January 3, 2014

Mo-Ping Tham, Pastry Arts Graduate

Stage (pronounced stahzje): a short internship or working interview in a kitchen

Our Pastry Arts graduate Mo-Ping Tham recently had a great stage experience. Read more to see what she has to say about it!

Escoffier: So, I hear you had a great stage experience recently. Can you tell me about that?
Tham: Yeah, I was staging at Parkside. It’s a restaurant on 6th Street here in Austin. I came in one Saturday morning and worked until they didn’t need me anymore, but it was a really good experience. They pretty much let me do everything! I helped make some cakes, I helped round some breads, I got to do some molecular gastronomy things, and I made donuts. I was actually impressed with the amount of things they felt comfortable with having me make because they were big components of their desserts. So, that was pretty cool!

Escoffier: And this was your first time staging there?
Tham: Yes, it was my first time staging period.

Escoffier: So, were there other people doing stages that day at Parkside as well, or were you the only one?
Tham: Yes, there was another student from another cooking school in Austin who was staging the same time as I was.

Escoffier: Did she seem to have a similar experience to yours?
Tham: I think so. It seemed like she was enjoying herself. I wouldn’t say she was less prepared, but she did seem to have less experience and didn’t seem as comfortable in the kitchen.

Escoffier: So you feel like you were prepared to go into the kitchens and that they saw that you had the skillset to do what you were asked to do?
Tham: Oh, yes. Totally. I felt like going into the kitchen was just like another day of production in class. I felt very comfortable. I only needed help finding their equipment and supplies. Once I had the recipe and knew where things were, I felt comfortable working on my own. I did have to ask questions as far as how far they wanted me to take things, and if things were looking the way they needed them to look, and they would give me feedback. Other than that, I knew what I was doing.

Escoffier: So, do you think that your experience gained from the program here at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts helped prepare you for working in a kitchen confidently, or did you gain experience before coming to pastry school?
Tham: Well, I’ve been cooking and baking for a long time, but not in a professional setting. I really feel like the training that I’ve received in school has more than adequately prepared me for a restaurant setting and doing production. I also feel like the curriculum here has prepared me for working in that kind of setting. You know, Parkside is a higher-end establishment and they do a lot with molecular gastronomy. And luckily, we had just recently finished covering molecular gastronomy in class, so I felt comfortable with all of the chemicals, and I knew what everything was. I didn’t feel lost with any of that stuff and I think it gave me a distinct advantage as far as being prepared for that type of setting. The other student I was staging with didn’t have a molecular gastronomy component in her program’s curriculum, so she didn’t feel as comfortable with some of the things they were wanting us to do.

Escoffier: So, do you think you’ll stage again?
Tham: Oh, yes! I already have another stage date lined up at Parkside. I want to be a regular there so they’ll get to know me and I can get some more experience with them. I do plan to line some other stage dates up with other restaurants as well because I want to get as much experience as possible.