Surviving Patisserie School–Life in a French village Part 2

‘Surviving Patisserie School–Life in a French village Part 2’ was first published on, September 2, 2015

This is becoming like a ‘Rough Guides’ to Yssingeaux! Here is some more information about life in the village because, as you’ve probably guessed by now, it’s virtually impossible for me to write a paragraph about something, I have to write an essay…why did I ever think that a blog was a good idea? Maybe I should just write that book that people are always telling me to write, but then knowing me, I would end up like Douglas Adams and write a trilogy of five books


Restaurants/bars/cafes etc

There are lots of places to eat, drink and be merry in the village when you’re not hard at work at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie, as you’ll find out. However, just to give you an idea of what’s in town I’ll tell you about a few places. You have to keep an eye on opening times because everything closes early, except for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Most places are in the centre-ville and there are many options around Place du Maréchal Foch. There are a couple of more formal places, but generally I just wanted to take it easy when I went out after classes so I didn’t check them out, though I kept meaning to! Here are a few of the more casual places, oh and there’s always McDonald’s near SuperU if you can be bothered walking to it!

The Kebab House
Place du Maréchal Foch, 43200 Yssingeaux
Let’s start with the most chilled. The Kebab House owner/operator is very nice, the kebabs are pretty good and sometimes it’s the only thing actually open in the village—take a loyalty card.

7 Avenue de la Marne, 43200 Yssingeaux
The other option for being open when everything else is closed is the amusingly named L’Open. It claims to be a pizza restaurant, but honestly, the pizza tastes like it’s freezer-pizza, so try the other things on the menu which are good. It’s also a big place, so there’s usually room.

Le Flo
8 Boulevard Saint-Pierre, 43200 Yssingeaux
They staff are very friendly, food is nice and it’s tucked away in a corner behind a mural so it’s sometimes has room when everything else is full. I always found the chef and staff friendly and up for a chat, but it can close if there’s not much business.

La Comedia
32 Rue du Maréchal Fayolle, 43200 Yssingeaux
It probably has the best pizza in the village and a nice atmosphere.

Le San Jordi
1 Boulevard Saint-Pierre, 43200 Yssingeaux
I didn’t even know the name of this place until I just looked it up because I just called it the ‘Sandwicherie’ which is says on the sign and is may be a play on words! It’s very ‘budget friendly’, but the food is ok and the portions are huge…frites, frites, frites. They also have a loyalty card and the people are nice.

There are several bars and cafes in town, but as usual check the opening times! Most of the places are along Place du Maréchal Foch and there are some I’m not mentioning because I can’t remember their names! Here are a few options:

Cine Lux
5 Rue Blanc, 43200 Yssingeaux
This is a small bar in the centre, but I just checked and it says it’s permanently closed, so check out if it’s still there or not because it was in March 2015! It’s pretty much opposite the Kebab House in town. It somehow ended up with the nickname ‘the pirate bar’.

Bar Lupa
Place du Maréchal Foch, 43200 Yssingeaux
This bar has a great selection of beers, especially Belgian beers. It gets pretty busy, but isn’t too bad. I seem to remember there was a bit of a ‘locker room’ theme going on in the back…

Central Bar
Place du Maréchal Foch, Yssingeaux, Auvergne
Central Bar does good coffee and has a wide selection of drinks. The owners are really friendly, welcoming and will let you practice your French! When the weather is warmer, they expand across the road and the centre is filled with people relaxing and chatting in the sun.

Les Gourmand’Yss
20 Place Carnot, 43200 Yssingeaux
When I was there 2014/2015 it was a cafe/bar, but their blog looks like it used to sell regional foods. However, the people who have it now are really friendly, speak some English, make good drinks and play retro music—love it.

Bar a Boss
Place de la Victoire, Yssingeaux, Auvergne
I walked by it all the time, but I never went…they always played sports on the big screen.

