So you’re thinking of culinary/pastry school: Whisking and your arm

As I’m writing this post, my right shoulder is a bit stiff, which is why I’d like to point out a few tips to prepare you to start culinary or pastry school about your arm muscles. Having completed culinary school and now almost 20% complete in pastry school I am very well aware of the physicality and stamina needed to be comfortable in the kitchen. As a student you are taught to use your hands when whisking rather than using a machinery to do the job, this is akin to an automotive technician apprentices to use hand tools rather than power tools. Using your hands allow you learn and feel when your product is at the correct stage, stiffness, texture, colour, etc. When you use a food processor or an electric mixer, the changes are very high for the student learner to overmix.

You will whisk … a lot. A few things that whisking is involved: mayonnaise, hollandaise, sabayon, meringues (macarons), whipping cream, souffles – it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is one of those things that you may be making at least once a week, or more. We made an Italian meringue in class today and luckily it was something that would be impossible to do by hand so we broke out the KitchenAids.

Italian meringue on lemon sabayon tart (Lemon sabayon tart with Italian meringue)

The proper technique when whisking is to loosely hold the whisk in your hands so that it is not a tight grip, relax your shoulders, and allow the wrist action of moving back and forth to do the job. You do not want to be whisking so hard that you are clanging the sides of the bowl loudly – doing so would result in a metallic tasting product as you are rubbing off metal-on-metal. But you do not want to be whisking slow in which no air and texture is build up, or in case of sabayon, that the eggs end up cooking in the bowl over the bain marie. You can switch from your dominant arm to your less dominant arm. Practicing on your less dominant arm will give you a boost when you can be ambidextrous in the kitchen. And make sure you have a strong core – stand comfortably but firmly, straight back/not arching/not leaning, and engage your core muscles.

So as you are prepping for culinary school or pastry school make sure you get in several push ups and pull ups each day — you’ll thank me for it. 😉

Things I’ve whisked by hand so far:

Mille Feuille/NapoleonCheese souffleCrispy salmon with bernaise, gnocchi and pesto sauceMy canapes for menu devmacarons

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