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Top Chefs Urge L’Art de la Pâtisserie Graduates To Keep Learning
Top Chefs Urge L’Art de la Pâtisserie Graduates To Keep Learning
Chefs Paul Kahan Seeks to Inspire New Pastry Professionals
Chicago, Illinois (June 26, 2012) – The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College at City Colleges of Chicago celebrated the graduation of over 60 students of their full-time Baking and Pastry Program, L’Art de la Pâtisserie on Friday, June 15, 2012 at the historic Union League Club of Chicago. Guests included the family and friends of the graduates; sponsors of the school; the commencement speaker, Chef Paul Kahan, founder and Executive Chef of One Off Hospitality Group; and top members of L’Académie Culinaire de France (ACF) who presented an award to Director of Operations, Franco Pacini. Chef Kahan spoke about the value of hard work in the food world and how every experience of his, from the glamorous to the menial, helped him become the award-winning owner of Blackbird, avec, The Publican, Big Star, Publican Quality Meats, and The Violet Hour. After the graduates received their certificates in Baking and Pastry Arts, they and their guests returned to The French Pastry School to enjoy a buffet representing their six months of study. The class of June 2012 will follow in the footsteps of other alumni by beginning their careers in pastry kitchens around the world and gaining the experience they need to one day lead kitchens and open their own businesses.
Six-months ago, the students of L’Art de la Pâtisserie came from Nigeria, France, Canada, and all over the United States to pursue a comprehensive education in baking and pastry arts. Their commencement speaker, Chef Paul Kahan made sure the students understood that they could not rest after graduating. Kahan started his career in the food industry working at his father’s delicatessen and, after leaving a career in computer science, worked as a line cook for 13 years before he opened his first restaurant. As Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer introduced him the stage, he too reminded the students that they’ll never stop learning, “Listen to the experienced chefs around you. Do you realize that between all our chefs instructors we share more than 270 years of professional experience in pastry? We have made all the mistakes for you, and during these last 6 months alone, your Chef Instructors gave you precious advice so that you learned how to work smarter and not harder. Continue to listen to them.”
The students have worked hard over their 24-week program: they were in class for six hours a day, five days a week and were encouraged to stage in restaurants, bakeries, and hotels during their time off. Chef Kahan congratulated them on their effort but stressed that, if they’re to be successful, they must take every opportunity to learn no matter how small. As a high school wrestler, Chef Kahan learned what he called “The Wrestler Mentality,” an approach that translates to everything he does in the kitchen. “You’ll bump heads with people and see stars but you have to keep on going,” he explained. “Take the criticism you receive without getting angry; endure and you’ll never stop learning from it.” The attitude food professionals take toward learning is what makes the difference in their pursuit of success.
His message was echoed when Chef Jean-Jacques Dietrich, Honorary President of ACF’s United States Chapter, and Gérard Dupont, International President of ACF, in Chicago for the annual summit of the North American Chapter of ACF and Les Maîtres Cuisiniers de France (The Master Chefs of France), spoke on behalf of the entire association. They charged the students with the personal mission to always aim to be a part of the top level of practicing pastry professionals.
A highlight of the ceremony came when Franco Pacini, Director of Operations at The French Pastry School was named L’Officier de l’Ordre Mondial de l’Académie Culinaire de France, the highest rank any non-elected governmental official can receive from ACF. Pacini, who began his career in food service at the age of sixteen, has worked in the food industry with a focus on fine pastries ever since. He joined The French Pastry School in 2005 as Director of Operations and became instrumental to structuring the programs into nationally-recognized standards for excellence in pastry education. His role in the school and his dedicated community involvement with such organizations as For the Love of Chocolate Scholarship Foundation, Pastry Chicago, and Esperanza Community Services allowed him to become one of the few United States Citizen to ever be awarded this honor.
Though the chefs and administrators were honored by the recognition, their efforts to create a positive environment in which to learn pastry was best rewarded with the accomplishments of the students and alumni. The buffet, which took over the entire second floor of The French Pastry School, glittered with the lessons that the students had learned over their 24-week experience. The brightly-colored sugar showpiece towered over confections like pâtes de fruits, caramels, and nougat; one kitchen displayed what looked like a jewel-case of petits gâteaux and plated desserts; guests enjoyed displays of freshly baked breakfast pastries and bread; and another kitchen boasted a showpiece including a loaf of country bread shaped out of white chocolate.
The new alumni have already found positions in pastry kitchens all over the country including internships at high end hotels like The Peninsula Chicago and Trump Tower Chicago; positions as pastry cooks and bakers in Virginia, California, Wisconsin, and Indiana; the top spot as Pastry Chef at White Lotus Farm in Michigan; a self-employed food stylist; and jobs in fellow alumni businesses like Lovely: A Bakeshop and Sarah’s Pastries and Candies. The students were pleased to show their skills to their friends and family at the beginning of their careers after graduating with a new found attitude towards reaching professionalism and success.
Graduate, Matthew Haase, put it this way in his speech during the ceremony, ‘Our motto is: ‘Do The Right Thing.’ When you walk into the kitchens at The French Pastry School, something is imbedded in your brain that makes you pick up a piece of paper off the floor, search out the best quality ingredients, or use a complex method because it gives you a better product….In the past I have worked with alumni of The French Pastry School and have been impressed with every detail about them: organization, technique, willingness to learn, courtesy, love of deep cleaning, and product knowledge….I can only hope I represent the school as well as past students have.’
The next cohort of L’Art de la Pâtisserie and L’Art du Gâteau students will begin their own pastry journey at The French Pastry School on July 9, 2012 and September 4, 2012, respectively. The school is still accepting applications for both programs. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312.726.2419.