The French Pastry School: What was your background previous to pastry, and what led you to pursue a pastry education?
Taylor Gandy: Prior to my decision to pursue a career in pastry, I worked in marketing and sales for a wine education publisher and custom wine cellar designer in San Francisco. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia prior to that. While living in San Francisco, I was planning to return to school for my Masters in Public Policy. When a small turn of events occurred, I decided to move back home to Taos, New Mexico to be closer to my family.
While waiting tables at a small café and bakery, the owner mentioned they needed a new part-time morning baker. Since I had enjoyed baking at home since I was very young, I asked her to train me. That one decision changed everything. I went to full-time baker in no time, only to gain the title of Head Baker within a year. I loved the creativity, the fact that it was very hands-on, and I even liked the early morning hours. What I liked best though, and still do, is that I was making things that made people happy. What more could I ask for? I visited The French Pastry School in the fall of 2010, I worked as Pastry Chef at a small ski area restaurant that winter, and hit the ground running the following summer in the L'Art de la Pâtisserie program. I set my pastry education goals high, and with the help of the For the Love of Chocolate Foundation, I was able to achieve those goals and attend the best pastry school I could have ever dreamt of attending.
FPS: What has been the most surprising or eye-opening moment for you so far in the program?
TG: The most eye-opening moment for me was Sugar Showpiece class. I had seen many sugar showpieces made on TV and had never thought that one day I would be able to do that, much less after a week. Though our pieces were on a smaller scale than the extravagant showpieces one sees on TV, we all left that class with a new skill that is extremely unique. I don’t know if I was ever more proud of anything than I was of that first blown sugar apple. None of it was easy, especially not sugar ribbon, but it was worth the work and concentration in the end.
FPS: What are your plans following graduation?
TG: I have been hired as Pastry Sous Chef at a new restaurant opening later this winter in Chicago. The restaurant concept is Farm Cuisine / Modern Cooking and will be located in Wicker Park. My responsibilities will include all house-made breads, plated desserts, chocolate candies, ice creams and sorbets.
FPS: Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you hope to be?
TG: In five years I hope to be a part of the pastry team at a hotel. While I hope to hold a high position, like Pastry Sous Chef or Pastry Chef, I want to be in a place where I can continue to learn and grow in the pastry field. After I’ve spent a good deal of time in restaurants and hotels in the city, I hope to open my own bakery back home in New Mexico.
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?
TG: What I will remember most vividly about my time at The French Pastry School is the instructing Chefs. All of the Chefs come from different backgrounds in pastry, but they all share the passion to pass their knowledge onto their students. They want us to excel and succeed in the industry, and that has shown everyday in class. No matter how big or small the question, they took the time to stop and make sure we understood. To have had the opportunity to learn from such skilled chefs that cared made the whole experience worthwhile.