The Sweetest Crumb

The Beginning at Ferrandi

Thursday marked one month since we got off the plane in France. It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to everyone I love back home, but at the same time it is exciting to start a new adventure in an incredible city.

Eiffel Tower as seen during an evening stroll

Less than a week after arriving in Paris, I started pastry school. The first few days in class were spent with orientations, kitchen tours, getting our tools and uniforms (which include a stylish hair net/bonnet as well as shoes which look like they’re from the 80′s).

This year there are 27 international students in the Anglophone pastry program (and about the same number in the cuisine program). Each of the programs were split into two groups (Pastry Anglo A for me, with 13 other students). My classmates come from a variety of countries: the US, Canada, Taiwan, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Brazil, Kuwait and Thailand. Since the program doesn’t require any prior industry experience, I was surprised to find that a lot of the students have previous experience working in bakeries, restaurants or have previous culinary or pastry schooling – a little intimidating from someone who hasn’t really baked anywhere outside their own kitchen. Our chef is amazing – he has so much experience and knowledge, is so helpful and hilarious. I constantly find myself cracking up at his jokes.

Our days consist mostly of time in the kitchen, with hands on experience. However, we also have classes covering theory, French language, wine (with tastings and dessert pairings to come) and art classes. Our schedule varies on a daily and weekly basis. We alternate having kitchen time in the mornings at 8:00am or in the afternoons starting at 2:00pm. The other half of the day is usually filled with theory classes, French, etc. Sometimes we have half days. Lunch is served for free at the school, but is really disappointing. At first I found it really surprising that the food served at a culinary school is so terrible, but I later learned that the lunch services are subcontracted out to a third party (no Ferrandi student would make vegetables so mushy and tasteless!). Other than these subpar lunches, everything at school has been fantastic so far. I have been fascinated by everything we’ve learned and can’t remember the last time I took notes so eagerly on a topic I am so passionate about.

Sample weekly schedule:

The program is called the Intensive Professional Program in French Pastry and it definitely seems intensive thus far. Most days are hectic and busy, with us often leaving the kitchens an hour later than scheduled and making it to the cafeteria with only minutes before they close. The standards for our work are high. Our work is constantly criticized and sometimes (part-seriously, part-jokingly) called “disgusting” – there is no sugar coating here, so to speak. But we’re told not to take the criticisms personally, learn from them and improve our work. It is clear why this program yields such well-trained professionals, and why the employment rate for graduates of Ferrandi is so high (97%). Despite classes being occasionally overwhelming, I absolutely love every part of it so far. I don’t remember the last time I was able to wake up each morning and go do something I’m passionate about for the entire day… over and over again. There have been a few times when I was standing in the lab, rolling out dough and I was struck with the realization of how lucky I am to be in pastry school. It’s hard to believe that had I not found the courage to take this leap, I would been dragging myself through yet another stressful, unfullfilling busy season of auditing right now. Hopefully that’s a sign that I made the right decision in coming here!

So you’re probably wondering what we’ve learned in the first few weeks of class. We started with tarts, working with pâte sucrée and pâte à foncer.

pâte à foncer - a basic shortcrust dough which has a sturdy texture, retains its shape well when baked

pâte sucrée – a sweet dough, more crumbly and soft than pâte à fonder, puffs out when baked

We worked with some traditional French recipes as well as some contemporary ones, such as the famous vanilla bean and coffee tart recipes developed by Pierre Hermé. We learned proper techniques for rolling the dough, lining the tart ring and pinching the edges. When I realized on the first day in the kitchen that all the tarts would be baked not in a tart pan but in a ring (with no bottom!) I was sure that the dough would just fall right out through the bottom. However, no major tart casualties ensued.

Tarte aux Pommes // Flan Parisienne // Tarte au Citron, Tarte Orange // Tarte au Chocolate // Tarte Dacquoise // Coffee Tart

We then moved on to working with puff pastry dough. I had never made my own puff pastry before, so I found the process really interesting. We made both traditional and inverse puff pastry dough, with the butter either on the inside our outside of your dough respectively. We learned the techniques for folding, turning and relaxing the puff pastry dough and came away with these delicious treats:

Tart Bands // Pithivier // Palmiers // Mille-feuille Traditionnel

The above photos are just a sample of all the things we’ve made at pastry school so far. Essentially, I come home each day with boxes filled with baking. My biggest concern so far is finding people to give away all these sweets too. Everyone from our neighbours, the owners of the small restaurant we live above and homeless people in our neighbourhood have all been helping us polish off the past month’s baking. So… if you’re in the Paris area, you should definitely say hi and take some sweets off my hands!

