I’m pretty nervous before the first class. I realize that I’m entering a new world, that of the professional kitchen, a world that has its own set of protocols and a different way of working from the office environment. It’s very interactive and hands-on, not just sitting in a meeting or in front of a computer doing your own thing. I also start to look critically at my own baking efforts and figure they’re not entirely up to snuff. While they’ve been pretty good, there are a lot of improvements I can make in terms of quality and consistency. That's why I'm taking the class, right?
As you might expect the class kitchen is large, with four large work tables in the center of the room around which the students arrange themselves. Utensils and bakeware are on stainless steel racks against one wall, including dozens of ladles, saucepans, and stacks of extra-large sheet pans (like cookie sheets but bigger). There's a large multi-tiered convection oven and an even larger walk-in oven that can accommodate twelve or fifteen sheets of baked goods at a time. Flour and sugar are in large three-foot cubical containers on wheels so they can be rolled around the kitchen for easy access. A dry storage area and walk-in refrigerator are at the far end of the room.
The instructor, a pastry chef at a trendy local bakery, is on vacation and not able to attend the first class, so his sous chef is filling in. That’s a bit disappointing because I really want to get a feel for what the instructor will be like. Strict? Forgiving? Stern? Empathetic? Have to find out next week.
Thankfully the sous chef is not at all stern and I’m feeling comfortable pretty quickly. At 52, I assume I’m the oldest person in the class. Most students appear to be in their 20s, which is to be expected. One woman looks to be in her 40s, and I feel good knowing I’m not the only non-twenty-something.
There's a lot of emphasis placed on professionalism, which is exemplified by the wearing of the chef's uniform. By the third class we’re expected to purchase and wear:
- A white chef’s coat, clean and wrinkle-free and buttoned to the top
- Checkered chef’s pants, clean and wrinkle-free
- White skull cap
- White apron
- Closed shoes or clogs