August 28, 2017

The Three Pastry Commandments

By Amanda Zimmerman, Pastry Alumna and Executive Pastry Chef at Gertrude’s

I started my career in foodservice in 2008 while attending college, where I was studying ministry and Spanish. During my time as a supervisor with Sodexo, the campus dining management group, I learned all the basics of food service, which prepared me to take a managerial position at a Barnes and Noble cafe in Baltimore after graduation. But plating pre-made pastries wasn’t enough. I wanted to make the pastries.

In 2015, after working there for three years, I was passed up on a promotion. Someone better qualified was hired for the position and I was left evaluating my options. I knew I wanted to go back to school, this time to learn how to make cakes. With the encouragement of my husband and mom, I started looking for schools in Maryland and discovered L’Academie de Cuisine.

My training from L’Academie equipped me to take the position of Executive Pastry Chef at Gertrude’s restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art, where I’m still happily working now. My pastry arts education comes into play every day, despite the fact that Gertrude’s is a Chesapeake Bay- style restaurant, not a French one. Understanding traditional French techniques influences how I put together dessert menus, which includes weekly specials, seasonal items, and weekend teas.

At the end of the day, my favorite thing to make is cakes. There’s so much to love: the different flavors, the mixing and matching of icings and fillings, the decorations like borders, fondant, gumpaste… the whole nine yards! Because of L’Academie’s curriculum, Gertrude’s now offers custom wedding cakes to clients that get married here, which was a service they were unable to provide until I joined the team.

Considering going into the pastry field?

Follow these three commandments of pastry patience and practice to achieve perfection:

1. Practice. Practice. Practice. Each time you ice a cake it will be smoother. Each time you write with chocolate it gets easier. Pastry is an art, and art takes skill that only comes from dedicated practice.

2. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to master the art of pastry and it can be frustrating, but the more you do it and the more time you spend refining your technique, the better you will become.

3. Be patient with the pastries. You cannot rush pastry. Timing is everything. Allow your cakes to bake fully, allow your macarons to set, and allow your bread to rest. It all takes time, but it’s all part of the beautiful process.