 

10 comments on The Beginning at Ferrandi

  1. Fun
    March 8, 2014 at 5:45 am (176 days ago)

    Hi Genia! I’m glad to come across your blog while doing some research on Ferrandi’s pastry program. Looks like it has been great since the program started for you. I’m planning to apply for Feb 2015 intake. Just wondering whether you can share more about the application process and housing in Paris. Hope to hear from you!

    Cheers
    Fun

    Reply
    • Genia Rodnyansky
      March 9, 2014 at 12:07 am (175 days ago)

      Hi Fun! That’s so exciting that you’re planning on applying to Ferrandi! Yes, we’re only about a month into the program but I’m loving it so far :) I’ve had a few others ask me to write more about the application process so I will do that in an upcoming post for sure. Finding an apartment in Paris is a little bit of a nightmare. We managed to secure an apartment for the first few months while we were still in Canada (choosing an apartment by only looking at online photos is a bit weird and scary). Immediately once we got here we started looking for our second place and we just signed a contract for one yesterday – YAY we won’t be homeless :P I will write some more info on the process of finding an apartment in a future blog post as well. I’m also going to send you a quick email so you have my email address in case you have any more questions about Ferrandi – I’d be happy to answer them.

      Reply
  2. Fun
    March 9, 2014 at 6:33 am (175 days ago)

    Thanks Genia! I know exactly what you mean by looking at online photos of apartments. Since the day i made up my mind to apply for a place at Ferrandi, i have been doing some research on housing. Living space in Paris is really small and expensive but i really can’t pay more than 500 EUR / month. Sharing with another student might help to lower the cost…i hope.

    Not sure if you know Gail Ho but i came across her blog too and i think she’s in the same intake with you at Ferrandi. Looking forward to your upcoming posts and thank you for your email. I will certainly contact if i need more insider information from you. ;) Thanks again for being so approachable. BTW, love your sugar cookies!

    Reply
    • Genia Rodnyansky
      March 15, 2014 at 4:56 am (169 days ago)

      Thanks, Fun! Once you are accepted to Ferrandi, they send you a list of housing options some of which are shared housing or renting a room in a family’s home. Those might be good options for you to look at. There are plenty of housing options but they generally take a long time to find and the process is often pretty painful hah. Yes I think Gail is in the other Pastry class – there are two Anglo pastry classes. Happy to help and definitely don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need any advice.

      Reply
  3. Angeli
    March 26, 2014 at 1:34 am (158 days ago)

    Hi!

    I’m also considering applying to Ferrandi. I would love to hear about it through their students. Can you tell me more about your experiences so far? Also how hard it was to find an apartment? I have so many questions!!! And I’m quite excited to hear more about your stay!

    I hope to hear from you soon and share more about your experiences and insights about the prorams!

    Reply
    • Genia Rodnyansky
      March 26, 2014 at 2:34 am (158 days ago)

      Hi Angeli! It’s great to hear that you’re thinking of applying to Ferrandi. I absolutely love the experience so far. It was a big decision for me to apply since I already had my career started in public accounting and it was a huge switch but I am so happy that I made the decision in the end. I will for sure be posting more on my experiences at the school and in Paris, but my posts might not be super frequent since I’m trying to focus on really enjoying my limited time at school and exploring Paris. The apartment hunting is definitely as difficult as everyone says, so be prepared to spend a lot of time looking and possibly still end up with something more expensive and less nice than you expected :P Do you have some other specific questions you’d like answered? If you want, I can send you a quick email so you can reach out to me by email instead of the comment section if you have other questions – it might be easier :)

      Reply
  4. Angeli
    May 16, 2014 at 4:35 am (107 days ago)

    Thank you! Yes, please do send me a quick email! Reading your updates makes me more excited to join the program! :)

    Reply
    • Genia Rodnyansky
      May 17, 2014 at 12:03 am (106 days ago)

      Thanks, Angeli. I’ll send you a quick email so you have my contact info.

      Reply
  5. Annabelle Lobo
    July 21, 2014 at 1:02 am (41 days ago)

    Hi Genia…….I am planning on applying for the Feb 2015 intake…….someone told me that the course is very basic, is that correct??……seeing your pictures doesnt seem so :) …….. and does one have to be really good at French???……shall wait for your reply on my email….Thanks a ton

    Reply

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