When the big day finally arrived, my hands were still feeling the ill effects of the five-hour sugar-heat-sesh from the night before. I shakily brought a cup of coffee up to my mouth hoping to offset the measley four hours sleep I had the night before. It was too early for me to develop an appetite, but I thought better and managed to get down a piece of toast before heading out the door to face the music.
The attending chef at the exam was the head pastry chef of the school, Chef Deguignet. He is known to be the strictest and possibly the harshest marker of the department. But I think my mind was too preoccupied on whether or not I’d be able to finish on time and make a good blown swan that the chef's many intimidation tactics failed to play on my conscience.
The first half of the exam evaporated quickly and I fell a little behind schedule as my first batch of pulled sugar came out grainy. I couldn’t believe that it was happening as I have never experienced that problem in any of the previous trials. But I managed to keep my cool and put another pot on to cook and spent the "lost" time making decorative vines with the damaged sugar.
When three hours went by, I had only finished my poured sugar base, leaves and half a rose. The compulsory one hour lunch interval was the most stressful so called "break" I’ve ever had to take. I couldn’t help but worry about all my sugar underneath the heat lamp and all the things I’ve yet to make in the two hours that remained before the exam wrapped up. I still had to produce two and a half roses and a blown swan.. Not to mention the forty minutes needed to assemble the whole piece together. However a quick call home to my love Mart put my mind at greater ease. The promise of seeing him and the comfort of a huge hug after all this was over plastered a huge smile on my face and I was ready to go at it again.
I finished my three roses with fifty minutes to spare. This meant that I only had ten minutes to make the swan. I had only one chance to get it right if I ever wished to finish on time. So I said a little prayer and hoped for the best. To my delight, the resulting bird was the best shaped swan I had ever made. I knew from then on, it was going to be smooth sailing til the end.
Et voila! I finished with about ten minutes to spare. So I made sure my workstation was super clean and then approached the chef for a little photo-op. After my “mercis” and “au revoirs” I changed into civilian clothing and got out of the school as fast as possible. The weather was fine and my stomach was rumbling. I sped-walked home to claim my hug and high fives, and went to grab a crêpe from the crêpe man in the corner. It was a good day. And even after all that pressure and drama, my love for sugar was still augmented ten fold.
|The creations of my classmates|
|Chef Jean-Francois Deguignet and an exhausted post-exam me|