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The Academy continues to rise!
The South-African born American entrepreneur and billionaire businessman, Elon Musk once opined, “If you’re trying to create a company, it’s like baking a cake. You have to have all the ingredients in the right proportion.”
Having lived this in the journey that led to her establishing The Academy of Baking & Pastry Arts in Woodbrook one year ago, Chef/Owner Juliette Petit said, “I always wanted to open up a baking school.”
“It was just always there and would never go away. Every time I tried to push it away, it kept coming back.”
The Cordon Bleu chef revealed, “Chance meetings lined up the right people that were able to make it happen.”
Leading the charge with her mother is Rayne Kirpalani, 25 - who described the modern facility as a private culinary institution.
Having graduated close to 80 persons professionally during the last year, Petit and Kirpalani who also operate french patisserie Jardin at West Mall, encouraged others to always follow their dreams and explore their passion.
The 59-year-old mother of two explained, “I met the right people and it began to be able to be real.”
Initially exploring the concept of opening a baking school locally, Petit quickly learned exactly what was needed to make her dream a reality.
Recalling the efforts of acclaimed persons in her chosen field who were instrumental in helping her set up The Academy of Baking and Pastry Arts over a period of three years but whom she has never met, Petit said the pieces continued to fall into place as she was joined by Kirpalani—who is also a trained Cordon Bleu chef.
The two agreed this next phase of their professional development was a natural progression after 40 years in the business.
The Diego Martin residents said their aim was to create a cadre of skilled persons in the area of food preparation and dessert creations.
Petit said, “While we do love food a lot, the skill level does not always complement what people want to do in their businesses.”
“People want to create restaurants and while the hardware is in place, we do not necessarily have the type and quality of staff they feel they require to execute.”
Having witnessed first-hand the difficulties in this area, Petit who worked in Paris, Germany and Austria before returning to T&T continued, “I have been at it so long and you could see the difficulties in the execution of ideas.”
“As time went by, I thought it was important to create something that would give us more technique and allow others to operate with people who are highly skilled at what they do, so we can now create something where people can come in and learn.”
Kirpalani echoed her mother’s sentiments as she said they had sought to provide a fun and learning environment for persons who want to excel in the profession and get the basics right.
Pressed to say if “trade secrets” are revealed to their students, Petit laughed, “I am not sure anything is secret anymore.”
She said while many persons were now turning to Youtube to learn how to bake a cake, “It was not necessarily correct.”
She stressed that although it was easy to find information online, “Whether you understand how to use that information, that doesn’t come from Youtube.”
“You need people with the skills and knowledge to pass it on to you,” she reinforced.
Admitting she’s been sleeping a “bit longer” these days, Petit said, “Every time I thought I would close it down because it was scaring me, I would meet someone who would convince me to keep on going.”
Beaming with pride as she gestured to Kirpalani, Petit revealed, “She kept convincing me not to close it down and my husband kept reminding me we need to keep going, because there were many times I thought I couldn’t do it anymore as it was scary.”
“It has been a serious learning curve and even though you think you know a lot of stuff, you realise there is still a lot to learn and it was difficult for me to recognise that but I have and it’s been amazing.”
Predicting the business had “turned a corner,” Petit accepted her mother’s words that, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Crediting Kirpalani as one of the foundation pillars on which The Academy of Baking & Pastry Arts was based, Petit said she finally understood the importance of having all the parts in place, working in unison to create the dream.
Focusing her attention on the series of professional and recreational programmes they offer, Kirpalani explained it ranged from, “Caribbean breads to a day in Paris.”
Urging persons to tap into their creative side, Kirpalani said, “We train students with no experience and we teach you the discipline of how to work in the kitchen before you go off in the real world, knowing the fundamental basics of cooking and baking.”
One of the more popular classes—the Uni-Boot Camp—is designed specially for those persons set to attend university abroad.
This entails teaching persons how to cut up a chicken and put together basic meals.
Petit said this idea was introduced following a recommendation by Kirpalani as it is one of the hardest and worst parts of being a student.
Also operating a Junior Chef Academy, Kirpalani said overall their clients ranged in ages from seven to 65.
The outfit said their goal was to impart all aspects of training to persons who are taught things such as correct plating techniques, being on time, cleanliness, greeting and serving tips, and also critiqued in terms of food preparation and taste.
Kirpalani said she discovered her passion for food “later on” as her initial course of study saw her pursuing photography in London before moving to the Le Cordon Bleu.
Realising this was where she wanted to be after she learned of her mother’s intention to establish The Academy of Baking & Pastry Arts, Kirpalani said, “I can easily bring together my love of food and photography here.”
With persons coming from as far away as the Philipines, St Lucia, Grenada and Barbados to learn, she added, “It is a privilege to come here everyday and surround myself with people who love and appreciate good food, it is a perfect opportunity.”
Declaring she and her mom worked well together, Kirpalani said while they too faced struggles to get the business up and running, “It is a growing business that is doing well.”
Joined by her brother Kirron, 22, a trained chef currently acting as a kitchen assistant, Kirpalani said their products and offerings also contained an element of seasonality.
This was demonstrated via the recently concluded course which taught persons how to make Christmas goodies, while their carnival workshop involves having many of the cupcakes being named after traditional characters.
Assuring persons their prices were affordable, Kirpalani said there were payment plans available.
With many of their graduates going on to seek employment at top local hotels and restaurants, Kirpalani said many others had gone on to open their own catering businesses.
However, she said they had also been able to secure placements for their graduates at outfits in Paris, Germany, London and Barbados.
She said, “While we send our students off on internships, we have had people in the industry call us and ask for referrals for our graduate chefs who might be interested in working for them.”
Looking ahead, Kirpalani said they intended to grow the business while continuing to consult with establishments who require services such as menu-planning, food styling, staff training, and photography.
With a series of cookbooks also set to be released this year, Kirpalani and Petit described Head Chef Stephanie Teekaram as the “Engine room of this outfit.”
Of Guyanese parentage, Teekaram said although she only moved to T&T 15 months ago to head this venture, she remained excited about her future at The Academy of Baking & Pastry Arts which she claimed was indeed...rising!
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