Bakers Journal

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George Brown launches post-graduate patisserie program


September 3, 2015
By Bakers Journal

Toronto – Twelve George Brown College students are in Lyons, France, honing their patisserie skills, as part of a three-semester Advanced French Patisserie program designed to give graduates of the college’s baking pastry arts and culinary programs the baking, marketing and business skills required to launch an international career in pastry.

The program launched in May and runs until next April, said professor and co-ordinator Christophe Measson. The first semester, which runs from May to August at the campus in Toronto, lays the groundwork by teaching basic pastry-making skills, packaging design and conversational French.

The gastronomy component of the opening semester is designed to give students a taste of food and culture in different regions of France. They learn about products, culture, and typical desserts, including entremets, small cakes, viennoiserie, confectionery and chocolate making. Students follow their interests and choose where they will live and work, for example, Brittany or Provence.

The second semester, which runs from September to December, takes students to France’s world-famous Ducasse school, Ecole National Superieure de la Patisserie, near the village of Le Puy en Velay, 100 kilometres west of Lyon, for one month. They then receive hands-on experience through a two-month externship at pastry shops and Michelin five-star boutique hotels throughout the French countryside.

For the final semester, which runs from January to April, students return to Toronto to plan, open and run a pop-up shop, Patisserie Capstone, to gain real-world experience in the specialized field.

The program has capacity for 24 students, but took on just 12 for its inaugural offering. “We needed to start small for the first year,” Measson said. About 60 per cent of the current students are George Brown students; the other 40 per cent are graduates of other schools, including international institutions. Eleven of the students are women, a sign of how much times have changed, he said.

During the first semester students learn graphic design and packaging, basic gastronomy and pastry theory and practical. Although they are not required to know French, they receive six hours of advanced training in the language each week of the first semester to help them navigate school and employment in France.

Three years earlier, Measson took a small group of students on an exploratory trip to the school. He and fellow George Brown professor Martial Ribreau began developing the program a year before it launched, with Measson taking a tour of France last January to scout locations where students could work and board.

So far the students have done well, overcoming a steep learning curve, Measson said. “They blossomed over 14 weeks.”

The instructors wanted to go traditional yet give students a twist. They worked on de-sugarizing recipes – 20 to 30 a week – to match what is happening in France.

Patisserie Capstone is the name they’ve given a pastry shop students will plan and run during the program’s last semester. To prepare, they will treat the labs like real workplaces, running three night shifts from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., before opening the shop and operating it for the full 14 weeks of the term, he said.

“We encourage students not to be creative during the first semester, but just to learn theory,” he said, adding that they are given opportunities to use their imagination later in the program.

Graduates will earn a post-graduate diploma, which is meant to prepare them for an international career in pastry should they choose to pursue it, Measson said.

“We hope the program gives students a confidence boost, an edge.”

More information about the program, Advanced French Patisserie (Postgraduate) Program (H413) can be found at the college’s website, http://coned.georgebrown.ca.