Sorry for the delayed post – due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy I was not able to post this when I originally wanted to.
It is rare that I am able to take a vacation, so as soon as Beth and I got the idea to travel to Prague I was excited. While you can view the trip as a getaway from the city, it was much more meaningful to the both of us. I was on mission to taste all things pastry and coffee and she wanted to dissect the wondrous city before her for a book she is currently writing. It was our first adventure together.
There is true nothing better than a nice flaky pastry for breakfast except for multiple pastries to start your day. The biggest challenge for me was to eat everything without overeating. Okay, maybe I am making this expedition sound a bit more difficult than what it really was. I love to eat, so my research was quite easy. The first night I knew I had to have dessert (a breakfast pastry at night) and that is when I stumbled across Krusta. This lovely little bakery chain had lovely preserves, jams, and spreads. They also had an out of this world black sesame pastry.
A small taste of local baking.
A pleasant silence. I couldn’t speak after tasting the black sesame.
Bakeries were not the only locations I had in mind during my tasting tour. Prague has such wonderful markets – and when there’s markets, there are bakers. We woke up extra early every day to ensure a visit to the marketplace and honestly who could blame us?
Prague is gorgeous and is filled with a deep, rich sense of culture. I recommend anyone who likes travelling to add this city to your list.
These are a few questions I have been asked last month and figured why not share my answers with the interwebs.
What chefs inspire you? Where do you seek inspiration? What do you want to with your career? All these questions and I am still figuring out the answers.
*Any passionate chef inspires me. As long as they cook/bake with love and care about the quality of the ingredients being used. I mean what’s not to be inspired by?
*To be honest, I look at people like my fanatastic friend, Samantha, for inspiration. She is currently working a premiere bakery in New York City and has even bigger dreams. We literally talk about food and dessert 90% of the time. Sam is someone who is self taught and is extremely talented. She once asked me about my culinary school experience – Do I find it valuable? Is it necessary? My answer is yes and no. I found my experience in culinary school to be extremely valuable; demanding lessons and great networking opportunities. But when it comes to being necessary my answer wavers a bit. In the food, like any other, industry experience seems to be just as valuable as education. As long as you apply yourself and work under the right people, I think you can bypass culinary school (however you’ll be missing out on many perks). Sam is known for her colorful personality and has a great future ahead of her!
*There are many things I want to do once my career reaches the level I am aiming to take it. However, at this point in time I can not say.
P.S. The minimalist graphic design approach also influences my outlook on pastry.
“Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.” – Simone Weil
Imagine what real life would be like without imagination? Without people expanding their minds, seeing past the stars, the concept of creativity would not exist. This can be applied to any creative medium. Imagine a world without poetry, music, photography, or food… not a pretty place. When people embrace imagination, people create, and when people create the world benefits.
My latest project in culinary school was to design a chocolate showpiece. Instead of following the trend of using American elements to compose our showpiece, my partner and I decided to side with the French. We used very organic looking shapes to represent our 101 Dalmatians (our project’s theme was Disney movies) concept. What I like most about our piece is its simplicity. Every piece present is clean, eye catching, and not too busy. While complexity is not necessarily a bad thing, there’s just something special about a simple and effective design.
It was truly a pleasure to witness my entire class use their imagination to create chocolate showpieces representing their favorite childhood movies.
Believe it or not, but my pastry program is almost over. Months of sweet, delectable knowledge is stored in my head and can be brought to life with my hands. With that being said, I have been dipping my fingers in chocolate for the past month.
In the beginning, I could not stand tempering (the process of melting and raising the temperature) chocolate. It was time consuming, messy, and well… boring. Although I understood the importance of the tempering process, my classes dragged. That all changed once I tasted the finished candies. There’s something special about eating chocolate that is shiny (and that contains sea salt).
That does not mean out of temper chocolate is not delicious (and cool looking)!
I am currently working on a showpiece with my partner, Danielle, and needless to say it has been a challenge. You never know what is going to break until it does. Our theme is 101 Dalmatians and I must admit I love the direction we are taking it in. We are combining the organic flowiness (not a real word) of French showpieces opposed to the blocky (also not a real word) American style. I am a big fan of symbolism, so this should be a fun ride.
To see more pictures of my chocolate adventure, follow me on Twitter and Tumblr.
Who here likes coffee? I sure do.
Coffee is one of the most important things in my life. Aside from being one my favorite research topics, it helps me focus on assignments and carry on throughout my busy schedule. Whether its late night sketching out dessert ideas or early morning hours baking breakfast pastries, chances are there’s a cup of coffee by my side (although I have been really enjoying cortados lately).
A few weeks ago, an unexpected event happened during one of my espresso bar/coffee shop outings. What happened exactly? Well… I had a chance to meet and chat with a well known coffee guru and wonderful coffee shop owner. The man is a genius and I am pretty sure he’s going to blow up New York’s coffee scene within the next few months. While chatting about coffee, Mets loyalty, and an array of other topics, he hinted contacting him for a job. My heart dropped due to over excitement and I did exactly what he asked of me. The rest was history; within a week I was training and loving each minute.
For the first time, I was training under someone who knows coffee and I was able to make sense of topics I read about (as well as learn things that are not in books). It was like when Luke Skywalker met Yoda for the first time, I was determined to take in as much knowledge as possible. However, another opportunity opened presented itself (I’ll explain in a later post) and I was forced to say farewell (sadly) to my newly caffeinated job.
In the end, the shop will still continue to set the bar for artisan coffee and New York City will be happier place thanks to them. Unfortunately, the life of a pastry chef (in training) is an unstable one with long hours, countless amounts of trials, and difficult decisions.
I could not be happier with my life and I will never let an opportunity pass me by.