: | The French Pastry School


American Baking Pioneers Complete Trainning
The French Pastry School |
July 29, 2011

Chicago, Illinois (July 29, 2011) – Aspiring bakers forge ahead, applying their skills to an increasingly diverse baking landscape in the U.S. and internationally. Twelve students from across the United States and Panama enrolled in L'Art de la Boulangerie, the Artisanal Bread Baking Course at The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College on May 31st. These career changers along with experienced culinarians completed their training on July 22nd after a rigorous eight-week schedule. Guided by Master Bakers and World Baking Champions, students spent five days a week, eight hours a day (totaling 320 hours) immersed in applied kitchen instruction.

The graduates now bring their newfound knowledge and techniques back to their own communities, in Chicago and elsewhere. "New Orleans is the oldest French culture in America," said Sean O'Mahony, speaking about his hometown. A former financial systems consultant for Fortune 500 companies and institutes in higher education, O'Mahony added: "We have great cuisine, but much room to grow in the artisanal baking market. There's great opportunity here." O'Mahony noted that he feels confident in his undertaking – to open a bakery of his own – having gained solid preparation. "I learned more in these past eight weeks than one semester in a graduate degree program."

Another graduate, Long Hoang, originally from Vietnam, now a resident for many years in Massachusetts, has been coming to Chicago to take Continuing Education classes at The French Pastry School for several years. She hopes to add artisanal breads to her place of employ on the west side of Boston. Likewise, one of the two international students from Panama, David Riba, will return home and contribute classic European and other international breads to his family's business. Riba expressed his excitement at the variety of pre-ferments he now can implement. "We learned so many different starters!" he said, amazed at the infinite possible recipes such a variety allows. "I also loved the breakfast pastries," Riba commented, "We don't have that many in Panama." Riba and his fellow emerging boulangers also studied specialty whole grains and organic breads, breakfast pastries (or Viennoiseries), and specialty breads from around the world. Other new alumni will remain in Chicago, or are homeward bound – to California, Tennessee, Ohio, and Washington D.C. – to start new bakery businesses.

The group's Intern Assistant, Nicole Barry, a graduate of L'Art de la Pâtisserie (the 24-week pastry and baking program) and assistant to the chefs and students these past eight weeks, will go to France for a three-month externship to continue her training in the art of baking. Barry will mentor with two renowned bakers in Alsace, one in Seltz in the northern part of the region, with Antoine Robillard, a member of the French Team who will compete in the next Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking). The second distinguished baking locale is near Colmar in the village of Muntzenheim with Roland Herzog, a finalist in the M.O.F. Boulangers competition.

These students are entering an industry where their skills will be valuable assets, as artisanal breads and pastries have experienced significant growth in recent years. According to "State of the Industry: Retail Bakeries in the U.S." published by Sundale Research (www.sundaleresearch.com) in March of 2011, "Retail bakery sales are expected to grow at a considerable rate. In fact, several trends point to solid industry growth through 2015." The report also indicates that "some of the key trends that will drive industry sales over the next few years include the move toward grain… [and] upscale baked goods…Â In 2011, retail bakery sales are estimated to rise by 7.0% to $3.68 billion."

One successful baking enterprise, growing steadily since its founding in 1993, resides outside of Chicago, in Alsip and Oak Brook, Illinois. Labriola Baking Company was rated by the American Institute of Baking, among the top 5% of all bakeries in the United States. Owner, Richard Labriola, spoke to the graduates on July 22, recounting his own experience in the industry. He reminded them of the great potential awaiting them in their new profession: "You have learned a lot in eight weeks. Eight years from now you'll realize how much more you still have to learn," said Labriola. "And I mean that as a motivator. It will never be dull; you can go far in this business."

Indeed, the training the students of L'Art de la Boulangerie received has provided them with a solid base from which they'll continue to learn, capitalizing on the recipes and techniques offered by their Chef Instructors – bakers with international experience in consulting, competing, and teaching. Pierre Zimmermann, a twice decorated World Baking Champion; Jonathan Dendauw, Compagnon Boulanger du Devoir; Jeffrey Hamelman, U.S. Master Baker; and Didier Rosada, World Baking Champion, lead the course instruction. Co-founders of The French Pastry School, Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F., as well as Chefs Zimmermann and Dendauw developed the curriculum, drawing on their combined century's worth of experience to develop the text, recipes, and methods the students referred to and practiced each day.

Visiting Chef Instructor, Didier Rosada, World Baking Champion, called the course of study a successful one because it provides a "strong technical and practical foundation. Students will be able to understand and troubleshoot the baking process and eventually develop their own formulas." Rosada called L'Art de la Boulangerie, "a unique course that allows students to be in charge of their procedures, from the calculation of the recipe to the time the bread is taken out of the oven."

This importance was felt by all students, including Alice Park who enrolled in the program to "deepen [her] knowledge of artisanal bread." Park plans on returning to California, and she looks "forward to working as a baker, and put into practice what I have learned." She agreed with her fellow classmates who said that the opportunity to learn from these chefs was a privilege. "Their knowledge is limitless!" said Long Hoang. "I feel very lucky to have been trained by chefs like that."

L'Art de la Boulangerie will be offered again June 11 to August 3, 2012. Passionate baking enthusiasts who wish to learn more about this course and apply may call 312.726.2419, or visit www.frenchpastryschool.com.

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