Bernard Michael Tostanowski III

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My Mentor and Pastry Chef

In People on December 13, 2009 at 6:05 PM

Stefan Riemer - Regional Pastry Chef | Disney's Yacht & Beach and Boardwalk Resorts

The Beginning

In my short time on this planet I have run into so many people. Each with their own character and demeanor but none quite like the one I am going to explain in this one post.

Last year I found myself working at Disney’s Boardwalk Bakery, a small retail bakery supplying pastries not only through its storefront but also to the many venues located at the Boardwalk Resort.  Stefan Riemer, Regional Pastry Chef of both the Yacht & Beach Club Resort and the Boardwalk Resort approached me one afternoon with an opportunity to work at the Yacht & Beach Club Bakery. I would get to work under his guidance every Saturday morning and complete a pre-determined project at the end of the day.

My first assessment had very few guidelines. I was instructed to create one 10” cake. It could not be a dated style and had to be my own. I could use anything that was already produced in the bakery and I had only one hour to assemble the cake. Being the coffee addict that I am, I immediately thought of a cake using sweetened espresso as the simple syrup base to soak each layer. Secondly I made a gianduja with equal parts hazelnut paste and tempered melted chocolate and folded in feuilletine flakes in which I made two thin, round disks that I had sandwiched and let crystallize between silpats. The last element of my cake was a chocolate buttercream which held each layer together and finished the outside. Garnished with white chocolate shavings and chocolate filigree it was complete. I cleaned up my station and it was time for evaluation.

The Boardwalk Bakery at Disney's Boardwalk Resort & Villas

The Evaluation

Two other students, Brittany Hannah and Merry Off were completing their cake project along side of me that day. When we gathered around Chef with our cakes for our critique he told us that he wanted us to give feedback to each other as well. My cake was up first. I took one slice out of the cake and laid it on its side…..mistake #1. Whenever so much time and detail is put into layering a cake, it doesn’t make sense to lay the slice it on its side. Chef told us that in Germany, If a customer was served a cake flopped over on its side that it would be refused. Even if the layering was not even and neat, some people may be inclined to return it as well. I was taken back when he told us this, because in America, I’ve never seen someone return a cake because the layering was uneven. It made me happy to hear this because then I knew that there really were people out there (maybe not as many in America) that cared about the quality of pastry they were eating. More to come on this subject in just a few paragraphs.

As my lousy piece of cake lay on its side, we all grabbed a fork and took a bite. Mistakes 2, 3 & 4….oh crap. First of all it was a real struggle to get a forkful of cake. When I made my crispy gianduja disks, I didn’t make them thin enough. They were so thick, it was like cutting through a candy bar with a plastic spoon. To make it worse, not only was the chocolate to thick, but my sponge cake was over soaked making it even harder to cut. Although these were two very critical mistakes, they do come with practice and I have perfected both techniques. As we tasted the cake, my eyes almost bulged out of their sockets; the sweetness of that one bite was extremely overwhelming. After Chef choked down his portion, he paused and of course made a complement before stabbing me in the heart. He told me that the flavor combination was great then proceeded to tell me about the construction of my cake and the high level of sweetness. The two other students also gave me some great feedback. After all was done I was given a score of 7 out of 10. I was really disappointed to hear this. I knew that my cake didn’t deserve a score even this high. When Stefan asked me what I would give the cake, I told him a 4. I truly thought my cake was awful but that I could learn a lot from my mistakes. After evaluating the other students, Stefan let us take our cakes home. I hated mine so much that it sat unopened, untouched in the front of my fridge for the next two weeks. I looked at it every day and took notes on what I would do differently next time around. I really wanted to learn from my simple mistakes and better prepare myself next time.

Over the course of the next few months, project after project I received amazing feedback. From assembling a Pre-Con to making my favorite bread, I pushed myself harder every time. Chef always kept me upbeat and always pushed me harder. My skill set was not quite up to his standards so I always strived to do better with each challenge and show him that I really had the stuff.

End of My Externship

I finished my externship in late May of 2008 to return to CIA and finish my second year of school. In the short 18 weeks I was at Disney, I learned just as much as I did in school. Maybe not as much about baking and pastry but more from real world industry experiences. Chef Stefan created a mark for me professionally and still to this day, I look back at advice he has given me and see it coming into realization a year later.

When I graduated, I realized that one day I will return to CIA as a Chef Instructor. But first I have to learn as much as possible in order to pass on every experience of mine to each and every student. To create a legacy so I will never be forgotten.

Graduating from the Culinary Institute of America

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