The Journey to Becoming a Pastry Chef

No, I'm not a pastry chef yet, nor am I close to being one. I still have a long ways to go to be able to call myself (or have people call me) "chef". It's not just a name that you get right out of pastry school. It is something that is earned. Although I'm not one yet, I like to think I'm on the right path to becoming one! With hard work, dedication, and the willing to learn and absorb everything possible. I will eventually get there. I wanted to document my journey more for myself than for you. I thought it would be nice to be able to read my posts in the future. Hopefully it will make me laugh, humbled, and help me remember where I started and what I have become. Enjoy!

sycsomnambulist asked: Hi, I was just going through tumblr search for pastry and noticed your pics. I also noticed that you attended the French pastry School. I was planning on attending but have been having a hard time finding affordable housing. Would you have any tips to offer on where to stay in Chicago that wouldn't put me into more debt than the tuition? Lol thanks.

That is great that you are thinking about attending FPS! I would look at  apartments in Wicker Park, Logan Square, Bucktown. They are great neighborhoods and have more affordable rent. The only downfall is that the commute is about 30-40 minutes by public transportation. I ultimately decided to pay more to live closer to school. You can also contact French pastry School and have them add you to a looking for roommate list.

A decadent but light chocolate cupcake, filled with a speculoos caramel, topped with a speculoos buttercream and speculoos crumbs.

A decadent but light chocolate cupcake, filled with a speculoos caramel, topped with a speculoos buttercream and speculoos crumbs.

What now?

After school let out, I got the chance to go back to my home town: Houston, Texas. It was nice to be greeted with warm weather and some of my favorite food from my home town. What could be good in Texas you ask? Oh the simple things. Kolaches. No one knows what kolaches are outside of Texas and it is really sad. The simple concoction of bread, meat, and cheese is a staple for breakfast in Houston, and a delicious one too! Non Texans may call it a pigs in a blanket and it really is the only way to describe it, but it is so much more than a pigs in a blanket! You’ll only understand, once you have tried it. Anyway, this is not suppose to be an homage to the kolache, but yes, it may be that good! Besides Kolaches, I got to sink my teeth in breakfast tacos (another staple in Houston), tex mex, good vietnamese banh mi, and so much more.

Besides indulging in food with no restraint, I also got to see my DOG (Monty), family, friends, and I also got to practice a lot of baking. The first week of school, Chef Jaquy Pfeiffer said “If you aren’t staging, working, or busy, you should be busy practicing. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!”. So I did just that. I can’t graduate from pastry school and not give everyone I see something tasty anyway.

Things I made: Croissants (they turned out okay, but not great). Gougere (okay, but not great), pumpkin cheesecake, brownies with a speculoos crust and caramel, speculoos linzer cookies with a raspberry jam, carrot cake, and KOLACHES! Unfortunately, I failed to take photos of anything I made except for the spread at Christmas.

Christmas Dinner Spread: Roasted Turkey, Roasted Duck, Mixed Greens with a Balsamic Vinaigrette, Gougere, Croissants, 4 Cheese Mac and Cheese, Steamed Green Beans. Chef Cathy made the duck and I made everything else. Desserts not pictured.

Coming back to Chicago, I have been working at the restaurant Epic. It has been going well and I’m getting more comfortable. Because January is slow, I have had some time to play with food at home! I had a successful batch of croissants that I forgot to take photos of, english muffins, and I have been playing with black sesame.

English Muffin: Tasty, but no nook and crannies. Better luck next time! 

Black Sesame Macaron with a White Chocolate Black Sesame Ganach. (Not bad, but needs work on the look and taste).

Black Sesame Creme Brulee

Until next time!

One Journey Comes to an End and Another Begins.

Graduation day! The last 6 months have gone by extremely fast and it is definitely bittersweet. This is the best choice I have ever made in my life and really the best experience I have ever had. You know you are in the right industry when you bake at school, bake at work, then go home and bake. Sometimes, I think to myself “I’m so tired, why am I still baking???” Because I love it! How great is it that you can get paid for something you love to do? It definitely negates the long hours on your feet, no holidays, and low pay.

