A visit to Café Pouchkine and my first week at Guy Savoy
Monday, February 6, 2012

Last Saturday night, I finished my first week of work as a stagiaire at restaurant Guy Savoy. It’s been exciting, stimulating, and refreshing. For the moment, I work 9-5pm on Tuesday to Friday and 4-12am on Saturdays. Pretty normal hours right? Unfortunately later on, I’ll join the rest of the team and do the double shift which runs 9-3pm and 5-12:30am. That is going to be a real challenge!

Just as everyone who’s gone through the transition has warned us, working is very different from school. The first few days involved a bit of an adjustment. There’s the language barrier, unfamiliarity of a new kitchen, and the much faster pace of work. Aside from the service rush, everyone is friendly and helpful. Chef comes around to greet us and shake our hand every morning when he arrives. After that, it’s a gradual crescendo to the climax of service rush when the yelling and swearing happens. But it’s all good after service!

Right now, there’s 9 people in just the pastry department. That includes the executive pastry chef, sous chef, 2 chef de partie, 2 commis, apprentice (on a 1-week work and school rotation), and 2 stagiaires (myself included). The other stagiaire leaves in a week and the apprentice is on a weekly rotation between school and work.

So far, I’ve been helping one of the chef de partie (a very nice girl from London) with the dessert trolley and mignardises (bite-sized desserts). At the restaurant, clients are served the mignardises before their dessert order. After their dessert order (1 for lunch and 2 for dinner), we bring them the dessert trolley which is composed of 3 levels of petits fours (macarons, cookies, marshmallows, cream puffs, mini cheesecakes), tarts, mousses, rice puddings, and an assortment of ice creams and sorbets. After the dessert trolley, clients get a final palate cleanser which is an earl grey sorbet on a peppered vanilla crème anglaise. And yes, I’ve got to taste almost everything and it’s all very good. The earl grey sorbet is heavenly!

As for my day-to-day duties, I start by preparing the mignardises. I scoop 50-70 half-inch mango balls, then make another 0.5cm hole out of each one and fill it with a mango-mint coulis. This is especially difficult with ripe mangos. Then, I cut the tops of raspberries so they can stand on a plate and fill it with an avocado cream. There’s also these vanilla meringue cubes which are filled with a vanilla crème anglaise. And that makes up the mignardises. After, I prepare the grape clafouti, finish dusting the tarts, and fill profiteroles with praliné cream. Then, I polish about 200 plates, clean, and help out with random tasks. After lunch, I stay with the other stagiaire to finish up things for the dessert trolley and do more cleaning. Before I know it, my day is over!

Overall, I’m happy with the workplace I’ve chosen. I get to experience exactly what I was looking for. And that is how to do things in great detail, to strive for near-perfection, and to watch and learn how to compose à la minute desserts.

I’ll try and sneak some pictures from work for the next post. Until then, here’s some cakes I tried recently from Café Pouchkine, located in Printemps. They are a russian-inspired french pâtisserie. They put a lot of detail into their decorations.

On the left is the Roulé Citron Caramel, a lemon poppyseed cake that is almost like a jellyroll. There is a lemon and caramel cream rolled inside the cake and it sits on top of a cookie. The white domes are meringues. On the right is the Botchka Couquette, a heavily vanilla-bean studded pastry cream inside pâte à choux studded with crunchy sugar crystals. Both were quite good though I preferred the Roulé Citron Caramel more.

Café Pouchkine also makes very good viennoiseries. I wanted to buy their giant vanilla croissant but it was sold out that day so I settled this candied orange-filled pastry. Also very good.




Well? Let me know what you think. Write me a comment below!