There are further options if you wander for 15-20minutes down Avenue du Huit Mai 1945/D988 to Planète Bowling where there’s a bar, karaoke, bowling, pool tables (billiards) and other games as well as a pizzeria, but I never actually sampled the food. Beyond the bowling there’s a big bar/restaurant called Le Canne a Sucs and they do a fine burger, and then the infamous Kripton nightclub…which is really just another nightclub, but fun if you want to dance…

Planète Bowling
Lieu-Dit la Guide, 43200 Yssingeaux

Brasserie la Canne A Sucs
ZI la Guide, 43200 Yssingeaux

The Kripton
ZI la Guide, 43200 Yssingeaux

There is a lot of walking to be done in and around the village and the best thing to do is just get out on a lovely day and wander. There are often beautiful sunrises/sunsets so take the time to climb one of the hills to see. One walk that I did often with my dog was to climb the hill with the cross on it. This is what I usually did:

Walk along Avenue de la Marne as if you were going out of town.
Turn right into Avenue Mal de Vaux.
Turn right onto Rue Louis Jouvet and then head up the hill. It can get a bit steep, so watch out in the snow! Once at the top, there’s a lovely panoramic view over the village, the chateau school and beyond.
Try going down on the opposite side of the hill and come out on Rue Jean de Bourbon. Follow that around and turn right onto Chemin de Saint-Roch then turn left when you come to Rue Saint-Roch et voilà! You’ll be back in the centre of the village!

Another nice good walk was to go up the hill behind the school—a really lovely walk amid the trees! It’s probably a good idea to try it when it’s dry because there seem to be a lot of heavy vehicles that go up there.  It’s also possible to walk along La Siaulme, the little river that you cross when walking or driving to the school.

The school organised my place for me just outside the centre circle of the village and I was lucky enough to have an apartment on my own. If you end up with the apartment on Rue de l’Éternité, then you’ll be in my old digs! And you can benefit from me having cleaned the walls of that place because, let me tell you, it was a little grey when I moved in… It’s a basic, older style apartment, but it does the job for five months and, as someone who saw a lot of interesting student housing situations when studying her undergraduate degrees, this place was heaven in comparison! Here are a few tips about the place.

If the neighbours on the first floor are still the same ones as when I was there—I’m assuming they are—they’re the type of French people who adhere very strongly to the ‘no noise after 22h’ rule. I found this out when I left the apartment with some people at 22:30 one night and laughed and then found a “make no noise after 22h” Google translated sign on the door the next morning. It became a bit of a joke, even with the landlord of my apartment who laughed and said I should only tip-toe around the apartment. Speaking of noise: I hope you have some ear plugs as there is a ‘water hammer’ issue in the bathroom which is next to the bedroom and will wake you up every time the aforementioned neighbours use a tap until you get used to it! Hmm what else…oh if you’re there in the winter, you’ll have to keep the heaters on low all day otherwise you’ll freeze and note how the temperature changes as you ascended or descended the steep stairs! ..oh yeah, the stairs! Have fun with those!
The best thing about the apartment was the view from the kitchen and lounge room over the village and to the hills in the distance when the sun was setting…lovely!

Most of the other apartments the students had were  of a similar or better quality, although sizes varied. Everyone had internet access, heating and cooking facilities and most had a washing machine and really, it’s only five months and most of the time you’ll be cooking up a storm at school!

So that’s enough rambling for now. I hope it’s helpful! Enjoy your time in Yssingeaux if you decide to take a course at ENSP.

Surviving Patisserie School–Life in a French village Part 1

‘Surviving Patisserie School–Life in a French village Part 1’ was first published on, September 1, 2015

I’m going to write some posts I actually meant to write while I was still at school or just after I’d finished, but I never got around to doing it. Now it suddenly dawned on me that in a few short weeks it will be one whole year since I left for Yssingeaux to start at Ecole National Supérieur de la Patisserie (ENSP).

I want to tell you about what there is in Yssingeaux. When I was researching I had a lot of decisions to make. Should I go to an international school or should I try my luck at the local school and do a CAP in French? Should I go to Paris, Rouen or Yssingeaux? I tried researching ENSP and only found a few blog posts and a little information in English. Most of the information I found was about the day-to-day course activities and what people made during class, but I wanted to know what it would be like to live in a small village in the middle of France for five months. What was there, what would I have to do while I was there, would I be bored, would it be ok without a car, could I get in and out easily? I like to be prepared! So here, for people researching, let me tell you a little about it: what the village is like, what is available, how to get in and out and more from my perspective.

