Today I want to share with you what I did last week at LCB, because it was a very special one: we were preparing our "Afternoon Tea Event"!!
All the Superior Patisserie students, during the term, have to host an "Afternoon Tea Event" for guests coming from outside - so it is open to the public - to demonstrate the skills acquired during the diploma.
Last term, when I was an Intermediate student I actually bought my ticket to participate, as a guest, to this same event, because I was curious to see how it looked like, which were the pastries and petits gateaux prepared by the students and also to feel the atmosphere and kinda get prepared to what I was going to do next...
But I have to say that one thing is to see and enjoy the final result and another thing is to actually work "behind the scenes".
So here we go!
First of all, not all the Superior Patisserie students were involved in the event at the same time. We were split in 2 groups: the first one that includes Group C (my group) and Group D had to host the event on the 19th of October, the second one with Group A and Group B will do it on the 7th of November.
In the first meeting we had about this event, Chef M. explained us everything we needed to know from the time schedule, to the pastries to bake and the teams.
Because actually, each group (C and D) was divided in 4 teams of 3 people with a team leader, plus a team captain for the entire group.
I was assigned as team leader of team #2, with P. and D. working with me. I was honestly quite happy of my teammates and I knew we could do a good job together! Chef M. then gave to each team 4 - 5 recipes and we had to make 25-30 items/recipes... I must confess that I was not too excited about our pastries, because I remember that they were not my favorites ones when I tasted them, as a guest... Anyway, we had no choices!
It is impossible to list here all the amazing pastries that were on the menu, but I can give you the ones that my team had to make:
1. Prince Noir: milk and white chocolate mousse layered with kirsch soaked cherries and crisp feuilletine layer;
2. Marcelin: a tart with raspberry jam and candied citrus peel topped with a light almond macaroon paste;
3. Sablé Breton with Passion Fruit Mousseline: crumbly sablé base topped with tangy passion fruit cream, white chocolate crispies balls and sugar lace paste feathers ;
4. Carrot Cake: a rich moist carrot cake topped with orange flavoured cream cheese icing;
5. Plain Scones.
We had 3 practicals to prepare everything so we needed a good time plan and organisation to know which preparation had to come first, how to use the oven in between groups - having different temperatures depending on the recipes - and so on...
That's why our team captain T. decided to plan a meeting in advance to discuss about everything and also to get the chance to know each other a bit better (cause each trimester all the students are put in new groups so you may be with people that you have barely seen at the school), which I thought it was a good idea. Before the meeting we had to prepare a list of all the ingredients and equipments we needed and a plan to know who in the team was doing what (even if of course, we could help each others, if necessary). The meeting was quite useful to be more confident and fast in the kitchen.
The first day in the kitchen (6 hours -ish) was the most stressfull maybe, because for the first time we were dealing with bigger amounts of ingredients and many preparations for different recipes, at the same time. Plus, we knew that all the things that we weren't able to do on that day, were delayed for the session after which was actually the morning before the event... So nobody really wanted to end up with a lot of things to do last minute!
For what concerns my team, I can say that despite the fact that we had underestimated the time needed for simple things - like grating carrots (we needed 1 kg of them!), we managed to prepare almost everything we had planned, except for some chocolate decorations that so we had to do the day after.
I, in particular, prepared: the biscuit almond sponge, mousse chocolat blanc, mousse chocolat lait - for the Prince Noir; sablé breton and passion fruit mousseline cream - for the Sablé Breton with Passion Fruit Mousseline; plus the assembly of Prince Noir (that needed to be freezed for a night before use).
That day was quite long and tiring, but also really challenging because we were pushed to do well and fast!
The second day - which was the day of the event (that started at 3.30 pm), we all arrived at 7.30 am in the kitchen instead of 8 am because we really wanted to finish in time and produce the best pastries we could. The Chef had really appreciated this attitude!
So me and my teammates started with the chocolate decorations, to then do all the finishing (caramelized almonds, cream cheese icing, blow torching the marzipan, portioning the Prince Noir), ecc. We did a great teamwork that's why we managed to actually finish in time - even a bit in advance - to help other teams and to do the cleaning and reset for the next class. I was very proud and happy for that!
So at 1.30 pm, we brought all the cakes (they were a lot, and so beautiful to look at!!) in the back of the house of the event's room to put the very last final decorations (meringues, sugar lace, ecc) and to prepare the room with towels, cake stands, cups and cuttlery, menus and so on. Everything needed to be perfect!
At this time I found out that a photographer took a picture of me (the first one of this post) while I was preparing the Prince Noir and that my face was in the screen in the room of the event... Ahah! Fortunately it was a cute pic!
At 3.30 pm everything was perfectly ready for the event to start! I was assigned at the front of house - table 5 and 6 - to welcome the guests, offering teas and all the infos that they might have about the pastries we were serving. So until 4.10 that was my job! This was actually the most relaxing part of the day, even if I was kinda tired to be standing on my feet from 6 am, with only 20 mins break!
Then, I moved to the back of house where my role was preparing teas at the station, kinda relaxing too! I was there until 5 pm to then get my evaluation sheets from Chef N. who was with us in these 2 days in the kitchen. He gave us good feedbacks, and even if we had some issues with preparations in a first moment, he was actually happy that we were able to go on, re-make what went wrong and help each other as a team, to then produce some really good items!
So even if I am a perfectionist and I got frustrated when some things were going not as I expected, apparently my positive attitude was rewarded!
Finally, after all the cleaning and packing we had the chance to take home some left over cakes... Yay!! I brought home a big box of cakes that my friends who couldn't come to the event had really appreciated!!
At the end of these 2 days, I can say that I was quite tired (I could barely feel my legs and feet... I went to bed at 9.20!!) but the experience and the learning I could bring home was huge. I have understood how important is to work with a good team, with people you can trust and that can help you if you need it. How hard it is to be a good team leader, because you are responsible of your team and you have to understand their needs, merits and weakness to get to the best final result. How much precision is necessary to produce a big amount of items that have to be all perfect. But more than anything, how much it is important to never give up when something seems to not go in the right direction!
I hope you have enjoyed this long post and all the pictures, but I also strongly invite you to come to the next afternoon tea event to delight yourself with all the delicious treats that my colleagues will prepare!
Time to say goodbye, but remember: you can't buy happiness but you can buy a cake. And it's kinda the same thing!
Disclaimer: the views I express are mine alone and do not reflect the views of the place where I study.