Thursday, April 10, 2008

Keeping up Standards, or It's been a while since I had a good Rant


A friend/former pastry classmate will be assistant instructor for the upcoming pastry class at our school. She's done it twice before, and the other day she sent me an email that started off "Don't get mad, but I've talked Chef M. into dropping the piping homework". She then went into a list of rationalizations of why, and that if someone wanted to learn piping, she'd help them with it.
Don't get mad. A very basic skill is being dropped from the program. A skill I worked very hard on. A skill I use almost every day. A skill that can be the deciding factor in whether or not someone gets a job. Don't get mad.
I pointed this out, that being able to write 'happy birthday' in chocolate on a plate can be the key to getting a job in an upscale restaurant.
The response - you're right, but.....there followed a long list about no one from our class really went on to a restaurant, the last class was mostly line cooks looking to increase their pastry skills, no one in the class before that was really into piping, carrying piping homework back and forth was a pain, it got messed up on the bus.....blah blah blah. But on the bright side Kate, Chef M. has decided not to have open books tests this time. (She did it last time because students were whining about the class being "hard". Oh, waaaaaaaaaah!) Then nobody bothered to learn the material because they just copied their notes during the tests.
I couldn't let that go. School is supposed to be a challenge. Lots of homework is part of school. If students don't want to do homework, they can either suck it up and do it or they can take the F. The culinary world is hard - school's the place to start learning that. If students want to pick and choose what they learn, they don't belong in the professional program. There are home cook classes for that sort of thing. Coddling people does them no favors. And failing to teach basic skills makes the school look bad. If someone came to me for a job, and their pastry program hadn't taught them something as basic as piping, I wouldn't bother giving them a bench test. If several appplicants from that school hadn't been taught something that basic, all resumes listing that school would go straight into the trash.
Standards are important. They should be high and they should be consistent. If the standards for the pastry program go down, it cheapens the school's reputation. And the perceived value of the education and diploma that so many of us worked so hard for is also cheapened.
This program is five weeks long. That's it. Five weeks to learn the basic skills needed to function in a pastry kitchen. There's no time for coddling. No time for consensus building on what we want to learn and what we don't. No time for talking about our feelings about our feelings about our pastry cream. Just barely time for - here's the skill. See it. Learn it. Do it. Do it again for homework. Here's the next skill. See it. Learn it. Do it. Do it again for homework. Here' s the next skill......
I was a bit more gentle in my response to my friend, but the gist was the same. Piping homework shouldn't be an option in a pastry program. The options - you take the class or you don't. You do the work or you fail. That's school. That's pastry. That's life.

7 comments:

Ginger said...

...and she will rise up like fire and burn all those who oppose her...

i think that maybe you need to right a letter to the school so they know people are getting lazy.

vesta said...

yeah, I'm having some conflict over this. I don't want to get my friend in trouble, but I don't want the program to be dumbed down either. urg.

Bree said...

I don't know anything about piping or pastries (other than l like to eat them) but that beehive cake is FIERCE in all the right ways. I hope that this conflict you're going through straightens itself out.

vesta said...

Thanks Bree - I made about a hundred of those little critters. It was a wedding cake for a pharmacist and a beekeeper - we thought the bee theme was more appropriate for a wedding :)

Chucka Stone Designs said...

AMEN! I have no idea how I am just getting around to checking out your blog now since I see you hanging around Giner's place all the time! Your writing is very pointed and even though I can tell your very emotional over this subject your thoughts come out totally in control. I can't wait to go back & read through all your posts now :) I love me some great writers!

That cake is one of the coolest pieces of sculptural art I have ever seen. I hope you are frequently entering & winning many contests, you rock the frosting!

~ Jenn

Chucka Stone Designs said...

your + ' & e = you're

vesta said...

Thanks Jenn. No, I'm not at the competition level yet, although I do have a lovely rejection letter from last year's Pastry Scoop Recipe contest :)