Pâtisserie 46: The Beginning
I have been in my new role as a pastry chef on the cakes/tarts/entremets team at Patisserie 46 for a solid 6 weeks now, so I thought it was far time I gave everyone out there an update.
Here is a brief rundown of my life in the kitchen so far:
Hours = Terrible (I work from 3am-11am Fridays through Tuesdays)
Coworkers = Amazing
Community Influence = Incredible and surprisingly far-reaching
Production = Things I'm incredibly proud of
Learning = Off the charts
Holidays = Worst time to work in the service industry. Mother's Day might as well have been Christmas.
Times I've Messed Something Up = Let's not talk about it
Now that we've gotten rid of the people who don't have time or don't care enough to read the rest of this post, let's carry on, shall we? 😉
Before I get into describing my job and some random anecdotes that go along with it, let me share this little video I took the other day of our pastry case before the shop opened so you have at least a little context as to what I am doing:
So I mentioned that I work on the cakes/tarts/entremets team, and now you have a small idea of what that means. Basically my team comes in every morning, as bright eyed and bushy-tailed as a person can be at 3am, and glazes/finishes/puts together/decorates all the 'petits' for the case. Currently we have a Chocolate Eclair, a Tiramisu Eclair, a Strawberry Rhubarb St. Honore, a Strawberry Fields tart, as well as the Rory (caramel entremets), Spring Rose (lemon berry entremets), Lucia (chocolate entremets), 100% Chocolat, and Flourless Raspberry. I have also been helping out with our macaron production (with flavors like exotic, raspberry rose, earl grey, vanilla, pistachio and salted caramel) and occasionally lend a helping hand to production for special occasion desserts.
3am to 7am we finish off everything for our store, our sister store Rose Street, and any special orders, and then we spend the rest of our morning in production.
How do I organize myself and know what to do each day? You might be wondering.
To the hilarity and exasperation of all of my coworkers, I line up a wall (or 'mountain' or 'trees worth of paper' as some refer to it) of sticky notes across my station, and as I get through tasks I take down my notes. Laugh all you want--it helps me not to forget things and it also helps communication with my team and the rest of the kitchen, since anyone can walk by my station and immediately understand what I'm in the process of doing and what I plan to do next.
Now, by this point you have been hearing me refer to my team and my coworkers. My immediate team consists of me, Andrea, Christian and an intern named Michael. We are often joined by Josh, though he has been with the Patisserie forever and more typically is off doing his actual work or his own projects. Sometimes he drags me with him. Other than our little team, there are teams for Viennoiserie (croissants, pain au chocolat, etc), Savory (soups, sandwiches, quiches, etc), Baking (pies, cookies, coffee cake, etc), Chocolate and Candy (truffles, chocolate decoration, nougat, etc), and Bread (baguettes, etc). And that is not even considering the front of house staff and our management.
Of course, above all of this is our Chef. Chef John Kraus, first American accepted into Relais Dessert and leader of the 3rd place team at the World Pastry Championship 2015, has a finger in every pie at the Patisserie. As an owner and chef, he knows about everything that is going on, and while I don't often work directly with him, he is always around, always checking in, and always stepping in with a joke (the day he crept up behind me and straight-faced "Maddie you're doing it wrong" before telling me he was kidding made me want to curl up in a ball on the floor from shock), finishing a cake for a customer, or ringing people up at the counter. It is truly inspiring to work around someone who has such incredible experience and knowledge, and I plan to absorb every detail possible.
Basically, I'm in sponge mode. Taking it all in.
And I think my plan is working. I have learned more in the past two months than I probably have in the past year. I think now that I am adjusted to the kitchen life (and I am able to
speak English with all my coworkers, thank god) I can work faster, learn quicker, and be more independent than previously possible. Of course, that is also because I get off an eight hour shift and go back to my own kitchen and try out new techniques and flavors. I think I can make a creme patissiere with my eyes closed at this point.
I'm also enjoying being able to work somewhere on a more long-term basis and root myself into its community. Everywhere I have been in the past several years has been for a couple months at a time--and after I get over the initial adjustment period and settle in, it is basically time to start thinking about going home. I've made friends and connections within my community both with my work connections (its amazing how dropping the name 'Patisserie 46' will get a conversation going) and with my own networking and baking ideas (personal business cards for the win!) Everyone I meet seems to know someone at another cafe or restaurant, who has worked with another coworker, who knows someone at some other place. And here I am, splashing about in all the connections, reveling in the potential for longevity and ease of it all happening in English.
Have I mentioned how shitty my hours are? It comes with the job, so I (grudgingly) accept them. But at the same time, nights when I work, I need to go to sleep by 8pm in order to catch a measly 5 hours of sleep--which basically kills a social life with any friends with normal jobs.
Luckily, I already have some good friends in the industry here who don't mind dinners at 5pm or spending Wednesday night as if it were Friday night. They don't mind if I don't text them back at 2pm when I'm taking a nap--because more often than not, they were taking a nap too. They don't mind if all we do is talk about work and food and future recipe possibilities--because that's all they want to talk about too. They get jealous when I tell them about the newest cafe or restaurant I've visited instead of telling me that I'm being a glutton or am spending too much money on food. In short: I've found my people, and I'm not letting them go. So here is a shout out to all of the people who are making my new work life and schedule possible, you are amazing.
If my life seems like its all rainbows and butterflies--don't worry, it is certainly not. My job, like any other, has it's own challenges and difficulties, and there are days where I can't seem to do anything right. One day, I piped the chantilly on top of our chocolate eclairs three times over before Chef decided it still wasn't good enough so we just scrapped that idea entirely and covered it up with chocolate plaques. Another day, I used white sugar instead of brown sugar (despite it being clearly marked in the recipe) and completely fucked up the sablage for the chouquettes. Another time, I used sheet gelatin in the glacage for the eclairs instead of powdered gelatin (which was NOT marked, I might add) which resulted in a mysteriously liquid glacage we wasted time and energy fixing later. It happens.
Luckily, the good days seem to outweigh the rough ones, and the people I'm working with make it all worth it. And if all else fails, Austin and I just go yell at each other sarcastically in the walk-in refrigerator until we feel less-stressed out.
I hope you have enjoyed reading some tidbits from my new work life here in Minnesota! Let me know in the comments below if you would like to continue reading this sort of content on my new website--I am still figuring out my formatting and content. 🙂