pretzels in baking class at culinary school

Pastry Problems

Life as a Culinary Student

In culinary school, there exists a great divide that all comes down to one crucial distinction: are you savory or sweet?  Here at ICE, students fall into one of these categories, dependent upon whether they choose the culinary or pastry career track.

As a Culinary Arts student for the past five months, I can tell you that the differences between us boil down to a lot more than just sugar and salt. Pastry students are refined. They are meticulously detail-oriented. They are studying a science. We culinary students tend to be a little more...“rough-around the edges.” We deviate from recipes. We like to get creative.

Chef Gerri gives a demo on tempering chocolate

When Module 4 came around this January and my fellow culinary arts comrades and I were faced with pastry classes, we were all a little bit concerned. A group of savory-loving cooks embarking on a month-long journey of baking and sweets is like unleashing a pack of rabid hyenas on the Westminster Dog Show. Something was bound to go horribly wrong. 

Fortunately, we all managed to behave ourselves and actually learn a thing or two. While we all spouted the typical “I’m not the ‘baking’ type” excuse at the beginning, we soon realized that this was a cop-out.

To be a well-rounded cook, you must know the fundamentals of pastry. After all, it’s not just sweets that fall under this umbrella; our curriculum included pretzels, bagels, pizza dough, focaccia and a multitude of other savory concoctions that every chef should have in his or her repertoire. Plus, we got to play with chocolate, which is super fun.

While our pastry days were definitely enjoyable, they were not always a “piece of cake.” In fact, whoever came up with the phrase “piece of cake” has obviously never tried to ice a layer cake with a chocolate ganache frosting. I won’t even burden you with a picture of that grand disaster. 

By the end of the module, our class may have been a little sugared-out, but we certainly felt accomplished. We had experienced how the “other half” lives, ventured outside of our culinary comfort zone and didn’t fail miserably. To me, that is pretty sweet.