The French Pastry School: What was your background previous to pastry, and what led you to pursue a pastry education?
Grace Garay: Initially, I planned to study music but had a change of plans when I took some time off to figure out what I really wanted to pursue. After showing some interest in professional baking, I enrolled myself in a pastry program back home in San Antonio at St.Philip's College. That's where my interest for pastry skyrocketed. I had an amazing chef who was so passionate you couldn't help but almost tear up when she spoke to you about her passion for the art. I formed a special bond with her, and I truly consider her a mentor that I am very lucky to have found so early on in my career. It opened up an entirely new world to me that has grown immensely since attending The French Pastry School, and I hope to continue growing in it.
FPS: What has been the most surprising or eye-opening moment for you so far in the program?
GG: The most eye-opening moment for me has been how much I was able to create in such a short amount of time. The recipes we are given can be intricate and beautiful, so seeing what I was capable of after the 6 months is quite a confidence boost. The individual styles of teaching of each chef really drew out the best in you as a student enabling you to create great pastries, and I am grateful to them.
FPS: What are your plans following graduation?
GG: My plans are to continue working and to simply immerse myself in the field and try to better myself and my career every day. An intelligent chef that I had the pleasure of meeting and studying under here once said to us that you have to work really, really hard, and you have to get up every day and try to do better than the day before. Those words have stuck with me since the beginning, and I plan to live up to them as much as I can. After many months of learning how to act and perform in a kitchen, all you want to do is just go out there and start applying your newly learned skills.
FPS: Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you hope to be?
GG: I see myself hopefully working as a hotel pastry chef and traveling. I have high hopes for moving to California in the next year or two. Then, after that I'd like to make my way back to New York where I have some family. All to get the chance to work at some of the best known places around the U.S. Further down the road, I hope to begin the plans for my own business, a patisserie hopefully in either Chicago, New York, or California.
FPS: In the future, what will you look back on and remember most vividly about your time as a student at The French Pastry School?
GG: I will remember most vividly the amazing friendships that I made in the short time that I attended. It was so surprising to see how compatible we were. Other than learning new techniques and spending time with the chefs, being in class with strangers who all of the sudden have become your second family became one of the reasons that going to class was so exciting. We learned as much from each other as we did from the chefs, and I'm very excited to see where everyone's careers will go because I am sure that all of ours will intertwine at some point. They made me smile every single day and though moving on from the school to reach our career goals is exciting, not being together every day will be a bit saddening. Oh, yes, and the croissants. Oh my, the croissants.