Blog: What's Next? | The French Pastry School

Blog: What's Next?

What's Next?
The French Pastry School |
September 22, 2009

Four months before I graduated from Wellesley College, I was having lunch with the chef who had mentored me through all things culinary for the past five years.  After a few minutes of munching on our sandwiches and catching up, he asked me the question that I had been both excited by and afraid of: “What’s next?”  This was precisely why I had gone to see him: I had a strong idea of what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t finding it anywhere I looked.  After four years of college and five years of restaurant experience, I wanted a formal culinary education without the academic classes that some schools required.  He interrupted me half way through my prepared spiel: “Have you heard of The French Pastry School?”

I had come across it in my distracted Google searches for Chicago-area cooking schools but I didn’t know much about it.  My chef was more than eager to fill me in: he rattled off a long list of the astounding credentials of the two founding pastry chefs; he praised the value of learning in an apprenticeship-based system and noted the efficiency of the program’s six-month cycle.  He used the word “intense” more than once, but he also described it as an invaluable experience.  As I picked up my phone to schedule a tour for the next week, he affirmed in his enthused French accent, “You’ll love it, Maggie: it’s like the military.”

I was slightly intimidated by this last bit of description; I had never before considered myself to be particularly militaristic.  I was passionate about cooking, eating, and working in restaurants; I longed to transform that passion into a refined skill.  I knew enough about pastry to realize that I had to know more.  I needed to gain confidence: maybe this more structured environment would better help me to learn.

The next week, as the friendly staff walked me through the school, I realized that I was walking through the school I had always dreamed of: the pantries were stocked full with the best ingredients available; the kitchens were equipped with every tool we could possibly need (and some I didn’t even know existed); and every single one of the staff members were welcoming, passionate people with years of experience and a range of backgrounds.  Within seconds of walking through the door of the sparkling clean teaching kitchens, I knew I had found the right place.