What It Takes To Be A Pastry Chef

Two cups of flower, a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of sugar might be all you need for some baked goods.  But what’s the perfect recipe for a pastry chef?

For most people, becoming part of the restaurant business is a mere dream but for chef Tiffani Faison, owner of Sweet Cheeks Q on Fenway and second runner up for the first season of “Top Chef”, this dream is a reality. Of course, with her busy schedule, I was unable to interview this amazing cook but others were able to share their thoughts.

“I love Sweet Cheeks and the biscuits are exceptional.  Especially when they’re right out of the oven and they’re nice and warm.  They’re flaky and buttery and melt in your mouth delicious,” said Isabel Munoz, Hill Holliday advertising employee and Fenway resident.  There was no hesitation in Munoz’s comment about the biscuits; she was especially excited to talk about those.  “Oh, and that butter!” Munoz added, “It’s simply to die for.  Literally makes the entire experience of eating the biscuit unforgettable.  It’s a good thing they come in a big bucket.”

Sweet Cheeks’ portions are abundant.  Instead of the traditional plate this restaurant uses trays.  Yes, trays.  Southern food is messy and extreme in portions and Sweet Cheeks does nothing but pay tribute to southern comfort.

But the size of the plates is the least of worries of a hungry customer; it’s the biscuits they want. Freshly made butter biscuits served with a side of hand whipped honey butter served by the bucket. Every day, Chef Faison makes batched and trays of biscuits, which are simply too good for take out.

“The other day, I called to place an order but just of biscuits. Yes, they’re that good,” said Fenway resident and frequent Sweet Cheeks consumer, Amy Anastasia.

Unfortunately, Anastasia wasn’t able to place her order for what the hostess explained was “’insufficient amounts of biscuits’”.  “Apparently, they only make enough for the afternoon seating because they’re that fresh – they simply don’t make big batches,” said Anastasia.

But I’m sure you’re still itching to find out what exactly it takes to become a pastry chef. Well, for starters, you need a formal education. According to FohBoh The Restaurant Network a business networking and social media site for restaurants, a pastry chef must have talent and a genuine love for cooking but there must also be some sort of formal training.  And this is where a collegiate education comes in.

Schools like Le Cordon Bleu and Johnson and Wales have dramatically increased in applicants making them have to expand their campus radius and locations.  Le Cordon Bleu, an internationally known hospitality and culinary school, originated in France in 1895.  Now, according to the schools website, this worldly institution has 35 schools in five continents.

Johnson and Wales, originally founded as a strict business school, expanded into the culinary arts in 1973.  Statistics from the university indicate that today there are five campuses ranging from Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and their largest in Providence, Rhode Island.

So, being talented and possessing the love for cooking is not enough.  Other than these qualities there are more specific ones that an education can provide the maybe not-so-talented candidate. Being innovative and creative are musts for the cutthroat pastry business but most importantly attention to detail.

Bonnie Falbowsky Suh, an independent catering chef from Colchester, Connecticut and Southern New Hampshire University alumna, said, “When I went to culinary school I had to learn pastry techniques and let me tell you they are hard. There is so much to learn and with technology evolving so quickly pastry gadgets become more and more ambitious.

Not only is the technology advancing by the second but also understanding the responsibilities of the craft can take a toll on anyone. “Having stamina and strength are probably the most important qualities of a chef,” said Falbowsky.  “The hours are long and the dedication has to be there at all time.”

Munoz, although not a part of the culinary field, said, “In my opinion a pastry chef needs to know how his pastries will relate well to the rest of the food in a restaurant in order to make it all work.  And Sweet Cheeks definitely knows how to do this.”  She added, “Their biscuits are the perfect compliment to BBQ food.”

Now that you know the starting point of pastry chef knowledge, let’s get back to the good stuff: warm flaky biscuits that melt in your mouth. A golden top and moist center is all you need to make all your problems go away.

“Eating these biscuits are like eating a slice of heaven but the butter is even better.” It’s like the perfect balance of sweet,” said Robert Suh, Lasell College lacrosse assistant coach.  “The honey butter and biscuit combination is like having a biscuit with butter and homemade jam.

