Week one of pastry school at SF Cooking is done and the overwhelming feelings are excitement and exhaustion. It was never a fear of mine that I wouldn’t like the program once I started, but I’m happy to say that I am having so. much. fun. I can hardly believe I get to do this every day. We talk in depth about ingredients, practice our techniques, learn new skills and experiment with different recipes. It’s honestly all the things I would choose to do in a day if given the free time. But best of all, I’m doing it in an environment where everyone else is equally excited about the best way to cut an orange or the effects of different types of flours (a level of excitement that I don’t think my friends or family have ever understood). After all the excitement that keeps me talking Paul’s ear off at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. Running around a kitchen for six hours is nothing like sitting at a desk all day. Coupled with the amount of energy I’m putting into focusing on doing my best at each and every task, it’s so tiring that I think I’m about to bump up my bedtime.
This was a short week since we only had three days, but it feels like so much longer because of the number of things we pack into each day. Most of our time was dedicated to getting our footing navigating the kitchen, getting to know each other, and learning base techniques that we’ll continue to practice over the coming months. As a class, we’re working on creating our own granola recipe, which I believe is more an exercise in teamwork and recipe development than anything else. We’ve done “simple” things, like learning the proper way to cut various fruits and improving our knife skills, and we’ve done more complex things like cooking sugar through different stages and into caramels. We dedicated an entire day to learning about flour (how it’s milled, characteristics of different types, how different flours are used) and did a little experiment by making the same muffin recipe seven times, with different flours in each. We spent another day learning about how sugar is made, the many types of sweeteners available, and how each effects your baked goods.
A few weeks ago I started freaking out about my lack of preparation for school. I had nightmares of being thrust into a group of pastry chefs who were borderline professional and I couldn’t keep up. I kept telling myself that I should have been practicing skills I’m weaker in so that I was ready. I can say now that was completely unnecessary. First off, I essentially have a lifetime of practice. I’m very comfortable in the kitchen and over the years I’ve been slowly improving on how I work and expanding my knowledge. But most of all, practice is really the point of school. We’re all given the space to understand new concepts and get comfortable through hands on experience, before being critiqued. There are times when previous knowledge is helpful and allows me to quickly understand a certain topic. For example, I once took a breadmaking class and learned a ton about flour milling. Our reading assignment and class discussion went much more in-depth on it, but it was easy for me to jump into since I was already familiar. There are other times, where past experience has essentially just resulted in bad habits that I need to train myself out of (like some of my knife skills). No matter what, I’m trying to treat everything as if I’m learning it for the first time, so that I get instruction from the ground up.
This week was a bit of a blur as I got settled in, so my goal for next week is to take better notes each day about what we covered, specifically so that I remember things I want to write about here. And to take more photos! Next week will be a busy one and I already know that on Monday we’re starting with making BUTTER!