Thursday, January 28, 2010


 My Diploma

I'm not much for shameless self-promotion beyond, "hey, I'm a pastry chef, you should hire me to make delicious things for you!".  However several people have requested to read, or have a copy of my Graduation speech, so I am posting it here with a few photos of the great day for all to access.  Now you may want to know, how did I get so lucky to be chosen to speak at my graduation?  Well, deep down inside, I'm a nerd.  I love to study, I've always applied myself in school and I have a pretty good when you combine these things with an overwhelming desire to see, do and absorb all things pastry the results are often a good student.  I received a call last Tuesday informing that I was the Valedictorian of my class and I could give a 3-5 minute speech.  I was very excited about the news, but not so excited about the speech.  BUT considering everything I have survived so far, I figured getting up and saying a few words in front of my instructors, classmates and their families couldn't be so bad.

I like to think I'm a funny person.  I love telling stories and making people laugh.  So my goal for my speech was to make people laugh.  That was what I was most nervous about as I stepped up to the podium on Saturday, are they going to laugh?  That's all I really wanted.  Amazingly, I managed to make it through the speech with no hiccups or stumbling over words.  People did laugh, and I think they clapped, but I can't really remember because all I could think about afterwards was getting back to my seat and drinking some water.

Here is my speech, hope it makes you laugh as well.

10 things that have changed in my life since I decided to follow my dream of becoming a pastry chef.

1.       I am told on an almost regular basis that I am someone’s favorite person or new best friend, often by complete stangers or people who have just eaten something I've made.

2.       If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked if I want to work at Finale, I’d be much closer to paying off my student loan….

3.       I’m afraid to have my cholesterol checked due to the copious amounts of butter I have consumed in the last year, but every occupation has its hazards. 

4.       Cake has become an acceptable meal replacement at anytime of the day, but it’s especially good for breakfast.

5.       A propane torch has become a standard utensil in my kitchen, and I’m not afraid to use it.

6.       My sugar intake has increased, but so has my vegetable consumption in an effort to counteract the sugar.  

7.       I am now considered a culinary expert by many. Friends and family call me up with all kinds of tough culinary questions, for example, I’m making chicken and rice…should I use chicken flavored rice or regular rice?  hmmmm.

8.       I’ve gotten much better at doing math in my head, I can easily convert oz to grams vice versa, but I'm still considering petitioning the United States to adopt the metric system.

9.       When asked what I do for work and I respond that I am a pastry chef, people get really excited and want to ask lots of questions, including my favorite, How do you stay so thin! Must be the vegetables.

10.   I have received more marriage proposals then I can count.  I don’t know which bothers my boyfriend the most, the proposals from the men, or the ones from the women.

As many of us already know, being a chef is not an easy job.  It requires much physical and mental effort.  You stand for hours on end, lift, bend, and squeeze past people.  Kitchens are noisy and crazy places.  The work can be repetitive, bosses can be brutal, the pay is often not great, and you are mostly likely working when everyone else isn’t.  It takes passion and creativity, flexibility and stamina, and a desire to work hard because you love it.  And that is why we are all here today, because we share that passion, we love to create wonderful food, and we chose to follow our dreams.  Congratulations.  My year at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts was amazing.  I’ve made new friends, learned so many new things, and had some really great adventures.  I’d like to 
say thank you to the staff, instructors and all my classmates for this wonderful experience.  Also 
a very special thank you to  my family and friends who have supported and encouraged me, and 
loaned me their tastebuds.  I wish everyone great success and happiness in their careers.

It's Official; I'm Chef Jenni

I'd also like to thank you who have followed my blog during the past year and have left comments of support and encouragement. It's been an amazing year.

And that's it for the self-promotion.....for now.

Coming soon, more tasty and pretty desserts.   Here is a Pear Almond Tart I made for a nice lady last week.

Pear Almond Tart

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What I'm baking now.....

My Trusty Kitchen Aid

Early Saturday morning, I walked to school to take the written final at 9am.  1 hour and 15 mins later, I handed in my test and walked out.  So quitely my time at the CSCA came to a close.  Then it was off to a busy day of work at Crema.  I don't think the reality really set in till I was home on Monday and Tuesday nights and in bed before Midnight.  It is strange to have so much free time.....

