A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering…Fail? Peanut butter mousse, milk chocolate chantilly, chocolate cake, blahblahblah (pg. whatever)

It’s been a while.

I went to Europe. It was not what I thought it would be. Well, Europe hasn’t changed much since my last visit, so that’s not what I mean. A friend who works at a hotel in central London arranged a short stage for me during my visit.

For readers uncertain of what a stage is (pronounced with a long a), it is basically an internship. The noun is Stagiair (with an e in the feminin, and strangely enough it’s anagram is agiterais – to agitate, which some stagiairs do with flair) and they are how the world’s finest restaurants a) train amazing chefs and b) stay in business.  Places that hold two or more Michelin stars, and especially those ranked on San Pellegrino’s list of the 100 best restaurants in the world take advantage (and so they should) of the eager young chefs happy to crack hundreds of eggs, trim micro greens, and sweep for free. For some (if not all) of the top 25 restaurants, half to three quarters of the kitchen staff are on a highly-coveted stage.

I don’t think it is as glamorous as it sounds; I myself have only had this one experience, though I’ve had a couple of stagiairs work under me, so I cannot speak for those fortunate Chefs who have gone through the system*, but this stage felt just like being back at the bistro. Which was…relieving considering I had quit because I thought I was a failface at my job. Okay. This is what it is like. Deal.

I guess I made some kind of impression. Mostly I think I was very comfortable and got on very well with the boys in the kitchen (boys! I miss working with boys!), but I didn’t really fuck anything up so I suppose my abilities played a role as well. They offered me a job.

So, now I move to London? I guess so. Which also means this blog is going to…change. Question mark.

Tonight I was speaking to the Pastry Chef who I will be joining and she exclaims how exciting it is that we now have a Commis.

Note: a Commis is the lowest level position in the French kitchen brigade system. Everyone starts out a Commis. Sadface. 

Okay, that’s great! Olymics are going to murder us, so we have someone to make tuiles! (First pastry commis chore, always). Except this commis worked at… A resto I shant name but is owned by one of the best chefs in the UK and who also happens to be one of my favourites, despite my never having eaten anything he has created. Oh, and his last Chef de Partie (my new position to be shared with my fantabulous pastry cohort) worked at…El Bulli. Because the fact is that like Kevin Bacon, all culinary roads lead back to that magical place in Catalonia.


When one of my PhD friends began Masters, the school forced them to sit in a seminar devoted solely to convincing them they were not frauds, that they all worked hard and had the knowledge to be there. At the end of the class he, much like everyone else I assume, left thinking, “well, no one else is a fraud, but how long will it take them to realize I am?!”

I am Jack’s insecurity as well as his mildly hyperventillating lungs.

Below is the original post I wrote last week when I created this disaster. I had not given my notice at the time, so I wasn’t interested in plastering the interwebs with my plans. This is an excellent example of HOW I AM A FRAUD. Or insane. Whatevs.

This is the first thing I have made since my return.

You may note there is no photographic evidence.

This is because I suck at making cakes.

Erp, maybe only a bit. I can make North American style cakes, which I loath, because it doesn’t require a lot of thought to pipe some scallops around the edges and plunk a rose on top. Hello Costco.

French style cakes require a panache I do not have.

I can make chocolate decor.

I can make macarons (err, most of the time).

I can spray things (including the floor, the table, the radiator) with chocolate.

I can pour glaze on stuff.

But I can’t for the life of me put it all together and not have it look gaudy.

This is why I don’t work in a bakery. Or rather this is possibly why I SHOULD work in a bakery.

Given that Migoya has a selection of “lost cakes” (cakes that are listed but photos were left on the cutting room floor), and this happens to be one of those cakes, I am not posting photos because I didnt take any.

Instead I decorated the cake, crinkled my nose, smooshed it gleefully with a palette knife and scraped it into the trash.**

I really, really hate making cakes.

Now I’m going to gym really hard and think about how much I hate cakes.

Oh, and here is a photo of said cake prepared in a tasting menu style plating. Some guy on Facebook said it looked like a skinned cock and balls. His complaint (aside from the supposed phallus, I still don’t see it) was that it should be bigger and that I make food not arts and crafts. Come on. This isn’t a crochet Jesus fish, it’s a quenelle and some joconde and peanut brittle. And this isn’t innovative or novel in my profession. I’m not growing a jacket out of live mouse fur and calling it art. I attended a Culinary Arts Institute! My clever response of course was “That’s what she said.” I think I’m ready to go back to a kitchen full of boys.

* I was desperately hoping to find some culinary geek had created a flow chart or tree that maps the chefs who have travelled down from El Bulli and/or The French Laundry to end at their own top-ranked resto (ie. Grant Achatz) but alas my search was fruitless.

** For those of you concerned with my seemingly lack of respect for the many food products involved in the preparation of this cake, in my defense it was only 4″ in diameter. I would never discard a full sized cake so non-chalantly. Rather I’d scoop it into a bowl and serve that way.


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