(This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
Assistant Professor, International Baking and Pastry Institute,
Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI
A passion for the visual arts and an inherited love of cooking piqued Jaime Schick’s interest in the culinary arts inspiring her to earn both a bachelor’s degree in pastry and baking and a master’s degree in education at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. After paying her dues by working in restaurants and clubs throughout Europe and the U.S., Jaime came full circle and is now an Assistant Professor at the International Baking and Pastry Institute at her alma mater. Here she reflects on her career path, lessons she’s learned, and what she strives to impart to her students today.
I read somewhere that your father is a culinary professional and that your grandmother attended Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School. Would you say that your passion for the culinary arts was inherited?
I think unintentionally it was! Growing up my dad and my grandmother were always cooking, so I was exposed to it constantly. It definitely took me a while to realize it was my passion and not just a hobby.
What made you decide to specialize in pastry?
I always gravitated toward the arts, whether it was photography, design, dance, music, etc. I had a hard time finding my path at first and took a gap year (or three!). During that time I was able to finally realize that my love for art and love of food could co-exist, and pastry seemed like the perfect marriage of the two.
You began your training at Johnson & Wales University, where you earned a bachelor’s degree in pastry and baking. Tell us about that experience, and how it laid the foundation for your career.
I don’t know if it was because I was an older freshman, but I really enjoyed the whole experience and immersed myself in the culture – joining clubs, volunteering to help chefs with extra projects, even competing in a few competitions. I think these small things get overlooked, but it really makes the biggest difference in how much you take away from your educational experience.
I felt like Johnson & Wales equipped me with a well-rounded education. I graduated knowing how to ice a cake, make a loaf of bread and compose a dessert, among other things. It allowed me to go into the industry feeling prepared and confident for any job opportunity, and allowed me to naturally find my niche – which ended up being plated desserts. I also had the opportunity to study abroad twice and learn about different techniques, ingredients and cultures.
For years you trained in the kitchens of bakeries and hotels in New England, Chicago and abroad, eventually becoming Pastry Chef at Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park in Boston, and then Executive Pastry Chef of Chris Coombs’s Deuxave in Boston. What are some of the lessons you learned during your training that you pass on to your students today?
Oh man! There are so many lessons that were learned throughout my years in the industry. I think staying humble and being open to always learning and improving is a huge lesson that I learned, sometimes the hard way.
I have failed numerous times, but once the disappointment and frustration subsides, I try to find the learning opportunity in the situation. This is how we grow, by getting curious, asking questions and trying again! It is ok to fail, but you have to get back up and try again. This builds grit and resilience which ultimately leads to becoming a better chef.
How would you characterize your pastry style?
I would say my style is perfectly imperfect. I don’t stress over a few misplaced crumbs, I actually embrace it. I prefer my plates to look less perfect and have an organic feel to them through using ripped cake, powders or broken shards. This also creates more dimension in a plate. There is, however, this underlying pressure to make our food look pretty, especially now with social media. Embracing the imperfect takes a little bit of that pressure off when you are trying to make a beautiful plated dessert that is also realistic to produce in a restaurant environment.
What are some of your favorite flavor combinations?
I really like a savory-sweet flavor combinations, and I have walked that line tightly in my career. Right now I am loving the combination of saffron, grapefruit and chocolate, an old favorite that has re-inspired me. Als,o monochromatic plates within a color-inspired flavor combination (for example green – matcha, lime, green apple, mint).
Now that you teach pastry, what are some of the most important techniques and ideas that you want your students to learn and retain?
The basics and foundational skills. Once you understand the basic principles, techniques and functions of ingredients, the possibilities are endless. But also the importance of flavor, texture and salt!