One of my favorite parts of cooking school was our time in the bread kitchen. There is something so tactile, immediate and rewarding about making bread. All your senses are activated alerting you that you are about to consume something so simple yet so profound. Alice Waters visited the French Culinary Institute and I was fortunate enough to abscond with a few minutes of her time. My one question to her was simply: "What am I going to do with my life?" She said, "What do you want to do?" "I want to go to France!" "Well then go to France!" So I did.... but first I asked her to recommend restaurants where I should work. I shared with her my love of bread baking in cooking school and she recommended contacting Poilane Bakery here on the Left Bank. So I did.... When Alice Waters give you culinary advice, take it, whether it's moving to another country or visiting a bakery!
I immediately wrote to Poilane, asking for an internship and received the most gracious rejection letter ever, which I will frame should I ever have an office again, saying they were unable to accommodate interns but invited me for a tour. A few months later I spent a glorious, flour-showered morning in their 17th century bread kitchen, formerly a convent, on rue Cherche-Midi in the heart of the Left Bank mesmerized by the baker and his methodical yet maternal handling of the dough. I can picture him now gently pressing his hand on top of each loaf, just before he slid the perfectly shaped dough cut with his signature "P" into the wood-burning oven. It is one of four original wood-burning ovens in all of Paris. I emerged 2 hours later coated in a thin layer of flour from head to toe.