LEARNINGS FROM PASTRY CONNECTION: PASTRY CHEFS, HOW DO THEY FORM? WITH OSVALDO GROSS AND OLIVIER FERNÁNDEZ
I enjoyed very much to have the opportunity of watching this conference from two great pastry chefs and educators. Olivier Fernández, director of EPGB at Barcelona and Osvaldo Gross, director of the IAG at Buenos Aires. Both started their careers working at hotels and then dedicated themselves to teaching.
They have a very similar teaching method at their schools. It is developed on the evolution of subjects based on their complexity, beginning from the simple tasks until arriving to the most complex ones. Students must follow a specific order, which is necessary to pass certain subjects before starting other more advanced ones.
The EPGB school in Barcelona follows the same educational system they had 45 years ago. It was founded by the pastry chefs of the guild from that moment, with the idea of educating their sons on this same profession. This made it a very closed institution at the beginning, but through the years it started to be more flexible until it accepted students that were not part of the guild.
Twelve years ago, Olivier Fernández and José Romero modernized their school, respecting the same teaching system. 65% of the grades of their students depend on practical subjects and 35% is divided among various theoretical subjects, like chemistry. They don’t usually use a textbook as reference for their students. Regarding this, Olivier says that pastry evolves too quickly, so this will make them change their biography constantly, through a more practical method they stay updated all the time. Since it is a school from the guild, they emphasize the fact that students have to start working from their very first year, since that it’s going to give them more experience in their knowledge of techniques.
On the other hand, Osvaldo Gross follows a system more similar to the French School, dividing the different preparations in dough and filling families. It is a more globalized system. At the moment of working each dough family, they use local as well as international methods. On reference to the bibliography of the subjects, they organized it with a more rigid method during the first years, and new updates are introduced in further courses. Osvaldo also mentions that he had to incorporate chocolate making as an individual subject, due to the big demand it started to have during the last years. Bakery was very updated, it became more advanced with the introduction of new products. On this way, a graduated from the IAG can stay updated trough the years thanks to its different courses and postgrads.
As it was mentioned before, both chefs come from working at hotels and they mentioned it is a very good school for the beginning of a pastry career, since it requires creativity and wit on various aspects in order to keep up the good work.
Osvaldo always suggest his students to take the time to go to eat at different pastry shops, stores and well-known hotels in order to taste their products, since it is an important part of the formation of a pastry chef. Following this method, the EPGB takes its students to Paris for 2 days, so they will visit the most famous pastry shops of the city and taste their products.
On reference to pastry shops. Barcelona and Cataluña are two cities with a high consumption of these products. There is a cake for every celebration and there is a strong relationship between pastry and religion. For example, the DIADAS have a lot of importance, which are parties where a variety of products are prepared, depending on the occasion. Talking about the pastry consumption in Buenos Aires, Osvaldo mentions it stays very classy, and innovation is seeing more in restaurants desserts.
One peculiar characteristic the EPGB has it’s its Monographic or Master courses in other countries. The objective is to make the school known, and also to motivate students to go to Barcelona. Nevertheless, Olivier says that the most important learning is the one they get from international students, since this helps them to know pastry from other countries, which is a very enriching knowledge exchange.
At the end of the conference, a very important question about online certifications is made. Both chefs agreed that a certificate can’t be handed if there is no presential way to evaluate what was taught. On reference with self-taught education Olivier mentions it is a valid option, that even though it may take more time, formation is a matter of attitude. What is more, on Osvaldo’s opinion right now it is even easier to be self-taught thanks to all the information available on the internet.
I was lucky to have both of them as teachers, Osvaldo, characterized by his order, structure, and impeccable work, he taught me to develop the basis pastry. Olivier, with a more innovative profile, taught me that this road never ends, that there are always new things to learn and that is one of the most beautiful things about this profession. It doesn’t matter if it is self-taught, online, on schools, hotels, or simply working, personally I think that pastry is learned every day, and you never stop learning, it is something that you will always enjoy.
Lucrecia Cluter, Superior Technician in Cooking and Pastry Chef
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