The Rhythm of (Bakery) Life

As I embark on my fourth week at Tartine tomorrow morning, it’s fun to look back over the busy last few weeks and see how things have settled in. Unlike the constantly changing themes, techniques and core ingredients we explored at pastry school for the first four months of 2015, my life at the bakery has maintained a decent level of consistency. I’m still primarily focused in two areas: Shells and Tarts. I’ve definitely been spending more time in the Tarts department, which has lately also meant getting into work around 7 am. However, you won’t find me complaining. I like the quiet in the morning, when it’s just a handful of people in the kitchen. And I love the rhythm of the work.

My station is ready to turn regular croissants into frangipane almond croissants.

My station is ready to turn regular croissants into frangipane almond croissants.

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Life at Tartine

The chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine is one of the best desserts ever.

The chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine is one of the best desserts ever.

I’m glad I’m able to write (or, rather, share) this post, because I wasn’t sure what Tartine’s policy was with regard to social media. We seem to have hashed out the major parameters, and I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts with the fine people who take the time to read this blog. Thanks for your patience!

It’s not been more than two weeks since I first began my externship and because I don’t remember a lot of the blow-by-blow and you probably don’t care enough. I’m hoping to use this particular post to provide a bit of an overview of what my experience has been like so far. To bring you up to speed, Tartine Bakery is considered one of the foremost bakeries in the U.S., if not the world. Perhaps they first gained notoriety for their bread, or their bread in combination with their pastries, but however it started a dozen or so years ago, it’s held true. Tartine is one of the reasons I chose to be in San Francisco in the first place. It’s just that good. And if I’m learning to be a pastry chef, why wouldn’t I put myself in close proximity to a place this amazing, this magical, this good?

After years of admiring from afar, this croissant was my official intro to Tartine. (May, 2014)

After years of admiring from afar, this croissant was my official intro to Tartine. (May, 2014)

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A Week to Myself

I returned to San Francisco from Portland two weeks ago today with just enough time to unpack, relax for a little bit and then gear up for my stage at Tartine the following morning. This stage, a four-hour or so test run in the bakery’s kitchen, would solidify my externship for school or derail it. We’d been told not to worry too much about any restaurants or bakeries requesting/requiring stages before confirming the externships, but I was nervous nonetheless. After all, this was TARTINE. The dream bakery. The pinnacle.

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Blue Star Beats Voodoo

Our favorites from Portland's Blue Star Donuts were the two on the left.

Our favorites from Portland’s Blue Star Donuts were the two on the left.

As I took BART to the airport following the end of school, I reflected on the whole experience. It was a long thought-out decision to actually go to pastry school. Some pastry chefs I’d talked to had gone themselves and/or recommended going, while others hadn’t gone or didn’t think it was necessary. It was both a personal decision as well as a professional one. For me, if I was going to work in a restaurant, I might not have chosen to go to school. But as someone whose endgame is to open a bakery, and as someone who background is in education and values the structure it provides, it really seemed like a smart decision.

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The Final Week Begins

Bonus photo from Bakery Day - all of us, reflected in the hanging mirror, right before the doors opened.

Bonus photo from Bakery Day – all of us, reflected in the hanging mirror, right before the doors opened.

By walking out of school on Bakery Day, it meant there was only one week of pastry school left. Yes, there was still the two-month externship, but the enjoyable days of walking into the SF Cooking kitchen every morning with my eight comrades was coming to a close. I had mixed feelings about it, as I was excited to start my externship and really WORK in a bakery, but was sad to go separate ways from my friends.

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