I’m totally out of my comfort zone. For the last few years I have been the one at the front of the classroom welcoming new students to my class – not the shiny-faced (in my case bleary-eyed and caffeine fuelled) new student slightly terrified of what will be expected of me. Yet here I am about to start my journey from international trade lawyer to pastry chef. It’s the first morning of the next six months of my life.
I arrive at Maison Christian Faure (MCF) too early to meet fellow students. In fact, I’m so early that I have to walk around the block in the icy cold a few times as I’m not sure the door to the school is even open. By the way, nobody told me it might be -1C in Montreal in May. It’s bloody freezing and I have no winter coat.
There are six of us in the PROGRAMME PROFESSIONEL. I am the oldest but luckily not the only mom. Another student, Ms. M, has a three-year old son. She came to Canada a few years ago with her husband from Paris. She is as elegant and composed as all the other French women I know. It must be built into their DNA. Mr. S, the strong and silent type, is the father of three girls and has left his family back in Tunisia to take the course. When he finishes the program, he will be third-generation boulanger – an impressive legacy. Ms. N has never baked a cake before and has abandoned a career in science to explore her creative side. Ms. J’s previous profession was as a handbag designer. She arrives in what I can only describe as a ‘flurry of bubbles.’ Then there is our petit Garçon, A from Morocco. He is five years younger than my daughter. He of course, is glued to his iPhone.
Pleasantries are exchanged and then we sit in silence waiting to meet MONSIEUR LE Chef and his team. Chef Christian Faure is a larger than life, vibrant man who exudes warmth and passion for his profession. He is both intimidating because of his wealth of experience, yet at the same time he makes you feel confident that you too can become a pastry chef ONE DAY. He introduces a very important person, the man who will be our instructor for the next six months: Chef J. I like him instantly, relieved that he is not one of those Chef instructors who feels he has to prove his superiority over beginners through shouting and outrageous arrogance.
We are then given a thick binder full of recipes. Well, they aren’t actually recipes – they list ingredients and quantities only. In the French tradition, we are expected to watch our instructor make the dessert, take copious notes and then under the guidance of Chef J recreate the masterpiece.
Next, we are taken upstairs to the laboratory and given a shiny red toolbox filled with knifes of every size and shape. My head is already spinning, I can’t remember for the life of me where my locker is and there are only four floors.
First day over I leave with my chef whites and the ugliest black trousers I have ever seen and am expected to wear every day for the next six months. I really can’t remember the last time I wore an elastic waistband. I think it might have been when I was pregnant. Karl Lagerfeld is missing out on a lucrative market.
Next week, classes begin for real. So until then, I head back to my rented room to read cookbooks and watch reruns of Qui Sera le Prochain Grand Patissier on YouTube.
It’s been a slice. . .