chocolate mousse, dark chocolate-raspberry mouse, german chocolate cake etc. They use many Flexipan molds and frozen inserts. Eventually, I will get to the stage where I will be assembling entire entremets and finishing them off completely!

Monday, January 8, 2007

From ophthalmology to pastry...

I graduated from the Professional Pastry & Bread Making Course at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver on December 15, 2006. It was the best 15 weeks of my life!

After deciding to leave ophthalmology, I was uncertain about my next step. Luckily, I have a wonderful support system who understood my decision and cheered me on to find what made me happy despite my own self-doubt and anxieties. Undoubtedly, after 14 uninterrupted years of post-secondary education, I was weary about going back to school yet again. But this time, it was for the right reasons.

I have learned so much from Chef Marco Ropke who is the Pastry Instructor at NWCAV. My new passion for food and love of pastry not only stems from his influence but also from my new found friends from school. Through their encouragement, I have slowly built up my self-confidence in my skills and creativity.

As I journey through my first baby steps into the professional world of pastry, I hope to share my ups and downs, new discoveries, and ultimate success with you. This blog will also likely become a bit of "show and tell" of my own sweet creations from the past, present, and future.