Blog: The Modern Kitchen Professional | The French Pastry School

Blog: The Modern Kitchen Professional

The Modern Kitchen Professional
The French Pastry School |
December 16, 2014

Nowadays, if you walk into a bakery in the city and look behind the counter, you might find the people baking your favorite cake wearing t-shirts, tattered jeans, and a ball cap, scarf or bandanna on his or her head. They may have some tattoos and/or piercings on their bodies and guys might be sporting a beard. In “old world” kitchens, these expressions were not permitted—chefs were expected to wear nothing less than chef whites and be clean cut. But, as pastry is coming into view as an all-around art form, self-expression in kitchen attire and attitude is becoming more unconventional, also.

Along with the baker’s sense of expression in appearance, pastry chefs are also taking this to the culinary level, making amendments to time-honored recipes to suit a modern palate. They are not cutting corners to make a less professional or delicious product. They are using new technology and knowledge that was not available 100 years ago. We now understand more about how ingredients of food scientifically interact with one another and how to change them to make them different (such as jellifying, powdering, foaming, and other molecular gastronomy methods). The outcomes of modern pastry chefs are often well thought-out, high quality, and tasty along with being avant garde.

Many students come to us looking to explore the “creative side of pastry” and of themselves. This “Creativity” sometimes floats in with an (often unacceptable) expectation of freedom in the kitchen: that one will be able to create without rules, experiment with traditional recipe formats, and have a more lax, carefree environment in which to work. While we want to foster this creative bend, we must also institute that creativity in baking must also follow certain scientific and professional guidelines in order to make precisely delicious pastry.

Appearances may be deceiving in this case. While many chefs, pastry and otherwise, are exploring self-creativity with their bodies in terms of hairstyles, piercings, tattoos, and clothing, the recipes they turn out are still following the culinary rules sent down the generational chute. Some examples of this that you might be familiar with on a national level are Johnny Iuzzini, Duff Goldman, Sean Brock, and the like. They’re not breaking the rules, but they’re definitely changing the face of the modern kitchen. They are putting out products that may be unusual to the eye or palate or experimental in technique but are still keeping to the basic scientific principles that make baking as enjoyable as it is.

As we move forward, should the line between chef whites and t-shirt be crossed? Should the time-tested recipes be modified to reflect the times? Only time will tell…