Monday, September 30, 2013

Year 1: Pastry School

by student blogger Morgan

I'm sitting in the kitchen of the house I'm staying in during my externship enjoying a big beautiful homemade bowl of chili and a hunk of buttermilk cornbread - loving life, in case that wasn't clear. Things are going great so far and it has gotten me thinking back on my first year of pastry school, and how I can't believe that in one short year from this moment I'll have graduated. One of the hardest things for me to grasp as a prospective student (and during orientation) was what my schedule was going to look like and what my classes were going to look like. I thought we could take a brief trip down memory lane and recap my first year at the CIA to break our complicated schedule down in a clear way.

**This is my pastry prospective, but if you're planning on doing the culinary side, your schedule will be the same, just insert culinary wherever it says pastry**

First Semester: (15 weeks)
  • Baking and Pastry Techniques (15 weeks)
  • Baking Ingredients and Equipment Tech (10 weeks)
  • Freshman Seminar (12 weeks) 
  • Food Safety (6 weeks)
  • Culinary Math (6 weeks)
  • Nutrition (6 weeks)
  • Intro to Gastronomy (6 weeks)

Baking and Pastry Techniques, fondly referred to as "fundies" (for fundamentals), lasts your entire first semester and is two days a week from 2:00pm-8:30pm. In this class I met my wonderful classmates for the first time, took my first skills tests and set the tone for the rest of my year. Fundies is meant to be the basic level, but we worked our behinds off making our basic level perfect. There was a lot of reading, a lot of studying and a lot of demonstration/note taking. We worked as partners through each of the mixing methods, baking principals and decorating techniques of pastry before finishing the class with three weeks of production rotations. Rotations were definitely the toughest part of the class and the first time in the program where the pace was cranked up and my class functioned like a little bakery. At the end of the day our tables were filled with sweets:

On the other two days of my week (That's right, no usual class on Monday during your first semester. Only the occasional Special Projects Day or make up Friday holiday) I was in my academic courses. One was product knowledge class once a week which is called Baking Ingredients and Equipment Tech (BIET= Buy-it) for pastry students. It lasted almost my entire semester and it was one of my favorite classes. There was also a lot of reading and studying involved but that was the general first semester theme. I learned so much about distinguishing ingredients and the science behind baking in BIET. Plus almost every day we got a tray filled with things to taste or got to do a fun experiment.

Freshman seminar lasted almost the entire semester and was just an intro lecture class to the CIA and what kind of opportunities you have available to you as a student. The structure of the class varies depending on which instructor you have but they are all only once a week. My next four classes were split up into pairs and I took two the first half of my semester and two the second. These are the classes that you may be able to transfer credit for and place out of if you've done a culinary program in high school or taken college classes before. First up was Food Safety and Math, followed by Gastronomy and Nutrition. All four are two days a week, in the morning. My gastronomy class was hands down one of the most interesting college classes I have ever taken and I think that was mostly because my professor, Maureen Costura, completely rocked. Look forward to that one! For more pictures of the food from first semester, check out my other blog here.

Second Semester: 5 Three-week classes (15 weeks) + 2 academic
  • Cafe Savory (3 weeks)
  • Art and Design (3 weeks)
  • Basic and Classical Cakes (3 weeks)
  • Individual Production Pastries (3 weeks)
  • Hearth Breads and Rolls (3 weeks)
  • College Writing (12 weeks)
  • Intro to Business Management (6 weeks)
Second semester was a lot easier to wrap my head around and get into a routine. For the most part, my classes were Monday through Friday 2:00pm-8:30pm. For the first six weeks you'll have two extra classes two days a week, Writing and Mangement. These two functioned similarly schedule-wise to my academic classes from first semester. One class was Tuesday/Wednesday and the other was Thursday/Friday in the morning, then I went to my long class after lunch at 2. It sounds like a really long day, but I really got used to it quickly. 

The production classes of second semester were where I really started to learn and expand my depth as a chef. In cafe savory we got to look in to the other side of the kitchen and practice knife cuts, soups and stocks, and basic comfort foods. 

Next we moved into the studio for Art and Design and went a little airbrush crazy...we worked on projects like designing our own logos, hand making silicon molds for chocolate and creating a feature dessert menu.

And then came the long-awaited return to the bakeshop for Basic and Classical cakes with Chef Schorner. We strapped back on our aprons and worked in partners again baking and decorating our way through cakes that have stood the test of time like the Black Forrest cake and a Charlotte Russe. You think you can't enjoy a class more than cakes class, but then you go to IPP (Individual Production Pastries) and make these:

IPP was my favorite class for many reasons, but most of all because I learned the most technique in that class. It was so fast paced and jam packed with complicated desserts that tasted SO good. We worked in teams of four and had units on five types of individual French pastry: layered cakes, petite gateaux, petite fours, verrines, tarts and pate a choux. The class ended with a two-day dessert buffet project in which every team was assigned four desserts to mass produce and present like so:

We also took our second term practical during IPP that took up the last three days of the course. Being on the other side of it now, the practical is a lot more stressful in the moment than it really needs to be because everyone gets so worked up. It is timed -which causes the most stress- but other than that it is nothing you haven't done before and nothing that you can't pass if you do your best. My best advice is to stay calm, plan a LOT in advance, and trust your instincts.

Breads was our last stop before my class all moved out and went our separate ways for externship. Compared to IPP, this class is relaxing and an easy-going pace. I had never baked bread commercially before so it was a complete learning experience for me and a tasty one at that. I can't complain about a class that provided me with a warm-out-of-the-oven homemade danish to eat every single day...

And that's a wrap on year one! Time flies when you're having a blast, and pastry school really can't get any better in my opinion. More details to come on my externship experience very soon!

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