We learned so much in the last 6 months and have grown so much. I’m not only leaving this school with knowledge of pastry, I’m also leaving with life long friends and a support system. The 17 others made the experience a good one and I love each and every one of you for that! I constantly thought to myself.. “Wow, I’m really lucky to have been in this class with these amazing people”. It’s really hard to find 18 people that get along so well. Even though we will all be leaving to different places soon, I know that I will run into many of you in the future. Like they say, “The pastry world is 1 degree of separation”. Is it .5 now since the normal degree is 4.2 rather than 6? Anyway, I’m sad to leave this school but ready to take on the world of pastry! I will miss all my buddies and will really miss all the chefs that have taught us.

So now what? Well, now begins my new journey as an aspiring pastry chef! I don’t know how long it will take, but I see the words Chef Audrey in the near future. lol Chef Wang has a better ring to it… or just WANG.

I’ve started working at an American Contemporary restaurant called Epic. I think this place will be a great stepping stone for my career. Hopefully in the summer, I will be attending the Boulangerie (bread) program at The French Pastry School. I’m really excited to get my hands on some dough!

Gingerbread display I helped build at the Marriott Magnificent Mile. Just to give you an idea of how big it is, the trees in the very back are 13 ft high.

Gingerbread display I helped build at the Marriott Magnificent Mile. Just to give you an idea of how big it is, the trees in the very back are 13 ft high.

SPECULOOS! <3 

I apologize for my lack of updating. I just have been really really busy. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve been lazy and semi busy. I’m also dedicating this post to Speculoos. The first time I ever tried speculoos cookies was in Europe at a quaint coffee shop. It was really delicious, but I never really thought about it again. Then one day at my Belgium friends place I ran into speculoos spread, which I had every morning before work on bread with bananas. One time I even woke up and couldn’t find it in the fridge. I thought to myself… “he must have hid it from me”. Yes, it is that good. Thus, starting my addiction to speculoos. Thanks Phat Piron!

So things that I haven’t been updating you on… We did plated desserts about 3 weeks ago, had exams, and am currently in chocolate candies class right now. I’ve been working on a huge massive gingerbread display at the Marriott that will be unveiled this Friday! I was only a small part of the project (very small) but really enjoyed to see the process from beginning to end. Hopefully I’ll post photos by the end of the week. I won an amateur brownie competition and took home a red kitchen aid. Here’s the link for photos. School is over in one month! I can’t believe how fast it all went by and how much I have learned! It’s going to be sad sad day when the dream stream splits and disperses all over the world.

My competition brownies.

Mocha Brownie Bars with a Speculoos Crust, Bourbon Caramel, and Spiced Pecans.

Pictures from Plated Desserts:

Chef En Ming Hsu, World Pastry Champion teaching us how to make quenelles with ice cream.

Roasted Pineapple, mango sorbet, pineapple chip

Vanilla Souffle

Vanilla Chiboust with berry mix and honey wheat tuille

Poached plums, with pipeable linzers, spiced ice cream, and florentine tuille

Creme Caramel (flan)

Pear Financier with honey ice cream and a pear chip.

Almond flan with berry soup and a florentine tuile

Cappucino Creme Brulee, with a almond pistachio biscotti, chantilly cream, and chocolate cream.

Verrine of chocolate cream, lemon cream, chocolate streussel.

Crouquembouche

Master Demo on Entremets with World Pastry Champion, Chef Dimitri Fayard.

Mango Coconut Entremet aka Exotic.

Chef Dimitri with all of his cakes.

d0lcevitaa asked: hello~ i noticed your attending French Pastry school! im fresh out of high school and i just finished applying :)

that’s great! It will be a great experience for you! Best of luck!

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for ICE CREAM!

I know, I know… the title is cheesy….super cheesy…. Give me a break though, the title is perfect! Although, we weren’t screaming for ice cream after the end of the week. We usually need a salt lick after class.

The ice cream section of school really brought me back to Coldstone Creamery days. Oh the good ol days for sure. The fun days of making ice cream all day.. making cakes all day… good memories. Never thought that I would be using skills that I learned from my high school job.

I finally can make a wonderful ice cream and sorbet base! I can really start to put my ice cream machine to work!

We made 4 different ice cream cakes. 3 pictured and the Pineapple surprise cake not pictured.

The Pineapple surprise cake has a raspberry coulis, candied pinapple, and pineapple sorbet all inside a pineapple! Surprise!!!!!! Unfortunately, I have not cut into any of my cakes because I’m waiting to cut them when the friends get here!

Next cake has vanilla parfait, raspberry coulis, sablee dough, chocolate ice cream, covered with chocolate spray.

