This week was the week when we hosted out Afternoon Tea Event – THE event that all superior students both look forward to and fear in equal measure. It was a chance for us to invite family and friends into school and to cook for them on a large scale. And when I say large, I do mean large. With about 40-45 different varieties of cakes and pastries and about 30-40 portions of each, there was a lot of food being produced in approximately 9-10 hours over two days by 45 students. For most of the students it was their first time working in such large volumes and getting each portion to look vaguely similar was a challenge when you’re used to only making a couple of items at a time.
The whole afternoon tea even was an exercise in organisation, time management, precision and consistency, all essential skills to have as a pastry chef. I didn’t get to do that much actual cooking myself, as my main role was to oversee the production by each sub-team, along with the teaching chef and to jump in and help whenever required. I found myself running around answering questions, gathering missing items and managing the ovens most of the time. One sub-team in particular required more help compared to the others so I had to divert my focus to that team a little bit more. I will be honest and say that I was very worried at the start of first workshop that our group would not be able to finish on time but in the end we were done with time to spare and I was incredibly proud of everyone in the group for working really hard and pulling together in a way that I had not witnessed before. As a group we made the following items for the event: pistachio cake, soleil vert, mirabel chibouste tartlet, chocolate and coffee bean macaronade, chocolate fudge cake, citrus garden, chocolate and salt caramel choux buns, sable Breton with passion fruit cremeux, marble cake, chocolate and hazelnut mille feuille, pistachio eclair, rose and lemon Battenburg cake, poirier, banana chocolate tart and apple scones with mixed berry jam and clotted cream. Some of the recipes were fairly complicated and the instructions and quantities were not always very accurate or clear – but I guess that’s what we will have to face once we’re out in the professional world.
During the afternoon tea party itself, I was tasked with overseeing the front of house service, ensuring that the students serving the tables were conducting themselves in a professional manner, keeping an eye on the cake stands so that the guests were never low on cake and just making sure that the guests were being well taken care of. I was definitely more nervous about this part than leading in the kitchen. At least in the kitchen I pretty much know what I’m doing, but front of house service was completely new territory. With chef’s help I think I just about did an alright job. Overall I did enjoy my role as team captain, and happily the other students seemed to think I was a competent leader. I certainly surprised myself with the amount of patience I showed, as truthfully it’s not usually one of my strongest traits. I do think that my time assisting chefs helped with this increased patience and being able to juggle multiple questions at the same time.
The week ended with our final mid-term tutorial. I’m doing slightly better than at a similar point in intermediate, so I’m quite chuffed about that. I just hope that I can at least keep it up or improve on it, especially since the progressive assessment accounts for 60% of our final marks this term. During the tutorial I had a chat with chef about life after LCB and he mentioned that if I’m still looking for a job by the end of term to speak to him as he may have something for me to consider. Exciting? Yes! Terrifying? Very!