Teachers come in all forms: people, things, moments that take your breath away, time.
This week, I was introduced to yet another teacher. His name is Chef Bonnie.
Chef Bonnie is the pastry chef at Nu Restaurant here in Vancouver. He has a wife and a 6 year old son back home in the Philippines. He has been in the business for 7 years, first learning the basics and perfecting them at a resort in Bermuda, and then bringing them to the team at Nu Restaurant here in Canada.
Two weeks ago, I interviewed to be Chef Bonnie’s assistant pastry chef. After a 4 hour long, hands on interview where I assisted Chef Bonnie with the million and 1 tasks (I mean that almost literally) he had to do for both Nu restaurant and it’s sister restaurant, C, across the way, executive Chef and local celebrity Chef Rob Clark offered me the job! To digress for a very important few sentences, these restaurants are amazing for many reasons, one very notable one being that they are Ocean Wise, meaning they take great care to ensure all of their seafood comes from local, sustainable sources, and another reason being that they adhere as much as possible to the 100 mile diet. Not to mention the executive chef Robert Clark is considered the Gordan Ramsay of Vancouver and is brilliant.
My first night was last Saturday. We did 240 covers in 3 hours. Since then, I have torched easily over 400 crème brulees, rolled out over 600 pitas, mixed 5 different types of bread dough, cut up hundreds of candied oranges for garnish, tempered chocolate to make hundreds of seashell shaped chocolates, whipped up a few batches of crème anglaise, crème brulee, oatmeal raisin cookies, gingerbread cookies, scones and baklava, and learned how to get a line ready for service. Chef Bonnie has taught me how to do all of this, and both he and Chef Clark were confident enough in my abilities to let me go it alone on Tuesday.
Yes, friends, Chef Bonnie took Tuesday off, effectively making me responsible for all things pastry that night, my fourth night on the job.
Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep Monday night! I went in an hour early on Tuesday to ensure I got everything done on time. It was nip and tuck, and I was working on other projects while simultaneously plating desserts during service time, but by the end of the night, I had plated 110 desserts, and everything Chef Bonnie needed prepped for the next day was done!
At the end of that 9 hour shift, as I was putting the last garnish away for the night, the sous chef asked me to plate a dessert for the executive chef, Lee Humphries, at C Restaurant. It was Chef Lee’s birthday, and I was to write happy birthday on the plate in chocolate. We hadn’t done chocolate writing in class yet. Uh oh.
Never one to back down from a challenge I know is within me to conquer, I stepped up to the plate, so to speak. Trying hard not to think about the pressure of designing a plate for arguably one of the best chef’s in Canada today, I forged ahead! Thankfully, I pulled it off (I even heard the waitress say, “Wow – that’s almost as good as if Bonnie himself had done it!”)! Phew!
I spent Wednesday and Thursday in class, baking more croissants, blueberry muffins, practicing chocolate writing (funnily enough, this was on the syllabus in pastry class not 12 hours after I did it for Chef Lee), lemon lime mousse, lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, japonais (a meringue cake), meat pie, puff pastry, Italian rosemary rolls, and of course, crème brulee.
Tonight, I plated 187 more desserts, with 250 on the bill for tomorrow. Time for bed!
Sweet dreams, everyone! Literally :)
Your friendly pastry chef,