A lemon meringue tart, brioche, pain au chocolat, homemade buttercream, and chocolate mousse—these are just a few of the delicious treats I thought I would never know how to make until recently. When joining the AUI Marketing and Communications team in April of 2010, I had a great appreciation and enthusiasm for food, but no formal culinary training. This all changed when I had the privilege to take a 6 month, 20 week Pastry Techniques 101 class every Tuesday night at L’Academie de Cuisine with Chef Mark Ramsdell.
Now, not only has my admiration for food grown, but so has my understanding of what our customers go through on a daily basis. Knowing the steps and specialized skills it takes to produce an end product, I will never again take for granted the many details that make a dessert truly wonderful!
My culinary growth was greatly aided by Chef Ramsdell; whose vast knowledge of pastry techniques (and patience) made learning accessible to all. He often shared with us personal anecdotes from his own culinary endeavors—assisting Roland Mesnier, Executive Pastry Chef at The White House and founding the Pastry Design Studio, an award-winning pastry shop specializing in large show cakes—and taught us the rich history of the many of treats we created, which brought them to life and added a exceptional richness to the class. For example, when tackling the art of making Pat à Choux, he demonstrated how to make a Paris Brest, a ring of choux pastry sprinkled with almonds, split, and filled with praline flavored cream, and he explained that the dessert is named after the Paris Brest bicycle race. A baker, whose shop was close to the route of the race, was the first to make it cleverly chose the wheel shape! Thus, thanks to Chef Ramsdell and my encouraging co-workers at AUI, I now know recipes don’t matter without hard work, dedication, and true passion for the trade!