I want to be a pastry chef. I have been in the kitchen a few times in my life, but as a lifelong lover of croissants, eclairs, and choux buns, I know that this is my destiny. I want to open my own exclusive patisserie, launch a range of cookery books, and bake for celebrities who will always want a selfie with me in my kitchen. Maybe I can even be a judge on Great South African Bake-Off? Problem is, I don’t really know anything about baking (everything I’ve ever made, I’ve unintentionally sacrificed to the kitchen gods), don’t have the time to bake, and want to start making money from baking immediately. I know that talent is totally overrated (anyone can bake, ffs), so any advice you can give me will be most appreciated.
Yours in antici-pie-ation,
I’m a pastry chef. I’m a pastry chef. I’m a pastry chef. I’m a pastry chef. I’m a…you get the drift, right? If I believe it, it will be so. If I can imagine it, me in a white coat, chef’s hat on my head, I can be it. I’m a pastry chef, I’m a pastry chef, I’m a pastry chef. Conviction, that’s what it’s called. I am convinced that I am a pastry chef, therefore, I am. Can I make choux pastry? Yes. I have made it twice. And it wasn’t that difficult. Have I made puff pastry? Yes, and that was shithard, and took years of rolling, and adding butter, and then leaving to freeze or something, then repeating the procedure over and over and over, until I was able to cash in on my pensioner’s discount. But, I am a pastry chef. Keep repeating it. Often.
Sure, there are pastry chef courses out there. Some teach you how to do the pastry thing, and it’s not so much fun. Mostly, they give exercises to get your pastry to rise, fluff, or flake, and for your flavours to ‘combine’ well. You have to roll up your sleeves, as it were, and bake, bake, bake. Do you get it right, first time? Not really. It’s not bad, maybe not good either. But an attempt. Sadly, though, these courses take time, lots of it, and require you to commit to doing the baking. Sigh. Fortunately, there are other courses too - these ones are way more effective. They require you to really challenge yourself and question what it means to be a pastry chef. Are you there to provide colourful, afternoon tea amuse bouches? Or do you want to move on to Michelin glory? As you let go of your ideas about what a pastry chef should be, the guided meditations allow you to imagine the lofty heights of pastry chef stardom. What’s getting in the way of actualising these pastry chef dreams? Visualisation. Affirmation. Imagination.
I’ve already completed my list of reasons why I want to be a pastry chef, and have a printed cutout above my oven that reads, “Move over Eric Lanlard!”. And let’s face it, competition can be fierce. Anybody can become a pastry chef. Being a pastry chef is never-endingly accessible. You said it, Hungry - anyone who has an oven can learn the skills. It’s that easy. You only have to flip open a Woman and Home to read about telecom directors who’ve embarked on careers as pastry chefs. Within a few short months, they know exactly how to make those profiteroles profit - they can’t believe they didn’t make the change sooner. That can be you too. You just have to believe. Focus.
Do I bake? Well, sometimes. Like on the weekend, if there’s nothing good on TV or to download. When I do bake though, my friends and family rave and sing sweet hallelujahs for the amazingness that is my baking. “You should totally open your own patisserie,” they say, and I think to myself, obviously, and I’ve handed it over to the universe to make it happen. Then they ask things like, “Would you make a cake for my nephew’s birthday?” Ah, peasants. A nephew’s birthday? That’s not where you start as a pastry chef. No, no. Making a rainbow cake in the shape of Lightning MacQueen for five-year old Brakpan snot-noses? No, no. I decline, graciously, I’m a serious pastry chef. Let’s face it, I’d rather die than have to do any of those intern things in actual kitchens, getting sworn at by red-faced chefs, and having to meekly respond, “yes, chef.” And the lack of money? I mean, I have that cutout above my oven, and it states clearly that I’m a pastry chef.
How long have I been baking? Hard to say, really, a few months, give or take, but you know, my petits-fours are epic. Literally, epic. More of a petits-five or six. Sure, they’re a little skew sometimes, and there’ve been moments when the icing doesn’t stick properly or the sponge tastes more of the bath variety, but, they’re my version. Let’s face it, the pastry chef industry doesn’t know what it wants these days, and I know because they keep rejecting my applications to join one of their kitchens. That’s why I’m starting my own patisserie. And anyway, I’ll hire someone to do the baking, someone who’s maybe done one of those courses that make you work. But a junior, obviously. It’s really not that difficult. There are literally no more barriers to building a cake empire, so I’ve asked my dad for a few hundred grand to get the ball rolling, and set up favourable reviews on FB, Zomato, and Jo’burg’s Restaurants - the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more greasing of the palms, the more grease in the kitchen (of the favourable kind). We’re doing loads and loads of giveaways - free Mercedes SLKs if you like our page, “My Patiserie”. Someone complained that we’d spelt patisserie wrong, and with no accent kopie thingies. But, you know, English is one of those languages that doesn’t mind changing with the times - they’re probably just jealous.
So Hungry, I am so delighted that you’ve found your calling in life. If you follow my advice I know that one year from now, you will be a super success with all of your wishes realised, Hollywood knocking on your door, driving round in a car that is a pheromone on wheels, and living in a mansion that sprawls across the entire Mediterranean coast. With your positive, can-do attitude, anything is possible.