All’s well that ends well

‘All’s well that ends well’ was first published on, March 27, 2015

Ta-da! Je suis une chef qui fait la pâtisserie (I am a chef who makes pastry). I have to write it like that because I’m still not sure what I should be calling myself in French. As a woman, I thought it should be the female form of pâtissier—’pâtissière’, which according to a French educational website, is correct. But then the French teacher at school said that is the wife of a pâtissier and the various people I’ve asked have given differing answers…so here I am: Je suis un chef qui fait la pâtisserie!

Graduation day from French Pastry Arts at ENSP has come and gone, but before that came the last weeks of class and exams. It was action packed, and more so because some wedding cake fanatics in the class decided to convince the program organisers that ‘we all’ wanted extra days of wedding cake classes. So the second last week was five days of labs, one from that lasted from 09:00 until 20:00 and two which were from 06:00 until 20:00…zzz

After the Mock Exam we had the remainder of the week in Mixed Skills and then it was on to another week of bread making. Ahh bread…chocolate bread, grainy bread, wholemeal bread, baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolate with orange, curry bread, chorizo bread, herb bread, ciabatta…seriously we had two pages of different fillings and toppings for one section of bread. My favourite of the week would have to be the Brioche Royale: basically a sweet bread with glacé fruits. I seriously hope I can re-produce this without the industrial sized petrin (a huge mixer, something like a KitchenAid only it stands on the floor and comes up to chest height).

Then it was another week of Mixed Skills. I requested to make a traditional Tarte Tropezienne for Wendy over at Le Franco Phoney: awesome. ‘It’s old fashion’ said Chef, but it’s delicious…I’m remembering it as I write and I want a slice! It’s funny—what the Chefs think as ‘old fashion’, the customers love and still continue to buy. The decorations that the chefs think old fashion, other countries would think amazing as they’re not used to it. Fashion changes so quickly on the land of patisserie.

After Mixed Skills it was the Final Exam and Graduation! For the exam I wasn’t as nervous as I had been for the Mock Exam. I felt that I’d practised everything and had a good knowledge of what was needed; it being exactly the same as the Mock, which had gone well. I gave my nemesis, chocolate, a few turns on the marble the day before and all during Mixed Skills week and I tempered every time. All seemed good.

And so Exam Day dawned

We had it in the afternoon and it was unfortunately supervised by the same chef I had my chocolate meltdown in front of…it started off badly and went on from there. Actually, I didn’t realise it had started until I saw someone going to get flour while I was sipping a cup of Berocca, and then the panic set in. I had to temper chocolate four times to get everything done (it kept going out of temper) and at one point while observing my messy bench with dismay I apprehensively asked the chef if my chocolate failed, would I, too?! But it didn’t and I didn’t. In the end my chocolates turned out well. Aside from the chocolates pretty much everything was a disaster that turned out well, not sure how but I managed to bring everything around in the end and finished 15 minutes early. Even my croissants, which were slightly crispy due to the oven suddenly gaining temperature during baking, were lovely inside. My Mock Exam was so much better, but all’s well that ends well.

Graduation Day

Once the exam was all over it was on to preparation for the Graduation Day. We were asked to make something savoury from our home countries, but using some of the skills we’d learnt in class. I had no idea what to make…if it was something sweet from OZ I could think of 100 different things, but savoury without local ingredients? Party pies and sausage rolls using puff pastry?! Boring! I came up with a few ideas using macadamia nuts and kangaroo meat which you can buy here…at least in Lyon you can, but not in the middle of France, out in the sticks, so it was back to the drawing board. Then I decided to make it easy and make something Greek for my other half. Feta. Feta is good.

Graduation morning rolled around and I ran to school with my chocolate and crème free uniform hanging from one arm, ready for pictures. I ran into the labs to do the finishing touches to the Feta and Thyme Filo Parcels with Honey and Sesame Seeds and the Feta and Caramelised Onion Tarts I’d made for the day.

All of the girls in the class packed into the the lounge with their respective family and friends to hear the speeches from the programs manager and the chefs. The programs manager gave a very thoughtful speech about being an international community and what that means, but I think that those people in the class who needed to think about it didn’t get it. Anyway, one-by-one our names were read out and we received our certificates and grades and had our pictures taken. Two awards were given for the course—for the person with the best over all mark and for the person who was most improved. The latter award went to a very deserving member of the class who came a long way for this course and didn’t know as much as the rest of us, someone who stuck with it no matter what people in the class said and she passed in the end. I’m very happy for her.

Then it was over. Class dismissed! Nibbles and a natter with the deserving people and staff and off we went out in to the real world, back to reality where the pettiness that ensured over the course of five months will no longer exist and where we can hone our skills in patisserie and become what ever we want! Bring it on!