There are certain attractions that you just can’t miss when you visit the city of Chicago, and The Art Institute of Chicago is definitely on that list. The museum holds over 300,000 works of art created by artists from various genres and cultures. What many people do not know is that the museum is known not only for the artistic treasures that visitors can look at, but also for the culinary creations available in the café. Joonbug got the chance to sit down with Meg Aldrich, one of the pastry chefs at The Art Institute and ask her about her experience at the museum.
What is your job at the Art Institute of Chicago?
I work on the pastry team at the Art Institute of Chicago. My company is called Bon Appetite Management Company, they’re contracted by the Art Institute of Chicago to make all of the food for: Terzo Piano (the restaurant upstairs), Millennium Court Restaurant (their seasonal garden restaurant), banquets and the Art Institute Café.
What types of things do you make at work?
We make all of the desserts for the café, plated desserts for parties ranging from 6 to 1,000 people, cookie platters, and really anything that the customers ask for.
What has been your favorite thing to make so far?
Chocolate cremeux…a molded chocolate mousse that is served frozen.
Can you explain what a usual day at work is like?
I usually come in at 7am, depending on if there’s a breakfast or not. Then I open up the fridge and freezers and do the temperature time logs. I check the BEO (Banquet Event Order) sheets to see what we have to make for the day, and the rest of the week. From there I help the rest of the baking and pastry team create the list for what we need to make that day. Sometimes I assist the other team that handles the savory food items with their ‘plate-up’ process, if there is a dinner that night.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I see myself as a manager of a bakery. Quality managers are difficult to find, and having a quality manager makes everyone’s life easier. I have always seen myself directing the team, as opposed to being a part of the daily operations.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wishes to become a professional pastry chef?
Listen to the people who are training you, and do it their way first. Be modest and be willing to work really, really hard. You can add your own style to your career down the line, but it is important to take direction from those above you so that you can form a strong foundation of skill.
Meg Aldrich is in her second year at Lexington College and is working to earn a Bachelor’s of Applied Science degree in Hospitality Management. She recently launched the school’s first Baking & Pastry Club and she hopes to open her own baking company in the future.