Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The End of My Year in Pastry School

The last few weeks have been a blur of activity, and trying not to get sick. But, in the end, the moment I let my guard down to relax for two minutes... the cold I've been fighting off caught up to me. I'm almost over it now, but it had me pretty beaten for a few days.

Stage - the last step of my pastry education. The stage (also known as "on the job training" or "internship") is a short, unpaid (this is very important to note), introduction to the real workplace. I had the privilege of doing my stage at Bishop's College School... I'm sure you're all curious to know how it went. I'm really pleased to have had this experience as the end of a whirlwind year. It was interesting, somewhat challenging, but most of all, it was a pleasant experience with some really lovely people who have encouraged me in many ways.

I'll start by telling you a little bit (what I know) about the school. It was founded in 1836 by Reverend Doolittle, at a different location, as a preparatory school for boys. In the early 1970's it became co-educational when it amalgamated with the local girls' boarding school, King's Hall, Compton. It is both a boarding school and a day school for local students, from grades 7 to 12. I didn't get to see much of the school itself, my time was mostly spent in the kitchen/dining hall, but what I did see was beautiful. The dining hall was decked from top to bottom for Christmas on my first day - I made sure to get a few pictures.

Not a terribly clear picture, but it was a huge, gorgeous tree! To give you an idea of the height, I'm not very tall, but I would come just about to the second horizontal board on the wall (just below the writing)...

The dining hall being decorated for the students' Christmas Banquet

Decorated doorway at the back of the dining hall...
The very beautifully decorated counter on the serving line (I baked the snowflake cookies! ;) )

And... the teeny tiny corner that is Baking, where I spent 2.5 weeks with my supervisor and mentor, Donna!

Being a boarding school, the cafeteria serves three meals a day, therefore two desserts are needed every day. There is also a sort of cantine in another building where students can buy drinks and snacks at their breaks, so there are snacks (cookies, banana bread, Rice Krispies squares, etc) to be made every day! As well as any extra events that might come up, which happens (amusingly) quite often.

The first week was spent mostly getting to know the kitchen and staff, and getting into a routine: first thing every morning we would bake cookies, or whatever was needed, for the cantine. The rest of the day would be spent preparing desserts for supper that night or the next, and/or preparing things for the events the following weeks.

The next week was the week of the Banquet for the students. We were a little busier than the week before, doing all our regular daily jobs, plus a few un-planned requests came up, and preparing things for the Banquet. There was one day that I was there from 7 until 5, decorating log cakes. That was, by far, the longest day, and it was my choice to stay so late. My hours were really good (7 to 2 or 2:30), and my supervisor, Donna, was incredibly (overly?) easy-going about the hours. Here are the messy-but-kind-of-fun log cakes (brown ones are chocolate cake with white icing inside and chocolate icing outside; white ones are pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting inside and out):

Last week there was a carol service on the Wednesday, my last day. I spent a lot of time the week before decorating hundreds of cookies for this evening, and by the time Wednesday rolled around, I was pooped. Donna very graciously let me go early, despite there still being lots to do to get ready for that evening. Here are a few trays of cookies (there were more, but they just had faces):

Donna. I can't say enough good things about her. Not only did she let me go early on my last day, seeing that I was tired, but she sent me off with a huge, extremely thoughtful gift (Ferrero Rocher, hand soaps, hot chocolate mix, and a tractor cake pan - with gel food colouring to go with it!!). We got along fabulously - which was a really good thing, as you can see how tiny our space was! We have a lot in common, and I really appreciated all her encouragement and advice; and her totally brushing off the fact that I had to throw out a recipe - twice - (I was mortified).

Thursday we had to go back to school to hand in the evaluations from our stage supervisors and finish filling out our own reports. In the weeks before the stage we had also prepared little blurbs about each other, which the teachers collected along with pictures and made into a small yearbook which they had printed for us for $20 each; so we received those as well. There are a few mistakes, but it's a sweet reminder of some lovely people and projects and a really happy chapter of my life. Once that was all settled up, we went out for lunch with the teachers. Only half of the class came, the rest did their own thing together. Unfortunately, that's the way our year went - divided in various ways. It was disappointing that everyone couldn't put aside their differences to suffer through one last meal together, but it's probably just as well. The ones who were there had a lovely time. :) I had gotten a ride to the restaurant with my friend Kelly, and afterwards we did a little shopping before saying goodbye, which was really nice.

So, that's it. The Pastry School chapter of my life has come to an end (the graduation ceremony will take place next fall, and my diploma should be coming in the mail in the next few months). For the moment, I'm enjoying the time off, getting ready for Christmas. I had a few baking orders, of which I've just finished the last. I wish I had had a few more, but this was probably as much as I could handle - for this year, anyway. Now the real work begins - finding a job. I may have something part-time lined up - more on that later, if it all works out. But I'm still on the market for a part- or full-time job. Preferably in my new career-line, but just about anything will do at this point (spoken out of the dusty, echoey depths of my bank account).

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