French Pastry School: What was your background previous to studying pastry and what led you to pursue an education in pastry?
Alexis Chalk: I have always baked. My mother was a baker’s apprentice and she taught me the basics of cake decorating when I was still using mud as my medium. I always thought I would end up as a pastry chef… or an opera singer. Both might happen. Even in high school I started working in a French restaurant and worked on garde manger. I helped with catering and finally became a pastry apprentice: it was rough work and long hours but I really loved it. In high school, I had an amazing teacher who really opened my eyes to the culinary world. She taught me that there are many aspects to the field and she wanted me to be happy with whatever career I finally chose. She told me to come to school and finally I found The French Pastry School and when I visited I knew I found where I should be. Without the For the Love of Chocolate scholarship I have no idea where I would have ended up but I know I wouldn’t have been as satisfied with my education as I can honestly say I am now.
FPS: What was the most surprising or eye-opening moment for you so far in the program?
AC: I have completed two programs now at The French Pastry School and I can easily say that the most eye-opening moment was when I realized that all the chefs here really care about me. They ask how my day is and what I want to do when I graduate. They want to help me in any way they can. The amount of friends I’ve made in the Pâtisserie program alone make up half my Facebook friends. I know that when I have my own business I can count on them to help me hire people. I know that I can call The French Pastry School and ask if they have any interns I can give a job to.
FPS: What are your plans for after graduation?
AC: After I graduate from The French Pastry School I am going back home to Maryland to work in the restaurant I’ve been working in for the past four years. I hope to revamp the wedding cakes we have there and redesign the dessert menu for service. I’d like to gain some experience in management and in designing and producing a new menu. I’d also like to stage at hotels in Washingotn, D.C. and Baltimore. I need to gain more experience in my field. I also need to keep learning more, to start joining competitions, and continue to really push myself.
FPS: Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you hope to be?
AC: In five years ... or, honestly, a little longer, I will just be opening my new bakery or leading a hotel kitchen. I will be in Maryland or Washington, D.C. Eventually I would like to open my own Bed and Breakfast with a small bakery and a catering and/or wedding cake shop. My goal is to be able to see the joy on a person’s face when they take a bite into a freshly made croissant. The warm, fuzzy feeling I get when you witness a bride seeing her wedding cake for the first time and she loves it so much she cries. Pastry makes people happy: both the people who make it and the people who enjoy it.
FPS: In the future, what will you look back on and remember most vividly about your time as a student at The French Pastry School?
AC: I will remember all the chefs who cared. I will remember all the friends I’ve made and how thoughtful and lovely all the administrative ladies were. It will stick with me that no matter where I go I have received the best education out there. My chefs are the best in their field. I have used the best ingredients and the most state-of-the-art equipment. I will look back at The French Pastry School and I will know that I am a better person and a better chef for attending school here.