The French Pastry School: What was your background previous to pastry, and what led you to pursue a pastry education?
Linda Landa: A career in pastry is what I have strived for since my first cooking class in middle school, and something which I pursued throughout high school and into the beginning of my college education. Sadly, into my first year of college I felt myself forced to work full time due to the rise of financial problems, with plans to return to school within a year. After having tried for the last five years of working for a financial institution to go back to school, and with a great many thanks to The For the Love of Chocolate Foundation, I am glad to have reached what I believe to be the first milestone in the long journey ahead to becoming a great pastry chef.
FPS: What has been the most surprising or eye-opening moment for you so far in the program?
LL: The chefs at FPS are all so different in their teaching styles but all just as amazing at what they do every day. The best thing is how approachable they all are and always willing to help you with anything from why you use melted instead of solid butter in one recipe, to why your soufflé didn't rise as much as it should have, to challenging you to figure things out on your own. While they each have a different style of teaching, all of our chefs have gained a lot of information and knowledge in their careers and are always happy to share it with us. They are always willing answer any questions we may have and no question is ever too dumb!
FPS: What are your plans following graduation?
LL: It has been a lifetime goal of mine to be able to work and live in France as well as to eventually travel the world, in order to experience other takes on pastry while gaining new perspective. However, I know that it might take a while to get there and my first step towards the ultimate goal is to first develop the skills and techniques I have learned at FPS and learn some more along the way. Thankfully, I have been given the opportunity to work alongside all the wonderful chefs at FPS as an intern for the six months following graduation. I am excited and slightly nervous of what lies ahead but know that all the hard work to come will help in my path towards becoming a great pastry chef. There is such a wide range of fields one could pursue in the food industry. Knowing that any pastry position gained will allow me to fine tune the variety of skills I will have learned in both the course and internship, I am open and thankful for all possibilities that may come. It is my hope that through the internship I will be able to further explore those possibilities and, as cliché as it sounds, find myself and determine what I want to focus on in the pastry world.
FPS: Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you hope to be?
LL: In five years, my hope is to have gained enough knowledge and experience to have secured a position as an assistant pastry chef in a restaurant or that of a lead baker in a bakery, successfully executing either. In either event, my hope is to be saving money to travel, and possibly already have traveled, to France and other countries in order to stage at different establishments. In so doing, my hope would be to gain a different perspective on pastries while trying the waters for a place to settle down in to begin the next chapter in life. Eventually I would like to own my own pastry shop but, I think that's a bit more than five years down the road.
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?
LL: What I will remember most would have to be my classmates, as well as the chefs. I definitely feel that throughout this six months, which have flown by, long lasting friendships have been formed. It has been truly great to build friendships with people who share the love of pastry I do. The chefs have both taught us the skills we need to be successful and entertained us with their past experiences, some reminding us that it is okay to make mistakes, and thankfully so because we were certainly not perfect! I will remember the amazing kitchens and tools that we have at our reach, something we will likely not be fortunate enough to have in most of our future workplaces. My time at FPS has been altogether wonderful and I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best pastry chefs in the business, alongside some of the best classmates one could ask for. I am absolutely thrilled for the internship and everything that is yet to come for us all.