On the first day of my baking and pastry career explorations class at Johnson & Wales University, we really didn’t do anything culinary related. After we arrived, we ate in the dining hall, and then sat in the auditorium for a presentation on the university. They told us about how once you’re accepted to one of the campuses, you’re accepted to all of them, and because the curriculum is so structured it’s incredibly easy to transfer between campuses. They even gave the example of one student who always transfers to Denver in the winter for snowboarding. I thought the idea was pretty cool. They also told us that they “super score,” which means that if you take the SAT or the ACT multiple times they would choose your best scores in each category to give you the best possible composite. They provide merit-based scholarships upon application as well.
Next we went on the tour of the campus. The buildings were quite nice, and most of them were very old and historic looking on the outside, but modern on the inside. I was very impressed by the dorm rooms. They were so big that I could do a cartwheel in them, and each dorm room had its own bathroom and shower! They also told us about the dorms for second years and beyond, and some of them have small kitchens. The campus was very nice and quite small, which I liked. It’s a private college with only about 1,500 undergraduates.
After our tour the parents went to an information session and we went to icebreaker games. Then after that was done the students all boarded buses and they took us to Elitch Gardens. I really liked my roommate Maddy, she was from Minnesota, and we stuck together at Elitch’s. We had dinner in the food court, and afterwards we went on a few rides. Namely the Slingshot, the scariest of all of the rides. Only two ride at a time, and you sit strapped into this sort of ball, that is flung into the air 0-60 mph by what look like wires. It then spins around and drops down. It was pretty scary, we were definitely screaming. Quite the bonding experience!
After Elitch’s they had an optional movie night in the auditorium where some of us watched the movie Pitch Perfect.
The next day I ended up being the only student who missed part of the culinary dresscode: a white T-shirt. So at breakfast I found myself wearing a neon purple-pink v-neck among a sea of white. It didn’t turn out to be a real problem, but it was still pretty awkward.
For my baking and pastry class we had Chef Phillips. He had attended Johnson and Wales and had gotten an internship at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas where he worked in the bakery for 5 years, and had been instructing at Johnson and Wales for the past 7 years. At first the class went very slowly. I don’t think he was quite sure what to go over with this type of group of students. In the first 5 hours of class all we had accomplished were some knife skills and put together one group’s foccacia dough. After our lunch though, things sped up. Our class made some Pate a Choux dough for cream puffs and eclairs, vanilla custard for the eclairs, Chantilly cream for the puffs, and chocolate ganache, again for the eclairs. I really enjoyed piping the eclairs and cream puffs out onto the parchment paper, and getting the chance to talk to the chef more one on one. A girl in my group noticed that under the uses for the Pate a Choux dough ” swans” were listed, so she asked the chef about them. He said they were pretty old-school, but showed her how to pipe the swan bodies, then heads with necks. (She was good at piping the bodies, but I was the best at doing the more intricate swan heads). Unfortunately we forgot to separate them on different sheets, and the swan heads scorched. He still showed us how to assemble them though: you cut the swan body in half parallel to the sheet, fill it with chantilly cream, and cut the top half length-wise. You then place them into the cream angled outward like wings, and stick the neck of the head into the cream. They were really pretty.
One of the biggest things I learned during the class was the importance of weighing in pastry. All of the ingredients in the recipes had to be weighed out into ounces or pounds, and we had to learn to use a baker’s balance scale with a counterweight. I’ll definitely bring my own digital scale if I go to school there.
After all of the baking all of the students ate food that culinary classes had made, and the desserts by baking and pastry. Unfortunately there was a ton left over that just had to be thrown away. After dinner we boarded buses again to go to the Boondocks Fun Center. When we got there we were pleasantly surprised to find that the program gave us unlimited fun passes and some tokens. We played laser tag, did go cart racing, bowled, and played games in the arcade. It was more fun than I expected! When we returned they had a dance, but I was too tired to attend, so I just went back to my roomy dorm.
Overall I definitely feel that I learned a considerable amount, and Johnson and Wales is on my list of potential colleges!