Just one week after I arrived from New Zealand I’m already off to Paris for the long awaited internship at Pierre Hermé.
After waking up at 4.30, I head towards the 15° arrondissement shop, enter the apparently empty shop sur la pointe des pieds. Where is everyone? Luckily I quickly stumble onto Sebastien, the morning team head chef, who gives me the locker keys. I can finally go downstairs and get changed.
Hmmmmm the pâtissier outfit! While I was over-excited when I bought it because it represented the first step towards my dream, this outfit is anything but dreamy. Think oversized jacket, high-waist pied-de-poule pants and Pierre Hermé baseball cap; the most fashionable item being the shoes – white sabots.
Honestly, who could look good wearing that? Well ok, some girls do but I don’t. And just in case I still had some hopes, one of the guys said ‘oh mais fanny vous etes beaucoup plus belle comme ca, vraiment’ [fanny you look way better with these clothes on] when he saw me leaving the building wearing my normal everyday clothes. He looked shocked, trust me!

Once this first step is checked and I’ve understood how pointless it is to look at myself in the mirror, I can actually go upstairs and meet the chefs. Before that, I have to put an apron – well two actually: a cotton one and a plastic one; but this is only an anticipatory action as I know I tend to get quite dirty (and this is a total euphemism) when I cook.
Then I arrive in the laboratoire, wash my hands and shake everyone’s hands. At this point, I am completely lost. Who is who? Hmmm names, so many different names. Luckily, I’m quite good with names so after a few minutes I am familiar with everyone just like we’ve known each others for years. That’s totally not true though, and the use of vous is here to remind it.

Indeed saying vous instead of tu is like the first basic rule in the pastry shop survival guide.

The second one being to say chaud [litteraly: hot] whenever you’re carrying something (usually really heavy) and not necessarily hot, as the term suggests, and you don’t want anyone to get in the way. Basically, chefs say chaud not to be gross and say ‘dégage’ although the meanings of both words are really close. Once this rule is mastered, you have to start applying it. And believe me it feels quite weird to yell chaud every other minute. Though, it appears to be quite useful because you don’t want to spill 118°C sugar syrup on your boss, do you? Well some of you might – sometimes, but please before doing so you should strongly consider a career change and/or an escape from your country, a face makeover and a name change.

By now it’s just after 6am and I am awake (holly jetlag). Like not just awake – I am widely concentrated on everyone’s moves and there are many many moves. In the morning team, everyone is here to produce all the cakes, entremets, emotions, yeasty treats… with the most dedicated passion.
The variety of tasks makes for the most interesting job. While every member of the team is responsible of a specific area, I wander from poste to poste to help the chef do the tasks they can’t do because of their super-extra-busy schedules.

Thus in one week I got to do many different things: from sorting almonds to prepare candied lemon peels.

I started by weighing the ingredients for the crème onctueuse au chocolat. This was straightforward and was the perfect task to give me confidence on the first day.
However, I was quite – and happily – surprised when the manager told me to go with Simon to decorate the Ispahan entremets.
The Ispahan entremets are definitely one of the it-pastries at Pierre Hermé, so I was really excited to know that I was about to decorate them.ispahan1.png
This part was overwhelming – first I had to arrange raspberries on the rose-flavoured buttercream, fill with chopped and fragrant litchis, and then decorate the top macaron by piping a drop of glucose on rose petals and then sticking them, along with some raspberries, on the macaron.

Assembling the Emotions was also a great job. Emotions are Pierre Hermé’s signature desserts presented in glasses and eaten with a spoon – well unless you like to lick your fingers!
I had the chance to make both Emotions Mosaic (griotte jelly, pistachio jelly, pistachio mascarpone cream) and Celeste (rhubarb compote, fresh strawberries, passion fruit and mascarpone mousse, passion fruit marshmallows).emotion11.png
These are entertaining to make (basically I piped a fixed quantity of jelly with a piston into glasses – see Sensations below for more details) and are really yummy. I must say I have a weak spot for the passion fruit guimauves, even though it was a really-teeny (don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because I am not) pain when I had to separate hundreds of them and roll them in icing sugar.emotion2.png

As you might imagine I was happy to get to make so many different things and I was really proud when they actually let me make a whole batch of Sensation Celeste. Sensations are glasses filled with different jellies and generally topped with a macaron.
First, I had to make the rhubarb compote: gelatine, rhubarb purée, lemon juice and sugar, pour a fixed quantity of it into small glasses with a piston, and allow to set before doing the same with both strawberry and passion fruit jellies.

On the same note, I also piped some banana and strawberry jelly into small round shapes for the entremet Désiré, which is totally delicious by the say.desiree.png

However, I couldn’t do just what I had to and couldn’t restrain myself from peeking here and there. Anna, who I didn’t really get to work with, is responsible for all the treats that have to go through the oven step. Hence, she makes all the brioches, croissants and other yeasty treats. But she also makes the cannelés and millefeuilles.
The cannelés are probably the best ones I’ve ever had: fresh, soft and fragrant.canneles1.png

As for the millefeuille I picked a Mosaic millefeuille because I love the pistachio-cherry combination. This was a real winner: the slight tanginess of the griottes nicely balances the creaminess of the pistachio cream. I can’t wait to work in the dough team because their feuilletage is excellent! Hopefully in two weeks…millefeuille-mosaic.png

Next week: c’est la folie des macarons [it’s all about macarons].