Baking School Part 1: New Beginnings

Julie Miguel is a digital content producer with a specialization in food media as well as an active food blogger located in Toronto, Canada. The focus of her blog, Daily Tiramisu, is to empower home cooks to be fearless in the kitchen and she does this by taking traditionally difficult recipes and making them easier to execute.

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When I was approached by Joe Baker, Dean of the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, on Twitter and when I met with him and told him about my time on MasterChef Canada, I never thought that he would offer me a spot in the Baking & Pastry Arts Management Program in exchange for my documenting my experience at the school here on my blog, Daily Tiramisu.  I told him I have always wanted formal culinary training and it was what I would do with my MasterChef Canada winnings, had I won.  The timing was just never right for me to delve into formal culinary training.  I was busy getting diplomas in law, degrees in Economics and climbing the ranks in the Federal Government and also starting a family.  Right now is really the only time in my life that going to school is doable for me.  Not to sound flaky, but I really do believe fate and timing are a real thing.  And, the rest is history.  Well, not really history, classes are set to start this Friday.

I’ve had a few opportunities to come into the school, specifically the Horizons restaurant, and eat and mingle with a few of the key people who run the program.  One of my meals was particularly special because it was prepared by Celebrity Chef Robert Rainford, the Official Culinary Ambassador for the school, and his students.  Check out some of these beautiful dishes!  How could I turn down their offer after a meal like this?  They seduced me with food!

I participated in the student orientation last week and it was a very humbling experience for me.  I have a diploma and a degree from other educational institutions and I’ve never once attended the orientations for my past respective programs.  To be honest, I was originally reluctant to attend the Centennial College orientation but I am so glad I did because it really was the opposite of what I expected.
The initial orientation with all of the new and returning students was in the Centennial College Health and Wellness centre.  I had to look at the map of the school to figure out where the hall was located on campus – so basically nothing has changed with my sense of direction since I attended school last.  My son was being taken care of by his grandparents (thank goodness for them because without their help I wouldn’t be able to attend these classes).  I entered the big hall and sat way, way at the farthest end of a row, away from anyone but still somewhat close to the front so I wouldn’t miss anything.   When the Dean of students told everyone to shift over and fill the gaps in the seats, I realized my plan didn’t work.  I sat next to a student who was starting her diploma in International business.  Because I was sitting so close to her, I felt like I should talk to her to cut the awkwardness.  She was really excited about starting at Centennial and I was really glad the Dean of Students made us shift over because now I felt like part of the group.
The Dean spoke about all of the great benefits of being a Centennial College student and all of the amazing support offered.  They really make it easy for us to get comfortable and I feel good knowing the support is available should I need it.
Afterwards, all of the students separated into their respective programs so I followed the School of Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Arts students.  We were taken into a large room and right away Suzanne Caskie, Manager of Operations, told everyone to line up at the front of the class.  I have met Suzanne once before and I call her “The Cheese Lady” (the photo below was taken the same day as the impeccable meal mentioned above).  Suzanne knows her cheese and she is also downright awesome.  So back to the orientation, right away I was looking for a way to get out of this “ice-breaking” exercise.
Suzanne kept saying things like “you guys are going to hate this” and “you guys are not going to be happy in a minute” so you really can’t blame me for wanting to escape.  She made us form two lines facing each other.  They put a thin stick in between the two rows and all we had to do was, with only two fingers of both hands, and in unison, lower the stick to the ground.  This sounds like a piece of cake, right?  WRONG.  Our stick kept going up!  And up and up!  No matter how many times we yelled “go down” we could not make the stick go down.  It was wild and frustrating!  After I yelled at a few younger and taller students for “playing tricks” and not listening to instructions, and after we deducted that there was something wrong with the stick, I almost walked away and gave up.  I’m so glad I didn’t.
Suzanne explained that the reason our stick kept going up is because she stressed us all out before the exercise started by telling us we were going to hate it and since we carry all of our stress in our arms and shoulders, the stick was forced upward.  No one was able to relax.  This made total sense. Everything that she thought would happen, happened.  We got frustrated with each other, we blamed others, we blamed the stick, and I almost gave up.  It was a great message about how we have to learn to work with others and communicate since in this program and in life in general we will always have to work with others and we can’t let stress get in the way of that.  We should never let stress get in the way of our success.  This will be my biggest challenge.  Did I mention I have two young children and I also run a food Media Company out of my home so dealing with stress will be a huge challenge for me.
I’ve been baking since I was very young – it is where my culinary experience began.  Questions did always come to mind and I did my best to research on my own or ask someone who might know.  A lot can be self-taught or read about in cook books and blogs and this is how I’ve managed until now.  Joining the Centennial College program will allow me to focus on my passion for baking, figure out the actual science that is baking and get creative with the knowledge that I have been so graciously gifted with.  Lots of great blog posts to come!
School officially starts Friday.  I received a uniform and a tool box to borrow from James Smith, Chair of Culinary Programs & Operations so the pressure is on to do my best.  You know how you feel when you receive a horrible sweater from your older family member at Christmas and you are thankful but you don’t like it no matter how much you try?  Well, that’s sort of how I feel about a part of the uniform.  I love Centennial’s colours, Green and black–they are sharp!  My only qualm is with this hat.  I’m going to stop here because I sound ungrateful – I am so grateful!  I have a whole box of tools that I get to use for the entire semester and I don’t ever have to pick out clothes for school because they have already been chosen for me.  My goal is to never get a photo taken of me with that hat on.
I am really excited to get started–I literally can’t wait!  I keep thinking to myself, is it Friday yet?  My son keeps asking me why I am going back to school because he said I already know how to bake.  He’s little and it is a great lesson to teach him that in life we never stop learning.  I plan on including him in my test kitchen shenanigans.
I got a tour of the current bake labs and they seem like they will be an awesome learning environment.  I also got to see renderings of the new bake labs that are coming in September of this year – I may have to join more courses come September!  For this particular course, I will be paired with another student and we’ll share a large butcher block station that is equipped with all of the necessary appliances.  Working with a partner will be challenging for me but I am more than ready to take it on.  I think it’s easy to say we were successful all on our own but when you can make it work with a great partner or team, the success is doubled and that is what I am most excited to see.

I will be posting every Second Thursday so please do keep in touch to see what I’m up to at Centennial College.
With Love,
*This post was created as part of a paid partnership program between myself and Centennial College.

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