Next one is the wood grain cake (because of the pattern on the side of the cake). This has pistachio ice cream, chocolate ice cream, hazelnut dacquoise, caramelized hazelnuts. Decorated with a wood grain chocolate design, chocolate spray, hazelnuts and red currants.

This we are working on plated desserts! A very important section in school, especially if you want to work in restaurants.

Sugar Sugar Sugar!

Sooo much sugar……!

Sorry for the delay in posts. I had exams a couple weeks ago and decided to post when our sugar candy class was over. We just finished our week of sugar candies class. Going into it, I wasn’t sure how I would like it. It actually turned out to be fun and easier than I had expected. The only struggle that comes along with candy making is getting the temperature exactly where you want it. It makes the world of difference.. If you want a hard caramel cook it to a higher temperature. If you want a soft caramel.. cook it to a lower temperature. I forgot how fickle temperature can be sometimes. It’s at 100 celcius for 5 minutes then jumps to 118+ in a matter of seconds. Note: always keep an eye on your thermometer.

Guimauve: aka marshmallows. Will I ever by store bought marshmallows again? Probably not. These are not as sweet and a lot better. I didn’t think I would like them, but sugar candies class has proved me wrong on many levels.

What is the best thing in the world??? Pate de fruit. (pronounced: patuh fwee) They are along the lines of gummy candies, but not as gummy and better tasting. This one is passion fruit.

I also didn’t think I would enjoy eating caramels, but I was wrong again! Silky, smooth caramel. ohhhhhh yeahhhhhhhhhh

Chocolate caramels: I didn’t enjoy these as much as the regular caramels. They are a little on the bitter side, but still tasty.

Mint Pastille! aka mint candies. Don’t they look like little Mancala stones? Lol. I brought the class back to the days of Mancala and even suggested to play with our mint pastilles. How awesome would that be if you want all the mancala “stones” and got to eat them?!?!?! New invention coming soon.

Strawberry lemon marshmallows. I thought they were cute, but definitely did not enjoy the taste.

Nougat. (pronounced: Nougah) with pistachio and almonds. Soooo good.

Raspberry Gummies (the french call them gums for some reason). I could have ate the whole bag, but gave it away as fast as i could.

Orange Lollipops! Yummy!

Chef Della pulling sugar for hard candies.

My partner Maura Denenberg aka Mushy Deneturd pulling sugar like nobody’s business.

Our awesome hard candies that we put together! Raspberry Apple.

For first timers, we did a pretty good job mixing the two flavors together to get this awesome ribbon effect.

Chef Della put together an example of a sweet table. Let me know if you want me to make one for an event! Taking orders now………..

Not pictured: Raspberry pate de fruit, black current pate de fruit, caramel with pecans, chocolate nougat, and apple hard candies.

This week we are starting ice cream and sorbets! I had to clear out my freezer and threw away so much stuff. =(

What Would You Do if You Knew You Could Not Fail?

So I was walking to school one morning down Michigan Ave and kept walking by these motivational balloons that really uplifted my spirit for the week.

"What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"

If I had this mind set throughout the 24 years of my life, I think I would have accomplished more than I can imagine. Thankfully, I am now currently doing something I love and I don’t even care if I fail. Will I let that happen though? HELL NO.

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I have been busy with a new bundle of love in my life. No, not a baby, but a kitten! Meet Pumpkin, my new furball of love. She likes to jump in the fridge. lol

The past 2 weeks we have been making entremet cakes. Entremet, meaning in between meals. Usually something sweet and refreshing to cleanse the palate. Intermezzos (the name of my blog) has the same meaning also. All entremets have some type of mousse in the cake.

I’m really enjoying this section of the class. I think that all the recipes are ones that I will really play around with to create my own concoctions. Many of the recipes are simple to make, but so complex in flavors.

The first entremet cake we made was a Pistachio Passion Fruit Cake with Nougat Mousse.

Bottom to top: Pistachio dacquoise, apricot passion gelee, pistachio dacquoise, nougat mousse.

Second cake was a Coconut Passion fruit cake

Bottom to Top: Coconut dacquoise, passion fruit mousse, candied pineapple, coconut dacquoise, coconut mousse.

Third cake is my favorite and most decadent. World Cup Cake.

Before glazing.

Layers Bottom to top: Hazelnut dacquoise with caramelized hazelnuts, hazelnut mousse, chocolate biscuit, chocolate mousse, mirror glaze.

Yes, this cake is heaven in your mouth. No joke.

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