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Sweet Heartbreak: Texas’ pastry problem leaves chefs unsatisfied

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Claudia Treviño practices piping in her cake decorating class.


The St. Philip’s curriculum includes 60 hours of courses that don’t always involve being elbow-deep in buttercream frosting. The two-year program is broken down into five semesters, which include include sanitation and safety (the course clues students in to the permitting and licensing process for opening their own shop), nutrition and cost control. Specialized courses for baking include fundamentals; breads and rolls; pies, tarts, teacakes and cookies; chocolates and confections; laminated dough (croissants and such), pate a choux and donuts; plated desserts; cake decorating and wedding cakes.

In her cake decorating class, which runs from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. two days a week, De La Fuente pushes students to reach beyond their personal best. The class is broken into a series of labs and lectures where students practice the foundation of frosting cakes for hours on end before working on piping and other sugary creations. Luckily, there’s a 30-minute break in the five-hour class.

“A good foundation is ... going to help [the graduates] keep their jobs: skill and a higher level of expertise,” she said, “that, and an impeccably frosted cake.”

To further ensure student success, the program mirrors the culinary arts curriculum by requiring a student practicum or internship. Students are asked to develop objectives that will help them get more out of their internships. For instance, Treviño hopes to learn efficient ways to do things in a small shop and how to maintain inventory.

“I wasn’t looking to do chocolate, it’s so temperamental, but I thought it’d be good if I learned more about it,” Treviño said.

Of course, St. Philip’s isn’t the only way for students to dive into the world of sweets. The Art Institute of San Antonio offers a baking and pastry arts program at its campus off I-10, and, as of August 2013, the Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio also added an associate degree in baking and pastry arts with an inaugural batch of 20 students.

Chef Alain Dubernard, department chair for the CIA-SA program, described the 21-month process of earning said degree as part of long-term education. Individuals hoping to attend the school must have a high school diploma or GED credential, a recommendation from a food service employer and either six months of non-fast food service experience or past culinary training at the high school or college level.

Admittedly, the program does have its perks when compared to St. Philip’s much more cost-friendly program. The four-semester curriculum requires the completion of 69 credits with classes ranging from baking and pastry techniques and gastronomy, to mathematics and food science and wine studies.

But the same workhorse mentality applies.

“You need to love this profession. Bread bakers get in very early, they work on days when people relax, they stand on their feet a long time … but we make people happy with pastries,” Dubernard said.

 

 

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