Wednesday, March 21, 2007

À bientôt: Goodbye Ganache, Hello France

I am sad. Today was my last day working at Ganache. Despite some initial anxiety and the usual self-doubts, the experience was a very significant milestone in my professional life. These three months have reinforced my belief that pastry is the right path for me. Being satisfied and happy after completing a day's work has long been a foreign feeling. In contrast, even without pay and being physically exhausted, my experience at Ganache was so rewarding.

I have gained an enormous amount of insight into my own pastry-related strengths and weaknesses and learned many lessons about how to improve. For those of you who are currently in pastry school or considering a career change into pastry, perhaps my reflections will somehow benefit you.

1. Be clean...very clean. I always believed that I worked cleanly at school but once I arrived at Ganache, I quickly realized that my version of clean was not as clean as clean could be. When everyone else working around you is spotless and you look like you were attacked by chocolate mousse, it does not leave a positive impression. Luckily, I improved significantly after this was made apparent to me.

2. Being efficient is impossible when doing something for the first time. This lesson was hard for me to accept because I have always thought of myself as an efficient person. When I realized that I took up twice as much space or used twice as many bowls or took twice as long to complete a task, I was very distressed and disappointed in myself; however, after the second and third repetition, I was able to streamline my technique and recognize how much time each step was required in order to eventually be more efficient.

3. Things are heavy. Being only 5 feet 3.5 inches and with very little muscle mass, the physical demands of the pastry kitchen were astounding to me. Everything is in larger quantities than at school and consequently, everything is heavier. It seems like a very simple and obvious fact but in reality, the impact on my back, hands, and especially wrists were quite severe when I was working 5 days a week in the kitchen.

4. There are many ways to do the same thing (be open-minded). For example, the first time I was asked to make a sauce Anglaise at Ganache but to use a whisk on high heat, my jaw almost dropped to the ground. But in time, I learned that there can be many ways to do things without compromising quality as long as you do it right. There have been many other instances in which alternate methods are used and I have accepted all these new techniques as part of my repertoire.

Ultimately, I feel quite prepared for my next practicum with Chef Ted Hara at the Pan Pacific Hotel. The environment will be very different, with more people and a different pace. Shiftwork will also present another challenge for me because as a creature of habit, I do not adjust well to changing schedules. Nonetheless, I am up to the challenge!

Meanwhile, please enjoy this photo of beautiful Parisian macaroons which I found in Flickr. The list of pastry destinations which I intend to visit is enormous and I hope that I can still fit into my uniform upon return. À bientôt!

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