“I used to live in North Carolina, where southern food is their thing,” said Andrew Suh, brother of Robert Suh and student of Lasell College, from across the table.  “This palace comes pretty close.”


Blast from the past, Cabot’s Ice Cream 1969

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Ice Cream, the delicious frozen treat that makes everyone from children to adults melt.

In 1969, on Washington street in Newton, the Prestejohn family decided they were going to brighten up the smiles of children and adults a like and open an ice cream shop.  Cabot’s Ice Cream makes their own homemade ice cream in the buildings basement and offers up to 30 different flavors, not including all the other creations customers come up with.

The wonderful part about Cabot’s is not that they make their own ice cream and offer world class service but the look of the restaurant.  When you first walk into the building the location looks like any other office building.  Carpeted floors and a stair case leading to who knows what.  But when you open the second door you enter a magical place.

Since opening in 1969, Cabot’s has maintained its classic diner appearance.  The restaurant looks as if Norman Rockwell himself designed the place.  The black and white checkered floor paired with traditional red pleather seating screams nothing less than American diner.  And their food is the same way, good old fashion American.

Other than ice cream the most in demand item on the menu is the muffins.  Homemade and fresh everyday, the muffins are offered toasted or grilled.  With a little dab of butter the crunchy and moist muffin will leave you wanting more.  But their menu truly consists of anything you could possibly think of.  From homemade chili soup to fish and chips the hard part is deciding what you’re going to get.

So whether you’re in the mood for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just dessert Cabot’s has you covered.  And like the old saying goes: Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Wheel In The Bar

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Spring has sprung and entertaining a group of guests becomes exciting again!  As usual, delicious and colorful drinks are a staple for Springtime and giving them an entrance is part of the fun.  Behold, the bar cart.

Back in the day, when our fabulous grandmothers prepared for their afternoon book club reviews with the gals and our ever so sophisticated grandfathers gathered around after a game of golf to talk about politics there was one thing in common, alcohol.

The glass of bubbly champaign and glistening cup of scotch would always be poured in style.  Beautiful carts would wheel their way to every guest waiting to act as a loyal bartender.  Now, these carts have made a comeback and in perfect timing may I say.

With vintage roaring in the fashion world it was only natural that retro vintage furniture would come along with it.  I for one am ecstatic this piece of furniture has made a comeback.  It can be a pain in the neck to have to go back to the static bar in the dingy basement just to get a glass of margarita or cosmos, wouldn’t it?

Now, the bar not only allows the party to move around as they please but it’s also very pleasing to the eye.  Styles vary tremendously.  From ordinary to extraordinary there are carts that depict the exact era they were made in and probably have a story to go with them.  The 50s had carts with smooth edges and somewhat midcentury modern while the 80s was retro and edgy where bar carts had no specific shape and went from rectangle to circle and everything in between.

So, grab your glasses, wheel them around and have a ball!

Data Visualization: Pictures For Words

Data Visualization has become an important part of journalism as well as any other industry.  Life moves fast and so does the information.

In order for society to keep in touch with whats going on around them and not get sucked up into the superficial habits, mostly daily chores, a person goes through from morning to end they occasionally tune into their local newspaper or the online website of these entities.  But because life does move fast and the distraction of children and 80 hour work weeks technology has listened and has accommodated; data visualization is the new article.

This new talk about data visualization can be a little confusing if you’re not familiar with technological advances.  But in reality, you see data visualization everywhere.

Those pie charts and bar tables you learned how to read and create in fifth grade math are data visualization.  The different colores on the pie charts and bar levels on the bar tables indicate the changes occurring in every spectrum you could possibly imagine.  These methods of organizing data can be adapted by every subject.

Because I am writing a food blog and want to keep everything as relevant as possible, I have looked up examples of data visualization having to do with food or actually created with food.  Also because I like the pun between a pie chart and the fact that well my blog shares pie recipes.

Visualizing Food 40 Ways is an article written to show readers how they can create a food data chart instead of a food journal.  For those who are trying to keep a record of their food consumption, writer Lauren Manning, shares how charts can actually make for a better record.  Charts are simply easier to understand and read.

