Monday 23 June 2008
[On Pascal Lac, his fromage blanc and berry entremet, and pastry apprenticeship]
A couple of weeks ago, I made it back home with the secret aim to find a place to be an apprentice at next year.
I got to spend a day in a dreamy laboratoire, being shown around by the young chef, decorating tarts and making beautiful loaf cakes; all with a view on the gorgeous black-walled chocolaterie room.
The next day I headed towards La Trinité, a small town, north of Nice, where the renown pâtisserie Lac has its laboratoire. The place is huge, probably ten times bigger – I mean, walk-in freezers! – that Pierre Hermé’s.
Pascal Lac, the chef, decided to make the move from the busy city back-shop laboratoire to this large open one for reasons that are quite understandable.
After the short interview, I asked my dad – who held the position of pastry-chef-in-the-being (=me) driver for the week end – to drive me to the city centre, so I could have a look and taste of Lac’s pastries.
Just as the pâtisserie from the day before, pâtisserie Lac had that gorgeous sleek look. Very chic. But as I entered, I had that overwhelming feeling that conducted me to choose Lac over any other pâtisseries I had applied to. Don’t laugh, but I totally felt connected with the various entremets, cakes and macarons. Those had my touch in them.
So well, here it comes. I HAVE AN INTERNSHIP FOR NEXT YEAR!
And I’m damn happy.
While we’re talking about internships, it fills me with joy when you guys let me know that you’re planning on become a pastry chef – and thus interning at a French pâtisserie.
However, I must admit that I’m getting bored of those many ‘how did you secure an internship at Pierre Hermé’ emails, as if I was the sesame to Pierre Hermé’s very own private paradise pâtisserie. I am not.
But because I do my best at being a lovely person, here is the answer.
I am passionate about pâtisserie, and I guess that if you do mean it when you tell me about how much you love pastry, then you might actually be passionate too. And this is just terrific. Passion is the key; the so-wanted sesame.
Thanks to my passion, I strive to make my dreams come true. It might take days or years, I don’t mind. All I want is to be satisfied about myself; and so should you.
What about this whole how-to-get-an-internship thingy then? Well, people, just get on it; be proactive; make your best to get what you want. If that means emailing Fanny about her Pierre Hermé internship, then do it. But do you really think that’ll fulfil you? Don’t you want to struggle for it? Or more accurately, are you even ready to struggle for it?
What you want will never come onto a silver plate, which is especially true in the fine food industry.
You want something. Then make it happen.
I understand that some of you might need a little more guidance – I mean, even I, living in France and speaking fluent French, find it difficult sometimes; or actually, all the time. I struggle; making phone calls back and forth; emailing restlessly.
You want an internship in France; then follow this quick step-by-step.
1. Learn the basic principles of French grammar and orthography. You needn’t be an advanced French speaker and writer, but definitely have to be able to understand when people talk to you, formulate a coherent answer, and express your feelings and motivations in a cover letter.
2. Put together a resume in French. By all means, if you don’t have the knowledge to make it look pretty, just keep it simple.
In France, resumes must contain:
- a picture of you
- the basic info about you<
- your telephone number and email address
Plus, all of the usual stuff: education and work experience.
Never worked at a pâtisserie before? I hadn’t. But I managed to highlight how I included my passion into the different projects I conducted.
3. List the places where you want to apply. Use google maps, or les pages jaunes; for contact info. Do make an actual – written on paper – list! Write down the name of the pâtisserie, name of the pâtissier, phone number and email.
4. Write a two-hundred-word cover letter- if you’re not fluent, make it clear at the beginning, but say you’re definite about improving your French; in this case, keep it short and simple.
Basically, just try to convey your passion and enthusiasm through your words. Briefly expose a project you worked on and during which you managed to place pastry into the limelight.
5. Take a morning off (not Mondays, since most of the shops are closed), and call each of the listed place. Make the effort to speak French. Don’t try and speak too fast if you’re not confident; I much rather someone that talks slowly than someone I can barely understand.
Ask for the chef pâtissier. And don’t hesitate to make people repeat if you don’t get something.
When you’ve finally been put through the chef, make it brief. Say you want to apply for a stage [stah-ge]. Ask whether they accept stagiaires [stah-gi-air] or not. If they do, give your availabilities; then politely ask for an email where you could reach him for further communication.
Be warned, they will most likely ask for a stage conventionné, for which you need a convention – a sort of insurance contract – issued by your school or university. So if you’re not currently a student, I suggest you get some info elsewhere.
6. Cross the pâtisserie name off the list. And immediately send an email.
Thank them for the earlier conversation. Repeat what you called them for: stage, availabilities. Attach both your resume and cover letter, but still mention them in the email body.
7. Wait for seven days, then either call or email, asking about the processing of your application.
Don’t hesitate to call again and say you’re very motivated. Tell them you’re highly interested in meeting them for an interview. Actually make it to the interview, even for just one day.
Congrats. You are [insert your country's name] next pastry chef.