Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Stage - week 1

As I mentioned before, part of the pastry course at ESCF also involves a 3-6 month "stage" (work experience/internship), which was organised for us by school. Where we decided to do a stage was a decision reached between each student and chef. To be honest, I wasn't really sure where I wanted to go, just to a patisserie or shop as I myself would like to start my own business one day and therefore wanted to experience that kind of environment first hand. Chef had told us that it was difficult to place us in shops as most of them close in the summer so in a way, I was very lucky to have got my stage. I won't spill the beans yet as to where I am doing my stage but it is a very prestigious place and the name is known amongst pastry connoisseurs around the world - should be enough hints!! To be honest, I was a little shocked that chef suggested the place for me considering that the previous stagiaire he had sent there was top of his Anglopat class, I never thought I would've been good enough to go? 

Anyhoo, I was off to my stage the Monday after graduation - a bit of a shock to the system as I had to be in work at 6am....doesn't sound that early but getting up at 4:30am prolly sounds a little more impressive :)

My first day (I found out later) was actually quite quiet and the lab was operating with a reduced staff - a lot of helping out people with tasks. It was OK but a little confusing having to adapt to a new environment and remembering what everyone tells you.

The rest of the week was a different kettle of fish. The lab was buzzing with activity, everyone has their head down getting on with the tasks ahead, all to be performed with precision and lightning speed. The chef in charge was the one whom I had my "interview" with - at that time, he had given me the impression that he was a "no bullshit" kinda guy. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw him in action in the lab - all fine and dandy but it seemed a shame and ironic to me being that miserable when you spend all day making pastries that will give other people a lot of pleasure.  Also, it was blatantly obvious that his attitude directly reflects what the atmosphere of the lab is like so maybe not the most pleasant of places to work, there is no talking/banter.....even when people are on break! I must add though that at least here, the environment is what you see is what you get, believe me, the fake backstabbing office politics kind of environment is far worse and for me, the worst kind of bullshit. I realised quickly that if the chef stays quiet in the lab, it means you are doing a good job so based on that, I had a pretty good week.

I spent most of the week doing a lot of mise-en-place and setting some personal records for myself all of which I related to my body weight......chopping my body weight in lychees, squeezing my body weight in lemon juice, grinding my body weight in pistachios, grating my body weight in Parmesan, you get the picture :) 
Not exactly interesting stuff but I get the feeling that the people are prolly just checking me out and seeing what I can do/if I will crack, etc. - whatever floats their boat, doesn't really bother me cos I'm here to learn and better myself :)

I was also lucky enough to be working the same shift as the other Anglopat stagiaire which meant someone to have a chinwag with during breaks (in English,  a luxury!). Its been good to get the lowdown on what to expect for the next few months - he finishes up at the end of the month and has been fortunate to have been able to do a lot more than your average stagiaire (including an impressive demo of potential new products in front of the big boss!) so maybe there's hope for me?

So, am I enjoying my stage? Its OK but hasn't been very exciting and this is mostly due to the fact that I haven't really seen any final product and I never like it when I can't see what I'm working towards. The people have been fine, happy to answer questions when I ask them but I haven't made any bosom buddies yet - maybe the language barrier doesn't help either. The real plus has been being able to see how production works and all the things one needs to consider if really opening a shop,  a real eye opener. 

I'm off to the other shop next week where it is all "finition", ie. building and finishing cakes which should hopefully, be a little more interesting.

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