Food Tech Connect uses the same method of charting to show the reader how the economi in the past year has influenced the foods we eat, buy and consume.  The infographics, as they call them, depict with minimal word usage to the reader how carbs turn into body fat and how the consumer can lear to control their intake.

What It Takes To Be A Pastry Chef: Final Project

The time has come where the semester has abruptly come to an end.  I’ve been thinking carefully what topic I want to engage my readers in and finally, after a week of soul searching, I’ve decided on a simple and straight to the point topic.  What it takes to be a pastry chef.

I think it’s important for people to understand that becoming a pastry chef is a lot harder than one might think.  I mean its not like you can just add any amount of ingredients and not have a significant change in the outcome like regular cooking would be.

Baking is an extremely measured out for of cooking.  Everything has its place and purpose and although creativity is important measurements are key.

I’ve decided I want to interview two of the most amazing pastry chefs in Boston.  Tiffani Faison from Sweet Cheeks Q and Annette Mercogliano owners of the legendary Mike’s Pastry.

Faison has an impressive background in the culinary industry one of them being a contestant on the first season of Bravo’s Top Chef where she won second place.  Her restaurant Sweet Cheeks Q is her first where she highlights the best of southern food and oh yea homemade biscuits that are too good and exclusive for take out.

My other potential interview needs no introduction, Mike’s Pastry.  This local favorite has everything you could ever ask for.  Handmade pastries fresh everyday.

I hope you all are looking forward to these interviews because I sure am.

5 Napkin Burger

Pickles, mustard, lettuce, and tomatoes are all ingredients in the classic all American burger.  5 Napkin Burger located on 105 Huntington Avenue does it a little different.

For this post my classmates and I were all assigned different burger joints around the Back Bay and downton Boston area.  With multiple successful locations in New York and Miami I instantly thought of 5 Napkin Burger as the perfect place to review.

Open only a year ago, 5 Napkin offers eleven different juicy burgers all ready to cause an explosion in your mouth.  Although most would find a $15 burger to be quite expensive I suggest you reevaluate once you get the almost five pound burger in your hands and almost never ending bowl of fries.

Tim Walton, 5 Napkin server, experienced his first mouth watering burger at a friends birthday.  He described it as the bite that changed his life.  “I’ve been in the hospitality industry for a while but nothing like 5 Napkin,” said Walton.  “After I took my first bite of the Avocado Ranch burger I decided to apply for a job.”

5 Napkin offers a relaxed yet slightly upscale environment where old industrial Boston decor mixes with a modern take on cooking.

“I’m definitely a burger lover but I usually feel like I’m getting ripped off.  5 Napkin is a little more expensive than other burger places but believe me it’s worth it,” said Walton.

This burger joint offeres an extensive list of bottled beer and drinks.

Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. – midnight, Saturday 11 a.m. – midnight and Sunday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.  5 Napkin Burger has prime time location with a street entrance on Huntington Ave., across the street from the Colonnade Boston Hotel and Brasserie JO, as well as inside the Prudential Center.

There are also multiple ways of traveling to this burger joint if you dont have a car.  Three major T stops including Fenway and Kenmore both on the D Green line and The Prudential Station on the E Green line.  The restaurant is handicapped accessible.

5 Napkin Burger – 105 Huntington Ave. Boston, Mass – (617) 375-2277

Mapping For Words

Last Tuesday at my Reinventing the News class, I learned how using maps have become extremely common for journalism story telling.  I’m not talking about Google Maps graphics, these are the real deal.

As a journalist in the making, I don’t think mapping is journalism.  I fully support the usage of graphics in order to prove a point but I believe words and writing is journalist at its finest.

Mapping is a great tool, especially for readers who are more visual or simply don’t have the time to read through an entire article.  Also, some people don’t know how to decipher certain mapping techniques and having written dialogue breaks the information down.  I have faith people still appreciate the more traditional form of journalism and enjoy reading an article where the writer might have a little more knowledge about a specific topic.

I’ve found a couple example to show you lovely readers what exactly I’m talking about.

