KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: On Teaching. The Next Class is Pate Choux
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Monday, June 05, 2006
On Teaching. The Next Class is Pate Choux
For all of you who might have wanted to know about my last class before it happened I am here to announce my second class, Understanding Pate Choux.

Pate choux literally translated means cabbage dough, or cabbage look-alike dough. Sounds better in French. It is the pastry Americans know as eclair or cream puffs. And it's, hands down, one of the most versatile doughs in the European baking tradition. A twice-cooked recipe with enigmatic directions, pate choux can be a kitchen conundrum forever without a few specific tricks.



It helps that I have baked thousands upon thousands of these little cabbage puffs. At Bouchon the profiteroles were my most popular dessert and there were 3 to an order. My weekly math went something like this: our 80+ seat restaurant served approximately 300+ diners 7 days a week 11:30 am - 2 am straight through. Dessert sales were at about 70-85%.

Like the pretty photo of the gougeres in The French Laundry Cookbook? I made those. And I made them in a "still oven;" much like the one you have at home.

Teaching, like cooking and baking, is part craft, passion, inspiration, patience, empathy, listening skills and intuition. Most chefs I've worked for have not been incredible teachers. Self admittedly they do not have the patience for it. The cooks who took the time to explain technique or the whys and hows of a particular recipe are those I channel when I teach. Because I did not go to culinary school I had to hone my watching and practicing skills sharper than I honed my knives. Maybe because I learned everything on the line, literally, I remember the moments in time and with whom I experienced learning epiphanies with.

As a floundering "B" position garde manger cook at LuLu almost 14 years ago I ate my first fresh fig, put thinly sliced raw artichokes in my mouth, dodged flying plates from an angry chef, was purposely burned for the first time by a fellow line cook and jokingly surprised by fresh mango sprinkled with cayenne, tasted lavendar ice cream, shucked oysters and learned that every sous chef has a different idea of what enough salt is.



With as many cooking shows as are on TV these days, cooking and baking, as with all crafts, are best learned though hands-on classes. One on one with chefs who understand what they are choosing to teach backwards and forwards. An actual person standing there to watch, correct and encourage what your hands are learning or feeling awkward with. Being inside a kitchen, standing over a hot stove, watching with wonder how eggs added to flour, water and butter can become a delicate airy eggy puff, a crunchy-creamy doughnut, rich gnocchi. Eating an afternoon's hard work and taking home a recipe one intimately understands with hands and mouth and mind.

This is the teaching I do. I explain the whys not merely the hows. I am better than a cookbook, more responsive than a TV show, and I have inspired and encouraged fellow bakers and novices equally.

Although my classes come about organically I am hoping to teach one per month. Want to learn a particular something? Let me know, if there's enough demand and interest, you may well design July's class. I hope to see you soon!

Understanding Pate Choux
Sunday June 11 1-3:30 PM
Berkeley, CA
$68

You may pay via PayPal or email me directly if you would like to send a check.
 
 

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