hand painted candies made by pastry students for their graduation

Celebrating at Our Senior Reception

Life as a Pastry Student

Since my last post, big changes have occurred: I have gone from pastry student to a pastry cook! Yes – it's official: On December 9th, my Pastry and Baking Arts classmates and I celebrated the end of our coursework and the start of our externships. While I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment, I must admit—it feels a little odd to no longer be in class for four hours hours every morning, covered in flour, sugar and chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of graduations (grade school, high school, college), but this accomplishment feels like it came out of nowhere! In many ways, it did; we started in July, and five months later, I'm off to work in a professional kitchen. 

liz castner and her mother on graduation day
Celebrating with my mom

While my time as a pastry student was brief, I think ICE has the right philosophy when it comes preparing students for culinary careers: Train intensely in the classroom for a brief period, then apply the skills you've learned in the real world! We might be done with classes, but we’ll never be done learning. The confidence, skills, and culinary know-how we learned while students at ICE has prepared us to learn even more in the future.

I'm looking forward to taking the skills I gained during my time as a pastry student, and applying them to a real-life setting during my externship. With that said, it was definitely a little bittersweet leaving the comforting, idyllic world of the classroom, but bigger and better things await us all. Plus–ICE has prepared me well!

The ICE senior reception itself was entirely different (and way more fun!) than my prior graduations. The day of, Chef Victoria, my classmates and I set up the wine room on the 5th floor. We displayed our final cakes, chocolate sculptures and the chocolates we saved specifically for this event. ICE provided hor d’oeuvres and drinks, including champagne.

My classmates and I at graduation
My classmates and I at graduation

My classmates and I hit up the champagne immediately–we were all ready to celebrate. And celebrate we did! Everyone’s family and friends came to the ceremony, and all were constantly ooh-ing and ahh-ing over our cakes and chocolates (which, to our credit, were absolutely gorgeous!). We munched, mingled and snapped copious amounts of pictures. 

About a half hour into the festivities, Chef Andy got up and called us one by one to present us with our tall hats. This was the highlight of the evening; it was so exciting! Three of my classmates were awarded special medals for outstanding work, all three of whom were entirely deserving of the honor.

Overall, it was a fabulous time. But the party, like my time as a pastry student, seemed to end all too quickly. Luckily the festivities continued for me after the ceremony. I went to dinner with my wonderful parents and a close friend, and we continued the celebration over sushi and Japanese beers. It was a great night, one I won't soon forget. 

cake made by pastry student liz castner
My final cake!

While the reception itself was fun, working towards it was even more rewarding. I loved working on my final cake, which I based off a gorgeous image I found on Pinterest: a four-tier square cake with a glorious gold tree and deep crimson blossoms.

My version (I named her Vivian) turned out beautifully: whimsical and a little less formal than the original, due to its being two tiers instead of four, and round as opposed to square, but stunning nonetheless! Overall, I was very proud of my cake, as well as my classmates' unique and elegant creations. 

cake made by pastry student in NY
A classmate's final cake

Like I mentioned, senior reception was on December 9th, so it's been little more than a week – but what a week it's been! I began my externship the following Saturday, and at the time of writing this, have been to work at Colicchio & Sons three times already.

Thus far, it's been an incredibly energizing and enjoyable experience, but it has also been very humbling. I realize I have a lot to learn, particularly when it comes to speed and efficiency in the kitchen.

I’ve already been asked at my externship about my plans for the future, and I have to say, I still really don’t know. After I finish my management class at the end of April, anything's possible.

There is still so much of the world that I want to explore; I might run away to Australia or Europe, or head back to California. Maybe I'll work in another New York City restaurant or bakery, or perhaps even teach kids’ baking and cooking classes. Who knows? The options are endless...

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