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French Pastry School |
June 26, 2013
Students of L’Art de la Pâtisserie Graduate as Chef Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F. Celebrates 30 Years in Pastry

Chicago, Illinois (June 26, 2013) – Guests with hundreds of years of collective experience in the culinary and pastry arts lined the stage of the Union League Club of Chicago ballroom as soon-to-be graduates of L’Art de la Pâtisserie, the Professional Baking and Pastry Program from The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College at City Colleges of Chicago, filed in.  Chefs and professionals from all aspects of the food industry gathered to celebrate a milestone in Chef Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F.’s career: 2013 marks the co-founder of The French Pastry School’s 30th year in this sweet profession.  His fellow co-founder, Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, surprised him with a brief presentation before the school’s graduation ceremony during which they were both awarded with the Centennial Award by Chef Jean-Jacques Dietrich of L’Academie Culinaire de France.  The over sixty graduates were surrounded by highly-regarded talent, including commencement speakers, Chef Keegan Gerhard and Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, Cheryl Hyman, as they embarked on the next step of their pastry careers.

Many of the city’s finest chefs joined the celebrations in honor of Chef Canonne, including several former students of The French Pastry School.  Guests included Craig Harzewski of Naha Restaurant; Greg Mosko ’06 of North Pond; Bill Kim of Urban Belly; Jessica Ellington ’10 of EPIC Restaurant; Paul Virant of Vie; Ira Kaplan and Christine Poland of Irinox; Gloria Hafer of After School Matters; Beth Nielsen of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas; and many more.  Those who were not able to join, like Chef Jean-Marc Guerignier, formerly of Ecole Lenôtre, and Chef Bernard Vaussion of the French President’s Residence in Paris, sent video messages for their former student and mentee. 

When Chef Canonne was a student at Ecole Lenôtre, Chef Guerignier was the Master Pastry Chef in charge of training the school’s apprentices and has continued to be a mentor to the Meilleur Ouvrier de France ever since.  “You went to the USA to show them your talent and there you created something unbelievable,” he recounted, proudly.  “But all this is not because of luck, you have been very courageous, charismatic, ambitious but also very humble and sincere, and all this touches all the people that you know.”

Every six months, Chefs Canonne and Pfeiffer touch over sixty lives as they take the first step to dedicating themselves to pastry through enrolling in L’Art de la Pâtisserie.  Students in the January 2013 term came from all over the world and country, including Malaysia, French Polynesia, Mexico, Panama, China, Singapore, Colombia, Costa Rica, and many others.  No matter what their background, each student shared the desire to gain hands-on education in a profession they loved.   “I see the passion in your work,” Chancellor Hyman explained what made the vocation so special as she addressed the graduates. “You are very fortunate that you can have a direct impact on the people around you by bringing them joy and happiness.”

Graduates of the program have secured jobs at bakeries, restaurants and hotels around the country but they all know that this is just the beginning.  Chef Keegan Gerhard, the celebrated pastry chef and owner of D Bar Desserts in Denver and San Diego and frequent host of Food Network Challenge, reinforced that message in his commencement speech.  “What you are now is prepared.  You are not pastry chefs.  Pastry chefs like your mentors here at the school live pastry; they breathe it, immerse themselves in it, and give their whole lives to it.  Excellence comes from commitment,” Chef Gerhard elaborated.  “You don’t know what you’re capable of unless you stick with something for longer than you thought possible.”

After the ceremony, graduates had the chance to demonstrate this commitment to their friends and family, many of whom were seeing The French Pastry School and its products for the first time.  The buffet, which took over the entire second floor of The French Pastry School, glittered with the lessons that the students had learned over their 24-week experience: colorful petits gâteaux, glittering sugar candies, composed plated desserts, towering chocolate and sugar showpieces, and an inviting display of golden brown breads and breakfast pastries.

The students, who first came to the school as strangers from diverse backgrounds in January, had clearly bonded over the course of their learning experiences.  Graduate, Crystal Chiu, observed this transformation in her speech during the ceremony, “These six months taught me everything I needed to land [my new] job in New York: the technical skills, the kitchen attitude, and access to the industry, but what I’ll really take away from the experience is that I’m not as alone as I think. Now we have a network of friends and peers that will keep us connected forever.”

The next cohort of L’Art de la Pâtisserie and L’Art du Gâteau students will begin their own pastry journey at The French Pastry School on July 8, 2013 and September 3, 2013, respectively.  Be sure to follow their progress on our website and social media outlets. The school is still accepting applications for both programs.  For more information about the programs and how to apply, please contact info@frenchpastryschool.com or call 312.726.2419.

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