I have been telling students for two years now about what to expect on that very important day of their first trail. I’ve been calming them down and assuring them it’s going to be okay. Last week, I found myself at the door of my first trail, hoping I had been telling the truth this whole time and assuring myself that it was going to be okay.

My first trail was at Maialino, Danny Meyer’s Italian trattoria within the Gramercy Park Hotel. The pastry chef, Jennifer Shelbo (who also happens to be an ICE alumnus!) greeted me and introduced me to my first task: washing, peeling, cutting and coring quince to be roasted and used for sorbet. She stood right beside me, doing each of the steps along with me, albeit just a tad bit quicker! I got my first blister from holding a peeler but by the last quince, I actually felt like I was getting used to the process. Chef Shelbo then introduced me to one of the pastry cooks, Ali, who was in the dining room cutting bread and plating some desserts for service. As tickets came in, Ali and I got things ready for the runners who were bringing the dishes to the tables. After moving to the pasta room to help prepare grissini with Chef Shelbo, I had the opportunity to taste some of the delicious desserts I was helping to prepare. Chef Shelbo was also testing some recipes for a new item on the dessert menu, and I joined the rest of the pastry team in tasting. Finally, Chef Shelbo brought me down to the office to discuss the potential for externship at Maialino. All in all, it was a really fun and great first trail that exposed me to a lot of what pastry does at the restaurant.

Early Saturday morning, I headed to my second trail at Financier Patisserie in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. As barren as the street outside seemed, when I walked into Financier at 8:00 a.m., the place was buzzing. I found Chef William Quellec who gave me a quick tour of the two floors of production space. As I looked around, every person was working on something different. The organization was impressive and I was getting excited to be a part of it. I was assigned to Daniela, who put me to work getting together the mise en place for what was on her production list for the day, which included retrieving large quantities of ingredients from the walk-in and moving it to one of the production kitchens. Let me tell you, I was sore the next day. Standing in class for four hours, three days a week, is nothing compared to an eight-hour plus shift of picking up bags of flour and sugar. But kitchen camaraderie is extraordinary from sitting down together for “family meal” to asking for help when you need to lift the giant Hobart filled with pastry cream. Financier is expanding rapidly and it’s  pretty incredible that they are producing everything for all of their locations in this one commissary. There will actually be a Financier Patisserie opening by January 2011 on Sixth Avenue, only a few blocks from ICE!

So, there you have it. A tale of my first two trails. I am still planning on setting up a few more, and also building my resume with volunteer events. Last night, three of my classmates and I volunteered at The 13th Annual NYC Chocolate Show’s Fashion Show. I was assigned to assisting a model get into a burlap-chocolate dress with chocolate accessories made by François Pralus. Maia, one of my classmates, was paired up with Chef Nancy Olson of Gramercy Tavern, who was actually Chef Jennifer Shelbo’s mentor! Maia assisted in plating and serving Chef Olson’s desserts and left with an offer to trail at the restaurant. I guess it’s true what I say about volunteering and how it could lead to your externship!

Next up: Back to the kitchen for the second part of Module III and separated egg sponge cake, our last mixing method in the curriculum.

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