I’ve never been one for change, but sometimes in life, there are things you just have to do. When I entered the Baking & Pastry Arts program at the CIA, I was excited to eventually spend some time working in the Apple Pie Bakery and Café. It was sort of a “right of passage,” a final step before the last push towards graduation. Unfortunately, the CIA decided to renovate it a mere weeks before my start date. With nowhere to go, we were forced into the kitchen at Post Road Brew House, with the majority of us being placed onto the line cooking savory food.
When we first found out about the change, I was…..upset. The keyword here being “was”. Although there were savory positions at The Apple Pie, it being a café allowed far more opportunities for baking. The Brew House on the other hand, is full on pub, limiting the pastry positions to the few students who get to plate desserts. The limited opportunities were only made worse by my small class size, which has fallen to a miniscule seven students. This meant that any hands that could be spared were needed on the line to cook food for the restaurant.
With the exception of the three weeks we spent in our Café Savory course, the majority of us had no experience in a savory kitchen. That class was only really a broad overview of culinary techniques anyway. To say I was upset was an understatement.
Having not yet recovered from the stress that was my wines class, I started off on a bad note, tired, cranky, sore, and unnerved. The days ran from 6am to 4pm, and by the end of the day, I felt every second of it. I was able to choose the Garde Mange station, escaping the hot side of the kitchen. The intensity of it still made me break a sweat, as I prepared the main course and appetizer salads. After the first day, I honestly didn’t think I would make it through. I felt defeated, and considered withdrawing until the re-opening of The Apple Pie Bakery, but after a few days, things balanced out.
I found my rhythm. The kitchen is a very different beast than the bakeshop and I really just needed to take the time to get used to it. Where as the bakeshop is refined, quiet, and orderly, the kitchen is…….more energetic. It’s loud and ever changing. People have fun with each other, hurling jokes back and forth and often times yelling complete nonsense for the sake of it. Different permutations of our call back “Oui” have now become inside jokes within (and outside) the kitchen. We have managed to get a taste of what our culinary classmates experience on a daily basis.
After talking to the Chef on day one, she said that although I may hate it now, I’d be missing it by the end. She wasn’t wrong. Although it wasn’t the experience I had been looking forward to, it wound up being something that will likely prove to be more beneficial for my career. I gained first hand knowledge of the function of a restaurant’s back of house, I learned how to manage my time and get things done when it seems like there is no possible way, and learned how to manage my stress while doing it.
Although I missed out on learning in the café setting, It likely would have just reinforced what I had previously learned on my externship at La Tulipe Desserts anyway. I am happy that I can admit to being wrong, and will always value the experience I had there, as well as the connections to the awesome chefs I had the opportunity to work with. Luckily for students going forward, The renovated Apple Pie Bakery is supposed to have a more full service style along the lines of the Brew House, meaning they’ll be able to experience some of the same things I did. Nine weeks left till graduation!