Yssingeaux, Auvergne, France
Pronunciation is something like: Ey-sen-jzew

Yssingeaux is a pretty village of about 6000-7000 people in the Auvergne region of France. It has all the things you’ll need for day-to-day living: shops, pharmacies, post office, hairdressers, doctors, gym etc. If you have a car it’ll be great because the surrounding countryside is lovely and is good to explore! The people are generally friendly and you shouldn’t be worried about being a foreigner in the centre of France because in such a small town it’s obvious that you’re from the international program and the locals will welcome you.

If you are a French Pastry Arts student you will be living in the village which is convenient for life outside school (unless the school has organised accommodation closer to their facilities or on site!). It’s roughly a 15-minute walk from the village to the school, depending on where you live. Once you leave the centre-ville to walk toward the school along Rue Alsace Lorraine there are no shops, so you have to take your lunch etc with you. There’s no public transport in the village, either, so pack your comfy shoes and remember that you’ll be walking off all the goodness you make and eat in class!

To and from the village
Yssingeaux is kind of in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t have a car, it may seem isolating, but it’s not really. There are a few options for transport to and from the village.

The closest train station is at Retournac which is about 13kms and 20-30mins by car from Yssingeaux. You can take a taxi from the village to the train station for anywhere up to €30, depending on the time of day. Best thing to do is to split the fare with others going to the station.

If you’re like me and you prefer to be more independent, you can catch the bus straight from the Yssingeaux to other villages, to Le Puy-en-Velay (highly recommend a visit) or to Saint-Étienne. Once in Saint-Étienne, you can pick up trains to Lyon and many other places. It’s also more direct, scenic, hassle-free and I think it’s cheaper than taking the train. You can buy tickets on the bus and don’t worry about missing the stop on the way back because it stops in Yssingeaux for some time before continuing. Oh and the bus stop is right near the Lidl supermarket!

On this link to the Haute-Loire Department website, you can see the No.30 Le Puy en Velay–Le Pertuis–Yssingeaux–Saint Etienne line which is the bus that goes to Saint-Étienne Chateaucreux, the main station in Saint-Étienne. The only problem is that it only goes there once a day at 15:35 in the afternoon; however, many others go to Saint-Étienne-Bellevue, where you can also pick up trains to Lyon etc.

Practical things
There are two main supermarkets, two discount supermarkets and a mini-supermarket in the centre, which conveniently closes for lunch until about 15:30…I don’t think any of them are open on Sunday, except for the mini-supermarket, that could be open. The larger ones are on the other side of the village to the school, so it can be a fair hike to get to them, depending on where you stay in the village, but it’s not too bad.

Tip: if you’re in the winter group, have a few supplies in case it snows and after class it’s too much effort to go shopping!

Intermarché—Medium sized, normal supermarket
Route de Retournac, 43200 Yssingeaux
Open Monday–Saturday 08:30–19:30

Super U—Big supermarket/department store
Villeneuve, 43200 Yssingeaux
Open Monday–Saturday 08:30–19:30

Lidl —Discount supermarket—you won’t be able to do all your shopping here, but they have most things.
Chemin de la Galoche, 43200 YSSINGEAUX
Open Monday–Saturday 08:30–19:30

Aldi—Another discount supermarket like Lidl. The kind of place you walk into intending to buy milk and walk out with a bag of chips, a woolly jumper and a cactus.
Rue du 19 Mars 1962, 43200 Yssingeaux
Open Monday–Saturday 09:00–19:00

There’s a good fruit and veggie shop where the people are really friendly; I bought a lot of my fresh items there. They also have some dairy products and a cheese section. It’s behind the massive Catholic Church in the centre of the village.

Sami Fruits
18 Place du Prieuré, 43200 Yssingeaux

Each Thursday morning there is a street market which winds around the centre-ville. It has a good range of fruits, veggies, breads, meat, fish, cheese, some clothes and more, depending on the time of year. Plus it has an ‘animal section’ on Place de la Victoire, next to the Médiathèque La Grenette, where they have live chickens, geese and rabbits ready for dinner…?!

