Today we had a intern in the patisserie who for a week will learn about what its like to work in a kitchen. Blonde and boss-eyed, the young girl had just turned fifteen years old. She was innocent and awkward, and I couldn't help thinking that she was two years younger than my "baby" sister, who I would never imagine capable anywhere near the material or the equipment we use in a professional kitchen lab, let alone ever let her, for fear of scolding, cutting and injuries.
I'm writing this blog post even though I myself would not be considered a "chef" nor consider myself one, yet. I should probably hold my tongue, (as my "highers" would tell me) and get back down to work. I am still an apprentice, I am still learning and I don't have the same level of responsibility as most of my work friends. Despite this, I have had other jobs and I have been to uni so I feel that I can compare and contrast to a minimum of understanding and reflection.
"Why do you want to become a pastry chef?" I asked her, in a childish voice that came out, (I don't know from where.) "Because I like it. I like cakes and my grandad is a pastry chef. I like to make cakes with him." She replied. "You know working as a pastry chef and making cakes at home is quite different, don't you?" Evil cow, Abigail. Let the girl do what she wants. Just shut up now. "Why don't you do your Baccalaureate (equivalent to A-Levels in France) and then learn?" That idea scared her. "No, I.. I like it." She smiled sheepishly. I then shut up. Because she reminded me of myself at fifteen years old, working in a chocolate shop as an intern when the pastry chef asked me the same question to which I replied "because I like chocolate. I like making cakes at home with my mum." Nothing has changed since then, I still like chocolate and although I rarely see my mum, of course I still like baking cakes with her. But if I had let myself rant to the young girl I would have told her the following:
Reasons not to become a pastry chef:
1) You burn yourself. Over and over. Your hands look like a dismissed tortured rag, picked up to wipe the last bit of dirt on the kitchen counter.
2) You wake up at 3, 4 or 5am if you are lucky. Your evenings are spent replying to friends messages to tell them that you're sorry but you're getting an early night, like every other night. Your eyes are red and blotchy every day, no matter how much you sleep. Little by little, people stop writing to you at all.
3) You get fat or else you have real food issues. You're around sugar all day long so when you're not making it, you're craving it. Sugar feeds sugar.
4) You get a cold because you need to walk into the negative room ten times in one day. Going from 15 degrees to minus twenty in a t-shirt over and over can't be good for you. And even if you scream "F*CK SH*T B*LLOCKS ITS SO COLD" you don't have time to put a coat on, so you keep screaming. By the way, you can't call in sick because thats not even something you're allowed to contemplate in this world.
5) You're underpaid. But that doesn't matter, you don't go out anyway.
6) You get screamed and yelled at. Constant abuse seems to be thrown all around the room all the time. You yell back and start to hate who you've become.
7) Most of your friends are either pastry chefs, normal chefs or bakers because you don't have time to see anyone else. That means your boyfriend/ girlfriend is, too. Goodbye "real" world and hello talking-breathing-living-eating and sleeping with sugar.
8) You're addicted. To something. Either its work or drugs or alcohol.
Reasons why you should become a pastry chef:
1) You can sing all day. At the top of your lungs. No one will find it weird or awkward.
2) You get to eat artisanal pain-au-chocolat when they have just come out of the oven as well as sugar coated pistachio brioche at their best. Very few people will know the crunch of a fresh "chausson au pomme" the way a pastry chef will, or how strong the taste of the butter is in a warm croissant, or the stickiness of a pain au raisin just after its oozed with hot sugar syrup.
3) You do loads of sport because you're running around like a lunatic all day. Many of your office friends will be sat by their computers refreshing facebook as you'll be jogging in and out of fridges and store cupboards burning calories.
4) You see the faces of children as they get excited about all the beautiful things on the display. You know you are making people really happy.
5) You can talk and joke all day long with your colleagues. You can learn a new language such as Japanese or Tamil, since many of your colleagues will not be from the same country as you. You can talk about others in Italian and scream "che cazzo sta facendo?" ("what the fuck is she/he doing?") without them knowing who or what you're saying.
6) You can instagram beautiful photos of food and get more and more followers, and feel proud about it, too.
7) You learn something new every day, whether thats how to correctly ice a lemon meringue tart, beautifully decorate chocolate and orange cake to the latest gossip on who's dating who.
8) You love it. Or why else would you still be here?