Well, it’s done. We’ve decorated our fondant cakes and invited our friends and family to our Senior Reception (check out the photos of all our cakes above). Nine months and 100 lessons later, what have I really learned through taking the Pastry Arts & Baking Arts program at ICE? Back when I wrote my very first post, before I knew how to tare a scale, I couldn’t have even imagined that I’d be able to make flowers out of gumpaste. But I also took away a lot more than just recipes and techniques. I agree wholeheartedly with what I wrote then — I did learn much more than what was included in the curriculum. I think we all did.

I asked some of my classmates what they learned, including what they would do differently knowing what they know now. Here is a look at the unexpected lessons my fellow classmates and I gained during our time as pastry students.

Humility
As you can imagine, in a three-night-a-week evening class, most of us held full-time jobs. As a career changer, Ivana was learning a whole new set of skills. She shared, “What a humbling experience it is to start something new after working towards one career for 15 years.”

Balance
Jennie put the need for balance in pastry in perspective. “I learned that there’s a balance that you have to keep, whether it’s between bright and mellow flavors, between trusting your own judgment and being open to criticism, or between being wholly absorbed in something and keeping one eye on the clock,” she said.

Organization
The one tip I have for students starting the pastry program is to keep a container of some sort for your tools on the table instead of a bag. It’s an easy way to find and grab what you need when you need it as quickly as possible. I only wish I had started doing it earlier.

Martha also felt that the most important lesson she learned was organization and to be prepared. She said, “Have extras of everything!” (I couldn’t agree more. That last day, before presenting our cakes, I would’ve done anything to have had another four flowers and ten leaves to decorate my cake.)

Patience
We learned a whole lot about patience during bread making and chocolate lessons. But even towards the end, we still were learning the value of taking it slowly. Martha said, reflecting on our last class project, “Even though your cake seems a little meh, you should wait till the gumpaste flowers are on it to judge.” Patience, patience.

Confidence
As someone who has never created anything with her two hands, for me, the program was often about gaining confidence. I remember certain moments when I needed to remind myself, “You can do this,” or I would envision the final product to motivate myself. It was an interesting journey to take and one that challenged me every week.

Commitment
I remember making the decision to take the program. I was torn between really wanting to do something different and exciting and being downright scared about committing to something for nine-months while still holding a full-time job. I imagine it’s a process that most ICE students go through — is this the right time for me to do this? Can I do this, while still working or having a family? I decided to make the commitment, a word that scared me more than you can imagine. Looking back, I must say that I believe making the commitment to the program (and to documenting the experience here) opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities.

Next up: The fulfillment of a commitment. A report from my externship!

2 Comments

  1. Ellen Richards

    Congratulations on finishing the program!! Your blog posts have been great and a valuable perspective. Having gone through the professional culinary program, while working a full time job, I could only shake my head in agreement at all the unexpected things that you learn along the way…mostly about yourself! Best of luck with your externship and I look forward to reading about it!

  2. Thank you so much, Ellen. I’m really glad you enjoyed reading through my experience. It was fun to document… and I’m glad it’s in line with what you experience working full-time and attending part-time. Day 1 of externship is today… and I’ll have a post up in about 2 weeks. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. It means a lot :)

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