L’École Valrhona Brooklyn grand opened in style on Monday, flying out pastry chefs from around the world for a two-day symposium. We sat in on Michelin star-studded pastry panel, where pastry chefs Ghaya Oliveira (Daniel), Joe Murphy (Jean-Georges), Thomas Raquel (Le Bernardin), Stephanie Prida (Manresa), and Anna Bolz (Per Se) shed some light on what the life of a fine-dining executive pastry chef entails.
As with all things in life, becoming a successful pasty chef entails hard work, unwavering commitment, and being insatiably passionate about what you’re doing. You must love what you’re doing everyday to be willing to spend the majority of your waking hours at work. And this was the quality that all five chefs embodied: love for the art and craft that is pastry.
Anna Bolz believes that what you decide to do with all your time ultimately becomes your life. And in that definition, when your work is your life, it becomes “less of a question about balance and more about getting enough sleep” every night. She also lives by the advice given by a colleague, “Your only limitation is your imagination.” When a problem arises, get creative and imagine your way out of it.
Ghaya Oliveria skipped the sugar coating and said flat out, “It’s a big sacrifice. It’s not easy at all.” Joe Murphy agreed, adding, “What we do is a way of life. … My wife gave up her [career] so that I could do what I do.”
Thomas Raquel said, “It’s not ‘just’ cooking. It’s our passion. It’s our career. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.” He’s constantly thinking, “how much further can I push myself? How can I be better than I was yesterday? In life, sometimes you have to give up things, and my personal life is what I gave up.”
For Stephanie Prida, “proving [her] parents wrong” was the biggest triumph in her career.
The vision for L’École Valrhona Brooklyn is to serve as a creative co-working space for chefs to collaborate, experiment, and get innovative. There will also be professional pastry classes, along with intimate workshops for amateur gourmet enthusiasts.