I had the great pleasure of auditing a pastry arts course at the French Culinary Institute Wednesday night. The group I was watching have been in school only a few weeks, almost a month maybe. Still, despite their newness I was awed by the way they bustled around and seemed to work as a unit. The recipe of the night was pate a choux, a pastry from butter, water, flour and eggs. They were making the dough into Pate a Paris-Brest, a ringed pastry with almonds and praline mousseline (german butter cream), swans, and profiteroles. It was just such an incredible sight to witness.
Everyone was incredibly friendly, especially the chef instructors. Both welcomed me to the class, invited me to ask questions, and wished me well when I left. Both expressed their desire to see me back in their class, this time as a student. And a few of the students said much the same. One looked at me and said, "This is the coolest thing you'll ever do." I couldn't disagree.
And of course, the highlight of the evening was Jacques Torres dropping by to say goodnight. We were all watching a piping demo by one of the chef instructors when a French voice came from the back. Everyone turned, froze, and then dropped their jaws. That prompted Chef Torres to laugh at us and comment on how maybe we didn't recognize him. A few of us (like me) recovered enough to say hello (well, ok, I just waved). He stayed for a few minutes longer and then left. But I get the sense that he's pretty visible at the school, so I imagine I'll get used to the fly by sightings. Still it was like something from a dream for me. I grew up watching him make chocolates on TV. My first impressions of what a pastry chef is or does are of him.
The more I interact with the school, the more I am convinced that it's where I am supposed to be. Everyone talks about how much ego there is in the culinary world, but so far, all I have seen is a group of people who love food and love sharing that with others. And luckily for me, I will become a part of that world in January when I begin classes for Pastry Arts and Restaurat Management. I'm unbelieveably excited and feel incredibly blessed.