Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Who am I and what do I do?

It's the beginning of 2013.
It has been nearly eight years since I took the decision to leave university and ended up in kitchens. It's been a russian mountain of a journey, full of ups and downs, many moves, many challenges and much self discovery.
For the start of this year I am setting myself a task. To actually write this blog.
I've started many a blog and never kept up with the writing. I blame my Attention Deficit Disorder. And some laziness.

So, to (re)start this blog on the right foot, let's look at what it means to be a pastry chef.
When I meet new people and they ask me what I do for a living, the answer more often than not leaves them confused. I believe that the majority of people think that I make pastry, and that's it. I get asked far too often about pie.

So what does a pastry chef actually do?
We make all things sweet, and some not so sweet.
A qualified pastry chef should be able to do the following:
-Make cakes of all descriptions.
-Make ice cream, sorbet and other frozen desserts.
-Make filled chocolates, sweets, gummies, candied fruit etc.
-Make restaurant style plated desserts.
-Make biscuits and cookies.
-Make breakfast pastries  such as croissants and danishes
-Bake bread and other leavened products such as brioche.
-Make puff pastry
-Make edible showpieces out of chocolate, sugar, ice etc.

There are many different work environments in which you will find us.
Pastry chefs are not limited to working in bakeries and cake shops. We work in hotels, restaurants, chocolate shops, embassies, large scale cake production companies, and many other places.

So now that we've cleared up the issue of what it is that I do, why am I writing this blog?
Well there's a reason that I left university and ended up in kitchens. But that reason only became truly clear about a year ago when I got diagnosed with Attention deficit disorder of the inattentive type.

I have struggled my entire life with education, but always managed to scrape through. However, once in university and away from home, I just couldn't do it. I never attended classes, didn't do assignments and just generally slacked off. At the end of my second year, I realised that I was due to fail and go myself a kitchen job under a chef who was willing to train me. Over the years I became more and more enthused with my career and as I write this, 8 years down the line, I still love what I do for a living. But it has been hard, as would be any career that I chose. I am forgetful (i.e. I burn things a lot), I don't pay attention to what people are saying when they speak to me directly, making eye contact because my mind is drifting off elsewhere even though I'm nodding at what they say. So I miss out on important information, and then when I snap back into myself I am too embarrassed to say to them that I actually didn't pay attention to a word they said and need to hear it all again.
I am incredibly clumsy and break things, drop things, bump into people and hurt myself a lot. I'm very bad at organising myself because I can't prioritize and work out what needs to be done first. I make mistakes all the time that I shouldn't make because my mind is elsewhere and I forget a vital step.

However, ADD does have its good sides. Because of spending my entire life messing things up, I am a perfectionist and will not rest until I have mastered a technique, I am nocturnal, so the later in the day it is the better I work. This is fantastic in the restaurant industry where you finish work at around midnight. I am also very creative, and love repetitive tasks. And most important of all, When things get hectic, my brain goes into high efficiency mode and I become a machine. I read somewhere that you find a lot of people with ADD in emergency units in hospitals, in the police force, fire brigade etc. because the rush they get from an emergency makes them their best selves. This holds true for my job too.

Despite the difficulties that I encounter every day and the major knocks to my confidence that I have experienced over the years, I am determined to one day become a master of my trade and I want to record that journey here. In the last quarter of 2012, I started taking ritalin and it is completely changing the way that I work. Last summer, I saw the future through a veil of uncertainty. I was stagnating, unable to learn anymore. I was constantly exhausted and depressed. I felt as though I was a failure, unable to achieve what I wished to, unable to grow.
But with a new year comes new hope. I have been working under another pastry chef for the first time in my life. It is very hard for me to work under somebody else, but I know that it is good for me. I am planning to work under him for 3 years in order to learn as much as I can and although I can't say that I look forward to it, I know that it will be rewarding in the end.

So here's a toast to the new year, to writing a blog and to beating my ADD.