A Public Service Announcement
I often get comments from friends, family, and even strangers who think that culinary students just jump into the kitchen to cook all day and never crack open a book or do any kind of homework. First of all, standing in the kitchen and cooking all day would be more than enough, but culinary school is much more demanding than that. In addition to reading, tests, and the occasional paper, this is some of the homework I’ve done in the past few weeks.
I’ve had to temper chocolate in my microwave and make these wavy chocolate coins.
I’ve had to pipe veritable oceans of cake borders.
We tenderly refer to this pipeable substance as “goop.” (It’s 1 part water and 10 parts shortening, hence the grease stains on my piping board.)
I’ve had to write countless “Happy Birthday!”s in piping gel and chocolate. I’ve made seven or eight tremendously ugly marzipan roses… there’s a reason I didn’t take a picture of those.
Then we moved on to filigree patterns that you might pipe atop petit fours, which are small, fondant-dipped cakes that have occupied far too much of my time during this past week. One thing I have learned very quickly is that the smaller the item you are producing, the more time it takes to make it and the less time it takes for someone to pop the whole thing in their mouth.
Did I mention that you have to pipe the chocolate while it is at a very specific temperature, through a very small hole in a very small bag? And all of your designs have to look exactly the same.
Finally, chocolate is maybe the most annoying product you can work with in the bakeshop. It’s messy, it’s high maintenance, and it doesn’t respond well when you take shortcuts. One of my chef instructors told us that he has been trying to trick chocolate for thirty years, and the chocolate has always won. But it looks pretty when it’s piped, so here we are, practicing our piping after working a 13- or 14-hour day.
And with my piping board ready to turn in for evaluation the next morning, I pretty much collapse into bed at night. So for anyone who is still dubious: culinary school can be a lot of fun, but it’s not all fun and games. Think about that the next time you pop a petit four in your mouth–I know I will!