Have you ever wondered what it would be like to decorate cakes, make chocolates, or bake bread and croissants all day? Well, I have! On a recent visit to The French Pastry School, I got a behind-the-scenes tour and direct access to the world of French patisserie. This amazing school, in the heart of downtown Chicago, offers world-class courses, continued education, and demonstrations aimed toward groups of friends or even date-night!
The evening event I attended, titled "French Pastry Experience" was an in-depth look at what it would feel like to be a student at this most-prestigious and inspiring school. The experience started with a full tour of the school's kitchens, chocolate rooms, decorating rooms, and the ever-so-mesmerizing cake room where they store and display cakes from past and present students, instructors, and celebrity bakers. I have never seen such perfection! It was truly breathtaking and a memorable moment when that simple closet door opened. The cakes were adorned with the most pristine gum paste flowers, so real looking I was sure they would have smelled like the variety they were hand-made to look like. Each and every detail was more jaw-dropping than the next!
After the tour we were moved into a classroom (an industrial kitchen) where state-of-the-art appliances were center stage. There was a sideboard set up with fresh croissants, raspberry preserves, and fresh coffee—a lovely and delicious surprise. Chef Joel Reno was our Pastry Instructor for the evening and methodically prepped his workstation with the skilled and attentive help of talented interns. They were preparing to make Grand Marnier Caramel and Fleur de Sel molded chocolate bonbons, pecan and espresso Florentin Tuile, and slow oven-roasted vanilla pineapple served with fresh mango sorbet, coconut basil emulsion, and madeleine. I was in heaven! Watching Chef Reno manipulate the chocolate and other fabulous ingredients was truly a show in itself. The flavors were warm, layered, and complex with just enough of an edge. Each component by itself was a perfected recipe that would have been a fabulous finish to a weekday meal or a fancy Friday night soiree! All together they were simply sublime.
As we left the kitchen to gather our coats and umbrellas beautiful gift bags were waiting for us, filled with freshly baked baguette, pates de fruit, and other delectable goodies. Also included were the recipes from the demonstration, a complete surprise and the perfect ending to an unbelievable evening! As I hopped into my Uber taxi I felt inspired, and like I could tackle anything I would want to accomplish in the kitchen.
Whether you are a novice with the dream of opening your own bakery or chocolatier, or a professional chef looking to further your culinary repertoire, The French Pastry School is the premiere international institution of pastry arts education. As for me, I look forward to many more evenings spent in the company of culinary geniuses! For more information on The French Pastry School, courses, and classes, you can follow this link.