Behind the Scenes of the HEC Pastry Department

Staff Writer
Behind the Scenes of the HEC Pastry Department

Photo by Davana Bolton

For those of you unfamiliar with it: Hotel Ezra Cornell is a tradition that’s been happening once a year for 89 years in the Statler Hotel. Most of the time, Hotelies walk around saying things like, “Someday I’ll be a general manager!” and “Someday I’ll own my own restaurant!” Hotel Ezra Cornell is the weekend when the Statler says, “Okay…prove it.” For three days, every position in the hotel from prep cook to director is taken over by students. VIP guests travel from all over the world to attend the events, presentations, and roundtables that go on throughout the weekend while every student works to impress them. This year the theme of the weekend was, “Food for Thought,” focusing on healthy eating and sustainability trends in the hospitality industry. I volunteered to help out the pastry department this year preparing snacks and desserts for events all weekend. Here’s a look at what goes on behind the scenes.

Every student who works in the kitchen starts off by putting on chef whites. This includes a white sturdy linen jacket (not that mine will stay clean for very long…) and baggy pants comparable to pajamas. Complete the look with non-slip leather-upper shoes and a hat to keep your hair back. Super hot, right?

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Selfie by Davana Bolton

Next, it’s up to the food labs where everyone is already hard at work. These commercial teaching kitchens on the second floor of Statler Hall are usually home to HADM 2360, a core culinary lab class. This weekend, HEC has taken over. Pictured here with a sheet tray of madeline cookies is Darby Verdoorn, the executive chef of HEC 89.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

I start my first project, garnishing spiced vanilla mousse cups with caramelized orange. It ends up being one piece for the mousse cups, one for me…

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Photo by Davana Bolton

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Photo by Davana Bolton

…But they turn out pretty nicely anyway.

Meanwhile, Catherine is hard at work placing vanilla cream on some almond cookies before finishing them off with citrus fruit filets.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

They turned out beautifully.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

Later, she had a ball making some saffron madeline cookies.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

Here we see our fearless leader (that is, the executive pastry chef), Liz, piping some pastry cream into cream puffs. These puffs are made from a type of dough/batter called pâte à choux, or choux pastry. The pastry gets its name from the French word for cabbage, because the cream puffs tend to look like tiny cabbages. The same type of pastry is used in éclairs.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

My next project is a big batch of apple cupcakes, which means I get to use the super-sized 20 quart industrial mixer. This is NOT your momma’s KitchenAid.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

The batter is all ready to go into the mini muffin tins.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

Voilà! But wait, they’re missing something…

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Photo by Davana Bolton

…Ah yes, a drizzle of cider glaze. Much better.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

The muffins will be set out for a breakout. No, not the kind on your face, but a post-meeting snack for the guests. They’ll be served along with some light mousses, chia seed cookies, and whole-grain shortcakes to keep with the healthy “Food for Thought” theme.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

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Photo by Davana Bolton

Once we’ve set up the breakout, it’s back to work. Here, Diana pipes out some espresso meringues.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

Much later, they’ll bake and become dry and crispy to the touch but will melt in your mouth.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

In the meantime, I make some zucchini bread.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

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Photo by Davana Bolton

Although, who could focus on a vegetable bread when a warm homemade caramel sauce is cooking across the bench?

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Photo by Davana Bolton

Here, Liz and Jess pipe out some icing onto earl grey-flavored black-and-white cookies.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

Finally, it’s time to plate the desserts to set out for the closing cocktail, an after-dinner party where a big buffet of desserts awaits the guests. The features include specialty chocolates made by Diana, mini cheesecakes with a sour cherry compote, maple chia seed pudding, and the black and white cookies.

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Photo by Davana Bolton

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Photo by Davana Bolton

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Photo by Lauren Thiersch

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Photo by Davana Bolton

The closing cocktail also featured a house-made sorbet/froyo bar complete with toppings like the caramel sauce from earlier. I was pretty excited about it.

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Photo by Lauren Thiersch

And there you have it: that’s the way the cookie department crumbles!

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