Archive for October, 2010

Instead of spending time in the kitchen, I prefer being outdoors, including growing the produce that goes into my quick creations. As the weather in Chicago starts to grow chilly, here are some highlights from my garden this year.

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Following up on last weekend’s foodie frenzy, I was honored to attend a screening this weekend of “Kings of Pastry,” the documentary that traces the grueling path of three of the 16 French pastry chefs competing in the 2007 “Meilleurs Ouvriers de France” (the best craftsmen in France) — the “Olympics” of the pastry world.  The screening was at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and a special gathering of alums of the Emma Willard School, of which my dear mom is a graduate.  And guess who was the guest of honor?  Ms. Flora Lazar, one of the film’s producers,  an Emma alum and graduate of Chicago’s French Pastry School .  Here’s a super-cute picture of us all! 

Left to Right: Rachel Goodstein, Sara Patterson, "Kings of Pastry" Producer Flora Lazar, me, Kaye Reardon (my mom!), Martha McAlister

I myself am did not attend Emma (yo, New Trier East!), but my mom and my sister, Vickie, both graduated from Emma, so I grew up knowing Emma Willard School, and it was fun to meet some of the local alums and my mom’s friends – especially (but not only!) Flora Lazar.  It was her combined passion for education and her time spent at the French Pastry School  that led her to this movie project.  (The French Pastry School was actually founded by one of the film’s main characters, Jacquy Pfeiffer. ) 

OK, on to the movie.  It was amazing.   While I may go by the title of “Crazy Cook,” these people are really crazy — crazy for pastry and skilled like crazy, too.  The film has the emotion, the pressure and the pure suspense born of heart-felt passion that makes for a great story.  The Herald Scotland said this about it: “Forget ‘Master Chef.’  This is the culinary ‘Hurt Locker.’ “  Now, that’s one good quote! 

And as a Chicagoan,I was especially interested that the main storyline focuses on Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School, making his first attempt at this serious challenge.   I won’t give any spoilers here, but it is only running for one week at the Gene Siskel Film Center, so if you are in Chicago, go see it!  But I will share a few insider tips we learned from Flora Lazar at a dinner afterward at the Burnham Hotel.

* Competitors must be French citizens and they only hold the competition every four years.  The next competition will be held in 2011, and finalists are practicing now. 

* There are less than 100 living  “Meilleurs Ouvriers de France” (MOFs) pastry chefs in the world today. 

* There is no cost to compete, or sponsorships required – entry and competition are fueled purely by passion.  There is no cash prize — it is solely for the title and the satisfaction of mastery for which the pastry chefs compete. 

* The three-day competition is held only once every four years.  Some contestants participate multiple times, and the head of the jury competed four times before he, himself, achieved the honor 

* Any number of contestants can be named “MOFs,” based on the jury’s selection.   

* The film has been shown in other cities around the world, and broadcast in Europe on BBC and it is hoped that it will soon air on TV here in the States. 

The most suspenseful moments involved the transport of the Sugar Showpieces — towering, architectural constructions of fragile pulled sugar all assembled by hand.  No spoiler here, but just go see the movie.  The audience at our screening gasped loudly each time a chef undertook the transport. 

After the screening, we walked in some hellacious and psychotic Chicago fall weather to the Hotel Burnham for cocktails and dinner.  And you know pastry had to be involved.  Cut to dessert: 


Beautiful and deeelish – dense, fudge-y chocolate cake.  


And Flora Lazar herself, a graduate of Chicago’s French Pastry School, provided a sweet treat to-go in the form of nougat candies and classic French pate de fruits! 


All in all, a crazy-fun outing to see “Kings of Pastry” with a fabulous group of Chicago-area pastry queens from Emma Willard!  Bravo and Bon Appetit to you!

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