Paris Adventure 1: Bread Training Scholarship

BreadsGalore
Breads Galore

Bonjour! It has been a while since I’ve updated my blog, the year 2014 started off particularly busy for me, as if I was experiencing a whole year in 3 months of time. My friend and I participated in the Baker’s Market for the third time, work was busy, went to New York for vacation and I went to Paris for the first time! In fact, it was my first time in Europe!

The city of Paris, as seen from the iconic Eiffel Tower.
The city of Paris, as seen from the iconic Eiffel Tower.

So how did I end up in Paris, you may wonder. In February of last year, I decided to find work in bakeries, as I was unmotivated to work in graphic design. I felt that I needed to do something to different, something perhaps more inspirational  – why not do something that I already love? So I decided to apply for a morning baker position at a start up French bakery. I was a home baker, I don’t have professional training nor have I worked in a commercial kitchen before. No need to say, the first few weeks were especially harsh. Waking up at ungodly morning hours was exhausting and the position is also more physically demanding from my previous job. With great determination, I have made it through and now I am very grateful to be able to work at one of the fastest growing bakeries in Vancouver, BC. I am very thankful that the company has decided to put in the time and effort to train me for this position. Do I think I’ve made the right decision to join this little bakery? Yes, because I love working with all the talented and passionate individuals and the environment provides me with so much room to grow.

As an incentive for the bakers working there, my boss (one of the best leaders I know) has created a scholarship, the “Paris Project” for the best performing bakers to travel to Paris and to learn from some of the best pastry chefs. I have never imagined that I would receive the scholarship. (I don’t speak French.) I just can’t believe how lucky I am when my boss told me she is bringing me to Paris to learn about pastries. Though the trip lasted for only one week, the experience was almost surreal. I chose to do a breads class because I knew I would learn a great deal. It did indeed opened up my eyes to a whole new world of bread making.

GroupPhoto
Group photo of the class, local French students and international students from England, Canada, US, Taiwan and Japan.

Before going to Paris, I attempted to learn some simple French conversation and recipe vocabulary. My French is only limited to baking ingredients, temperatures, times, and mixing vocabulary. The three-day class was conducted only in French by a M.O.F. instructor at École Gastronomique Bellouet Conseil Paris. M.O.F. (Meilleur Ouvrier de France), is a prestigious title awarded to some of the best craftsmen in France, and our instructor is a M.O.F. boulanger – a bread chef. (Note that in France, “pastries” and”breads” are technically of different fields.) I was lucky to have met a nice lady in class who could speak fluent English and French was able to translate the technical details for me. Seeing a master at work was truly inspiring, even if it was just watching how he handle and shaped the doughs.  All the recipes made in class required a pre-ferment or a levain and were allowed ferment slowly for the best flavour and texture – no shortcuts!

PotatoBread
Potato Bread with Cornmeal

This bread was a revelation! When I tasted it, I thought to myself, “Is this bread?” because it was so delicious. It was crusty outside, soft, buttery and creamy inside almost like mashed potatoes, I was so surprised. If only I can replicate this bread at home. All the breads tasted in class were amazing. I have never doubted that the French made good bread, but it didn’t cross my mind that bread could have such depth in flavours and textures. In pastry and bread making, details make all the difference. Treating each ingredient and step of the process with respect will earn you great rewards. 

I’ve also had the chance to take a look at some of the private showing of the pastries done in other classes, such as sugar arts and tarts. Each of them were pieces of artwork, capturing your attention with its vibrant colours, shapes, and dimensions. Here are photos of some of the works I’ve seen in school.

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Paris has so much to see, sharing it on one post is not enough! Make sure you don’t miss the second part of this adventure!

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