Pity Party, for 1 please
Updated: Apr 23
I’m back from hiatus and am here to blog. My reasoning for my intermission here on my little blog is pure and simple – I started my internship, or stage, one month ago and I have been more than exhausted since then.
I started work as a pastry chef at a hotel here in Paris, the Plaza Athenee, under one of the most respected and impressive pastry chefs in France, Christophe Michalak. A world champion in Pastry, I was excited to get started and see what this guy could do.
The first two days were very corporate – I had to don a suit and go to orientation. All in French. I thought my French was coming along and I would be ok. This 2 day orientation made me realize how naïve I was. But I made it through, understood a good portion of it and was just excited to finally get into the kitchen.
Well, a month later, I’m in the kitchen and am watching some truly impressive, talented patissiers do their thing. But, due to the language barrier, I’m still not doing much myself. For good reason – this is a big operation, with a standard to uphold and when I don’t understand what it is I’m supposed to be doing, they aren’t too keen to let me have full reign over making much. Still, its incredibly frustrating to not be getting my hands dirty with much other than weighing ingredients and doing dishes (two things I understand though!).
Needless to say, I’m doing some soul searching right now, trying to determine what is best for me and my future career. I love watching all that is going on in my kitchen, seeing the creations come to life and see people who are genuinely great at their craft take some flour, sugar, butter and eggs and make something so beautiful. But I’m frustrated that I can’t talk to anyone, that I’m not doing much, and that I spend 4 out of 7 days a week, 12 hours a day from when I lock my apartment door to when I come back in, feeling rather lost and confused. Plus, I’m ready to just make some cake.
So, what’s a pastry chef in Paris not doing much baking to do? Throw a pity party. I was getting so I was letting my emotions get the best of me and turn them onto Paris itself. I was wondering why I had left my family, friends and life in the States to come to Paris. Stupid Paris, what’s so great about it?
Oh, right. That.
I needed a refresher course in why I was here and why I had fallen in love with Paris to begin with. So I grabbed my coat and headed over to Laduree.
There are about a million pastry shops here in Paris and I’m happy to say I’ve been to quite a few of them (ah, research!). But for some reason, I had still yet to go to the classic, Laduree, even though there is a store close to my home. I’ve been trying all the new, interesting shops and testing all their interpretations, but I had yet to have the ultimate classic, a Laduree macaron. I am happy to say I remedied that today.
I went to the shop, ordered in French (to prove to myself I knew something about the language – yup, I can order all the macarons, baguettes, bries, and vin rouges you can shake a stick at, but I’m rather lost when someone tells me pretty much anything in the kitchen apparently) one pistachio and one salted caramel macaron and headed to the Seine. If I was going to wallow, I was going to wallow right.
I sat down by the water and watched the boats, listening to a man playing an organ grinder in the background. I grabbed the pistachio macaron and bit in.
Ah yes. It came rushing back to me. These things are good! I love macarons! And macarons are French! Something about being here must be right. I ate the rest of the pistachio goodie and was feeling infinitely better. Laduree, you’re a classic for a reason. They aren’t like Pierre Herme, with his inventive and sometimes odd sounding flavor combinations. They don’t color the heck out of the almond meringue like Lenotre. They are classic. Lovely, pastel colors, classic flavors and a well perfected recipe.
After the salted caramel macaron (one of my favorite flavors ever), I felt whole again. I am here in Paris for a reason. I sat for awhile, watching the people across the river and listening to my little organ grinder man, because by now, I had claimed him as mine. Things felt right again in the world.
Laduree might not be my favorite macaron, because I can’t choose something like that without feeling horribly guilty, but I can say they saved me today. And I’m heading back to work to tomorrow, no longer mad at Paris. Now if I only could magically speak French…