Article: Have Our Cake & Eat It, Too! | The French Pastry School

Article: Have Our Cake & Eat It, Too!

Have Our Cake & Eat It, Too!
The French Pastry School |
April 26, 2016
L’Art du Gâteau Students Graduate from The French Pastry School

Chicago, Illinois (April 26, 2016)—Colorful cakes of all shapes and sizes lined the hallways of The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College at City Colleges of Chicago, showcasing the  graduates of L’Art du Gâteau, the 16-week, full-time, Professional Cake Decorating and Baking Program, on April 22, 2016.   The class of April 2016 will follow in the footsteps of other alumni by beginning their careers in bakeries and cake boutiques around the world and gaining the experience they need to one day lead kitchens and open businesses of their own.

The diverse group of students included career changers, recent high school graduates, and experienced pastry cooks from all over the country and world, including Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, El Salvador and Guatemala. Under the tutelage of master pastry chefs and cake artists like Chefs Nicholas Lodge, Chefs Patrice Caillot, Joel Reno and Sunny Lee, the students refined the techniques essential to creating edible works of art with fondant, buttercream, royal icing, gumpaste, chocolate, sugar, and more over four intense months.  After constant hands-on practice both in The French Pastry School teaching kitchens and out, the graduates who began as novices are now well-versed in making both beautiful and delicious cakes.  

They were all able to meet an inspiring example in Julie Gerrish, a 2011 graduate of The French Pastry School L’Art du Gâteau program, who addressed the audience during the graduation ceremony. Gerrish shared with the graduating students her remarkable story of perseverance and drive toward the goal of becoming a pastry chef. She spoke to them about her childhood, and how at night, she would marvel at photos and recipes by Martha Stewart and Barefoot Contessa,  while by day, her world was crumbling around her.  Gerrish and her family were nearly homeless, getting by on potatoes and pasta, but these hardships were no match for her drive and determination. 

She was going to be an entrepreneur like the strong women she admired in her cookbooks.   Between mucking horse stalls to commuting four hours a day to attend culinary school while working full time as a line cook, Gerrish’s appetite for success accelerated her forward.   As Gerrish recalls, “It was this quest for something better, the best, that I found The French Pastry School. A school that prides itself on teaching professionalism, uses the highest quality ingredients, and has an entire team of chefs to nurture and guide you during your extensive training.  I had to find a way to be part of their dream and legacy that would lead me to mine.” Three years later, after hard work and perseverance, that dream came true when she opened Julie Michelle Cakes where she creates elegant designs and exquisite cakes to the greater Lake Geneva area.  Gerrish inspired the group, reminding them that, “When you have a dream and you make the decision to follow it, you must always rely on the tenacity with you.  There is going to be adversity, and financial situations, but you must never give up.  Take with you today the skills you have been equipped with here, pair them with your inner strengths, and you can conquer anything you desire.” 


After Gerrish’s address, Rebeca Vallejo, who was selected by her class, shared the story of her journey to the school.   Like many students, Rebeca was unsure of her professional path and while she contemplated being a nurse or pharmacist, something was missing.  It was when she walked through the kitchens of The French Pastry School, cakes towering high, that Rebeca found her place.   As Rebeca touchingly recalls, “I remember walking in, elevators opening to where the big cakes were displayed, and thinking to myself, this is where I belong.  As I continued into the hallways that led me to the kitchens, the look, the smell, the sound, and the atmosphere was everything I never realized I loved.  I felt so happy and complete.  I fell in love.  I knew this was where I belonged.  This was what I was meant to do for the rest of my life.”  

Following the ceremony, guests were treated to a gallery of beautifully decorated cakes designed and created by the graduates for their final projects.  Their Sweet Sixteen cakes ranged in themes from Alice in Wonderland to Seaside Celebration to Floral Extravaganzas.   In addition, each student created a spring inspired wedding cake, highlighting their own personal sense of style and inspiration with varying colors, flowers and techniques.  Students, their families and their friends gathered for a reception where they celebrated and enjoyed a lovely assortment of desserts prepared by the students, interns and faculty of the school.

The next cohort of L’Art du Gâteau students will begin their own pastry journey at The French Pastry School on August, 29, 2016.  The school is still accepting applications for this program.  For more information, please contact info@frenchpastryschool.com or call 312.726.2419.