Opposite Intermarché is a wonderful little shop which sells local products and has some great things to try: meats, cheeses, yoghurts, fruit, drinks etc. I was especially fond of the ham…proper ham off the bone…oh my, so good.

There are also several patisserie/boulangeries, which you may not think you’ll need, but fresh bread is always good! There are several independents, but there are also two outlets of Ronde des Pains boulangeries in town: one opposite Intermarché and the other in the centre, on Avenue de la Marne. The latter was near where I stayed and it was so nice to have the fragrance of baking bread waft by my nostrils as I stepped out door to leave for school at five in the morning. Mmm-ahh…

There are three pharmacies in the centre-ville, they all close at lunch-time and I don’t think they’re open on Mondays…
Tip: always have some Band-aids (or equivalent) on hand because you know at some stage in the course you’re going to cut or burn yourself or have a blister from whisking something.

Aside from that there are the usual banks, a post office, gift shops, newsagents, clothes shops, hairdressers and dentists that you’d expect to find in small town. I had a decent haircut at Julie B, 2 Avenue de la Marne, 43200 Yssingeaux. Oh, but whatever you do, even if your tooth is stuck to a piece of nougat from confectionery week, DO NOT go to the dentist near the florist on Boulevard Saint-Pierre unless you want root canal work performed on you without your knowledge while the dentist swears into your mouth and you wonder how much damage he will do with the drill if you escape from the chair as he yells ‘p****n!’ into your open mouth one more time…



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!

Final countdown

‘Final Countdown’ was first published on,  February 22, 2015

Last week at ENSP we had our ‘mock exam’ in preparation for our final exam in March. It was a very intense seven and a half hours. I don’t know I managed to finish everything with five minutes to spare and I can’t believe that I have to repeat it again in a few weeks!

It’s hard to believe that the time has gone by so quickly, but in three weeks I will be finishing the school part of my pâtisserie training and going back home to Lyon to start my internship. I think it’s fair to say that I cannot wait. The last several months have been…interesting. Somewhat of a social experiment which is now coming to an end. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and other people, but most importantly, pâtisserie.

Since I last updated properly we’ve covered so many things in class! Too many things to remember…I’m drowning in information over-load! We’ve covered:

  • Modern Entremets—layers of glaze, mousse, crunch and biscuit.
  • Bread Basics—There was a lot of bread…a lot…and many croissants.
  • Wedding Cake Basics—hideous sculpture, but lots of practice with making roses.
  • Plated Desserts—deliciousness on plates and the first try at pulling sugar.
  • Chocolate Bonbons and Chocolate Montage—started badly with a melt down over melted chocolate, but ended with a masterpiece.
  • Mixed Skills with different tarts and pastries—Tarte Tartin yay!
  • Sugar week with modern Croquembouche and pulled sugar—epic burns from falling balls of choux covered in boiling caramel.
  • Culinary Design—we worked on our own project. For me I took a famous Aussie cake and French-ified it!
  • Individual cakes and tarts—three groups, 15 cakes, plus seven cakes of our own designs.
  • More mixed skills—Paris-Montaigne, like the Paris-Brest, looks like hills instead of a wheel…
  • MOCK EXAM—stressful, hand-shaking, bad chocolate writing, good éclairs, ‘lost’ entremets in the freezer, chocolate tempered first go…actually finished on time.


All of this has been happening with a back-drop of freezing temperatures and snow. Being from an extremely dry part of Australia, snow is still a bit of a novelty, but I think I’ve had enough now! Luckily for the rest of the course we have evening classes, so no more 5:30am trudging through the snow to school….Oh, the stories I will have to tell the grand-kids!

Modern Entremets

Bread Basics

Wedding Cake Basics

Plated Desserts

Chocolate Bonbons and Montage


Culinary Design

Individual Cakes and Tarts



Sugar, sugar, sugar

‘Sugar sugar sugar’ was first published on, January 30, 2015

I haven’t felt like updating lately, for a few reasons, mostly because I’m exhausted—the whole waking up at 04:20 thing is taking it’s toll! However, lots has been happening including chocolate montages and sugar sculpting. For now, please check out all the latest pictures on the instagram page. You don’t need to be a member to have a look. I’ll write again soon!