It’s been a while since I’ve wrote about culinary school hasn’t it? Since I last wrote, I’ve completed my first semester, had Christmas break in between, and moved on to second semester.
By the end of first semester, we moved from making bread to making cookies, tarts and pies– something I loved doing. I’ve never made as many cookies, both in variety and quantity, as I did in the cookie unit. The pie and tart unit was equally interesting; pictures cannot do justice how delicious these were. What is missing from my photo round up are the baked goods we made for the Holidays; you’ll have to use your imagination to picture fruit cakes, Stollens and ginger bread houses.
[The result of a cookie round-robin day required by a 2-partner group]
[Baked Macaroon Cookies, Dipped in Chocolate]
The single most important lesson, or break through if you will, that I learned in first semester is that passion is what sets good chefs apart from remarkable chefs. I’m risking burning a few metaphorical bridges by the mention of this, but having a teacher that is fully immersed and fascinated by food makes a world of a difference. Not to say that my previous chef didn’t posses this quality, it’s just that my current teachers make it crystal clear.
[Piped Spritz Cookies]
By the end of last semester, it was almost daunting to go into class– my skill class lost that luster that it once had. It was a combination of running out of steam from the daily 4:45 wake up calls, and an uninspired instructor that made the task daunting. It got to the point where I was faintly question whether I made the right choice. I had an entire month in between semesters where this question was constantly purring—there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I love the industry, the doubt existed in whether I was ready to pursue this full time. Then came the first day of the semester, and it was as though my drive was brought back to life. I have some remarkable mentors this semester; they have industry experience, but also the ability to inspire and kindle a student’s interest in the field.
My courses in second semester are similar, with one exception: my wine and dine class has been replaced by a dessert planning and management class—which, by far, is my favorite course.
[My partner, Sarah, dipping the piped lady fingers]
[Snapshot of Piped Ladyfingers, and Piped Spritz Cookies]
[Close-up of the more successful Ladyfingers]
To sum up first semester, I’ve compiled a list of F.A.Q to answer some of questions that I’ve received. By the way, I love all your e-mails and comments, and rest assure that while time might not permit me to respond to every single one, I read them all (…so keep ‘em coming)
How much did it cost you to go to culinary school?
My tuition falls just under $3,500 CAD/year. This, however, doesn’t include any overhead costs such as commuting, textbook or material fees. More realistically, I spend close to $5,500/year– without living expenses.
[Mixed Fruit Tarts with Apricot Glaze]
What time does your class start for you to have to wake up at 4:30 am – 4:45 am?
My skill classes start at either 7:30 am or 7:00 am, depending on the day. I live about 45 minute car ride outside of Toronto, so I need to catch the 5:30 bus to make it to school before ~6:30 am. This gives me just enough time to grab a coffee, change into my whites, organize my recipes for the day, and get to class. Not all classes start at this time, but this timetable worked best for me—on most days, I’m done before 2:00 pm.
How long is your program?
The pastry arts program at my school is 4 semesters—it takes about 2 years to complete.
[Raspberry White Chocolate Tarts, ready to be packaged]
[Raspberry White Chocolate Tart Closeup]
What happens with all the baked goods that you guys make in class?
If our products are successful, they are packaged and sent to the school’s retail shop. The retail shop is open daily, and anyone can come by the school and purchase our creations. We also have the option to buy our work at cost—the funds go back into our program.
[Collection of mixed tarts. Top Left: Raspberry, Butter Cranberry, Apple. Middle: Key Lime, Chocolate, Coconut. Bottom: Chocolate Espresso, Raspberry, Lemon]
How do you juggle work, school, commuting, and you’re social life?
I juggle it in a very haphazardly way. Time management has never really been my forte, and most times I’m treading just to keep my head above water. Commuting sucks the life out of me, but I really don’t have much of a choice. I would like to say that I get work done on the train, but half the time, I doze off to the numbing noise of commuter chatter. I quit my job at the end of first semester because it was taking away from any time with friends and family— yes, I’m slightly poorer now, but gained some much needed down time on weekends and evenings.
[Chocolate Cream Pie]
I’ve made bread at home before and it’s not as hard as you made it seem.
I might agree with you on this one, but I only have experience making bread at a commercial capacity. You have to understand that learning to make something new, on a tight schedule, and being marked on it, is by no means easy.
Nope! The regret would have been not going to culinary school.