Free time!  I now realize I can return to baking more for pleasure, which is really what this whole experience was about; doing something that I enjoy.  So here I am in my kitchen at a quarter to 11pm on a Tuesday night and I'm making Baba au Rhum, with Cognac soaked Cherries in it.  There is no sound of clanging pots and pans, no chef stomping about yelling, "Maintenant!, do it right now!", there won't be a quiz next week over what I have worked on tonight.  There is the hum of my refrigerator, the click of my keyboard, a little music from my iTunes and the delightful smell of yeast.  There is baking for the shear joy of baking.  Later, there will be delicous Rum soaked Baba and whipped cream.  After the crazy day I had at work, it is nice to relax and bake at my own speed, and remember that this is why I do what I do.

Proofing the Babas

My adventure, of course, does not end with school.  There is the job search, more experimenting and lots of creative growth to come ( I hope).  My plan is to try to create/practice one dessert a week, at least. I want to become a pastry explorer.  So look for some new stuff coming soon.

Baba au Rhum with Cognac Cherries

Friday, January 8, 2010

2 down....1 to go!

This past week was the most stressful I've experienced since starting school. The one thing I have enjoyed most since leaving the corporate world and working in food, is much lower stress levels. With the preparation for finals, all the signs of stress came back. My stomach was in knots; I was fidgety and struggling to focus. However it didn't get out of control. I had someone to help keep me grounded, and he was also a great study partner.

I started Monday by going for a walk in Downtown Boston in the snow, followed by a lunch at Wagamama's and dessert at LA Burdick's, all with Romain. We then sat in my apartment and went over the flashcards of the recipes for my final. At 4pm I walked to school with my knife kit and bag full of all my equipment. I was finally ready.

I pulled a good card; the Citron. It's a lovely lemony cake. French buttercream and mousse flavored with a tangy lemon curd, layered between a disc of meringue and a thin, Lemoncello soaked White Genoise. Lemon Glaze covers the top, and fluffy White Genoise crumbs coat the sides. The finished cake tastes as heavenly as it looks. I had a few minor disasters, and it was a very long evening, but in the end I was happy with my cake and the judges gave me a good review.
Citron Cake and Pistachio Financiers

Tuesday was a bit tougher. I had last minute work to do on my creative that was due that night. My idea had been given multiple thumbs up (and requests for more to eat) by Romain and my roommates. However, I was still a little nervous. There was more I wanted to do, but I was running short on time. The idea behind the creative practicum is, other than the obvious-be creative, to make your own dessert/pastry. The sky is the limit, just use techniques and elements you have learned in the past year. I'm not quite sure how the idea came to me, it just popped into my head over Thanksgiving. I think it is very appropriate that one of the main components of my creative was a Tuile, considering the rough start I had with Tuiles, and now I love them dearly.

This was my concept: Dessert sushi, but really make it look like sushi, and use less traditional dessert flavors, and more traditional flavors you find in Asian cooking. Ginger, pineapple, sesame, pomegranate. I love sushi. I especially love maki rolls and the never-ending, imaginative flavor combinations. Maki also combines different textures. Crunchy matchstick pieces of cucumber, buttery bites of avocado, firm and fleshy pieces of fish, creamy sirachi and mayo, all encased in the papery nori and sticky rice. (I'm making myself hungry) My maki, of course was much sweeter. A crunchy and toasty Sesame Tuile encasing a gingery strip of Dacquoise, wrapped around a firm piece of Pomemgranate Jelly and a creamy caramelized Pineapple cream. It wouldn't have been complete with out poured sugar chopsticks, and a little chocolate cup with Pistachio Paste to look like Wasabi.
Pomegranate Jelly & Caramelized Pineapple Cream Maki

When I faced the judging panel, made up of 3 of my chef instructors, they told me they'd like another order of 12 pieces. They really liked the flavors and the presentation. They offered a few suggestions for improving the pieces, but overall were very happy with my offering. Just like that, the stress went away....almost. I still have the written final on Saturday morning. Compared to Monday and Tuesday, it should be a piece of cake.

Thanks again to Romain for his support and encouragement, I couldn't have done it without him. Another big Thanks to my roommates, who once again selflessly gave of their time and tastebuds. You guys are great!