As a few of you know I am in the midst of an interview process that has placed "my life on hold." Having made a widely ventilated space for myself (this past year) in which to grieve and spend some time not working 60+hours a week, I feel I am ready to give to a restaurant what I know they will want. (All of me and then some.) The hope is that with all this time off under my tool belt I will be able to make some boundaries so that I don't give my whole self away in the process of holding another big job.
Three weeks ago I met with the Executive Chef. It was his job to field the resumes and make the first set of interviews "weeding" out the "definitely nots." My friend said that I must be an actual flower because I had my second interview with the owners this past Thursday. This coming Thursday I will have my tasting. I am to make 3 desserts: one fruit based, one chocolate and the last is up to me. Sound familiar?
The process is an interesting one. Because a lot of thoughts, questions, disagreements, musings have whipped around my head since the second interview. If you feel like climbing into my crazy head, ponder with me these dichotomous questions:
As we are on the edge of summer and fall do I make desserts that reflect the season we're going into, or for right now, even though I may not be working in this kitchen until September? Knowing what I know about the previous pastry chef's work do I follow his/her lead or show them my own signature boldly and without apology? Having some idea of what they like do I burrow into that warren or do I make them follow my unique lead? Where do I draw the line when it comes to showing them what I'm made of? Do I wait until I'm through the doors to combine bat's wing and eye of newt? Do I make Shuna desserts or do I channel the restaurants palette/philosophy when coming up with the tasting possibilities?
It's strange and wonderful and difficult to be at a place in my career where I know myself. It's much easier getting a job in this industry when you're malleable, naive, doe-eyed, star-struck, young, inexperienced, have a trust fund or a spouse who will support you, are willing to say "Oui Chef" to anything thrown at you. Few savoury chefs can handle a pastry chef who has their own signature style/palette, or who might have more years in the business than them. The concept for many a chef is that our job as pastry chef is easier, cushier, sillier.
"Well you know Shuna, they're not coming here for the desserts. If they get good ones than ok, but really now, don't think so much about it!" -- A successful chef working for a world famous chef/owner in N. Ca.
The last course is just that. It finishes the great meal's sentence. It is the very last thing we eat. And its price-point can reach the heights of the bar, meaning that dessert is where a restaurant can make a lot of money if the pastry chef knows how to do (all of) their job. An example: at Bouchon the profiteroles was my best seller. It costed out at @$1.20 in goods, sold for $7.50 and we sent at least 1000 orders out of the kitchen per week.
Over the weekend I bounced my tasting ideas off my friend Michael, chef at Evvia. I spoke my fears and described how I may or not plate this or that. He chimed in suggestions, forcing me to think harder about more scenarios for the compositions and baking techniques for the various components.
In lieu of my first post plated dessert process I am "live blogging" this tastings process.
*Buckwheat Gateau Breton, toasted buckwheat anglaise, sauteed plums/pluots, brown butter anglaise.
moist chocolate cake/creme fraiche, red peppercorn dust = layer two
?chocolate paper = layer three quennelle of whipped creme fraiche on top. Layers to look like steps
*Gravenstein apple pie/tart, blackberry gelee, Verbena ice cream
*Blackberry pie, individual, with Lemon Basil ice cream
*Parfait. Layers. Hazelnut pot de creme, noyau ice cream.
Day One Prep: 2 ea. 1/2 sheet pans very moist chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and Lemon Basil ice cream base. Tomorrow onto Gateau Breton, buckwheat groat experiments, leetle pies, brown butter anglaise... stay tuned.