This past December in light of the horrible elementary school shooting in Connecticut, The New York Times wrote an article on how the Westchester County newspaper, The Journal News, created a map showing readers where gun owners live.  Because these are all public records, the newspaper published all of these peoples addresses and created a google map where red dots depict exactly where the gun possessor lives.

Another example was postes by the New Scientist website.  This particular article was about which areas in the United States would suffer most when a natural disaster stikes without warning.

And last but not least, the NASA Earth Observatory designed a map where they located every coral reef in the world.  With global warming affecting mother natures most beautiful creations, coral reefs have taken some of the biggest hits.

Click the links above to read more of each article and view the maps!

Neighborhoods Cafe & Crepes

On the corner of Kilmarnock Street and Peterborough Street lies a little gem named Neighborhoods Cafe & Crepes.

Although in the heart of Boston, Neighborhoods brings a little bit of France with their authentic crepe recipe.  With delicious hand picked coffee bean and all organic milk they can make even a non-coffee drinker into a true believe.  I should know, the closest I’ve gotten to drinking coffee is hot chocolate in a Starbucks cup.

All of their products come from organic vendors and small family owned farms for a reasonably low price.  They also have diverse menue where they offer something for everyone.  From the traditional and delicious strawberry and Nutella crepes to egg and arugula filled breakfast delights.

Not only is the food amazing but they greet and treat you like family.

Check out the video on the top and feel like a neighbor.  You’ll instantly want to move in!

The New Journalism Bandwagon: Storify

Guest speaker, Josh Stearns, takes time out of his schedule to introduce Storify, the new way of journalism.

Storify is a new journalism tool used to capture and archive peoples conversations.  Its a way to build on the tradition form of journalism by picking up current news from multiple different forums and pilling them up in one place

Sterns works for Free Press, a national organization, dedicated to media reform.  He teaches us about how Storify can help journalists track a story for long periods of time and eventually cover them while giving the reader multiple different perspectives on one specific matter.

“It’s important to balance your own voice without being drowned-out without all other comments,” said Staerns.

Because Storify utilizes several other news distributors such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and Flickr, Stearns advices journalists to stay in touch with their own form of writing.  Multimedia advancing more rapidly than anyone predicted makes journalists have to think ahead of the game and keep the reader interested.

Using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allows the journalists to access more people and create a larger reader base.

There are some disadvantages to using a tool so broad as Storify but like everything, theres ways to keep safe and verify your work before publishing.

-You can confirm with sources on real time using social media.

-You can contact news organizations and talk to editors and publishers.

-You can talk to other journalists.

So if you’re the kind of reader who likes getting their information from newspapers or magazines you should hop on the millennium bandwagon.

Picture Perfect with Mary Knox Merrill

Believe it or not, the job of a multi-media communications professional can go in many directions.  Mary Knox Merrill is proof of exactly that.

A masters in Journalism from BU and passion for photography have landed Merrill many mind blowing jobs that any aspiring journalist would be lucky to have, or in my case, jealous.

After completing her masters, Merrill started an internship at The Christian Science Monitor where she was responsible for photo editing.  Eventually, she moved on to a solid position with the Monitor where she stood out as an on-hand photojournalist.

A reporting career where traveling all over the world and meeting people with extreme stories is involved seems like a dream to most of us but Merrill pulled it off.  She described her job as a National Geographic adventure.

Don’t think landing an opportunity like this happens out of thin air, Merrill advised all of us aspiring journalists about one very important thing, “Persistance is key!”

“You have to know how to do everything.  Jobs aren’t channel specific anymore,” Merrill said.

After years of traveling the world, pretty much every two weeks, Merrill decided she wanted to settle down and live ‘a normal life’.  She got married, had a child, even started her own photography business named MK Merrill Photography.  Merrill is also passing along her knowledge and experience to young developing journalist as a Multi-media Marketing Communications professor at Northeastern University.

This gets me thinking, do I want to limit myself to print journalism or do I want to expand my knowledge and introduce photography or even video into my reporting?  I think I’ll go buy a camera now and live the journalistic dream Merrill lived.

As Merrill said, “Words are still Important but pictures and video are becoming more dominant.”

Until next time!