Flashback to 2009...
Me in my chocolate and cream stained chef whites and my flour stained steel-toed safety shoes (these were more like construction worker boots than chef clogs).
Sitting outside on a bench smoking my umpteenth cigarette, into hour 15 of my day which started at 6am this morning. Wondering what the hell made me into a soulless pastry drone.
I love pastry! I have a burning passion for it! But this job was surely killing it... Locking it inside a walk-in freezer and letting it die a slow death. I had to get out. I simply had to, otherwise I would lose all this pastry love..
Most of what I know about pastry from the hotel was about baking cakes, doing plated desserts, making show pieces, doing chocolate work and doing dessert buffets, cake decorating were few and far between.
We had a special cake Artist Chef for that, and even he had an assistant. So the rest of us pastry drones would only have a chance of working with fondant during festivals ( Hari Raya, Chinese New Year & Christmas) and when a royal family member need a huge cake (bearing in mind, a 10kg cake is considered a small size). During those times, it was all hands on deck, making fondant decorations 'til the wee hours o' the mornin' all to have it ready by the next day.
Through that, I learnt to cover a cake in fondant, learnt to mix gold dust with vodka/lemon extract to make edible gold paint, learnt to hand make 500 pink roses for a cake (because the Permaisuri loves pink). So I had the basics down pat.
Every time I was needed at the cake decorating station, I jumped at the chance. Wether it be for a 20kg, gold covered cake for the King or to make an X-rated cake which no one else wanted to do because they'd essentially be making edible porn. I would dream of making fantastical cakes for anyone celebrating anything!
Suddenly, in my mind, I see hope... in the shape of a beautifully decorated cake with gold painted fondant detailing and handmade roses. This will give me the fuel to stoke my fire again. I shall be a cake decorator....nay I shall be a cake specialist!!
So I quit my job at the 5-Star city hotel working endless hours in the building's basement!
I decided what cake I wanted to do,
which customer I wanted to take on
how much to charge!
I mean, everybody KNEW I did pastry and cakes, right? And I had, had some personal cake customers already! It'd be a cinch! I'd be rolling in customers!
Unfortunately, it wasn't the case, in the beginning. There were months where I'd make only 2 cakes. Which sucked financially. I lucked out having saved money from working all those hellish hours so I could sustain it living frugally for awhile, although it didn't seem frugal at the time.
I was also living with friends at the time, who are fabulous people and also living with my better half, all in the same condo unit.
Baking cakes takes up kitchen space and kitchen time. I felt like I was taking advantage of the situation to say the least. But they were all really great, gracious and generous with my "weird baking times", my "making a mess in the kitchen", my "leaving the dishes to pile up in the sink" and all to help me advance my career of making edible artistic cakes and also for first hand dibs on any hot-from-the-oven cakes and cookies.
It was hard at times, it was challenging to say the least and it was a learning curve approaching, what it felt like, infinity, that I would have to ride through to become the caker that I am today.
I still have a lot of ways to go but I surely am happier, more creative and best of all..