Learning to be a Pastry Chef in Mallorca, Spain
Jazmin Black, SHA '18 spent last semester in Palma de Mallorca, Spain interning and studying through CIEE's Business and Tourism program. Here she recounts her experience working in Hotel Caballero and what she learned about the Spanish language, Spanish attitude and of course Spanish FOOD while she was in Spain!
Food has always been a huge passion. Even as a picky eater as a child (and still am to this day), food was and is an integral part of how I connect with people. Today as a senior in the Hotel School, I am focusing on food and beverage with a dream of opening a bakery. With that goal in mind, I chose to study abroad with CIEE: Palma de Mallorca, Spain, a program that in addition to Business and Tourism courses, offers internships in the food and beverage industry.
At ciee, we took classes held specifically for students in the program, and one or two additional classes at the local university. All students were required to take a Spanish language course suitable to their concentration. As a Hotelie, it made sense for me to take Spanish for Business. This proved very helpful, especially for my internship where I worked at Hotel Caballero in the pastry kitchen twice a week for the last 2.5 months of my time abroad, truly one of the most exciting opportunities I had abroad.
"Working in the kitchen forced me to improve my listening and comprehension skills in a way that only full-language immersion can.
Despite previous experience working in the front-of-house at other restaurants, I had never worked in a commercial kitchen before starting my internship at Hotel Caballero. Having already taken culinary and restaurant classes in the Hotel School, working in the kitchen was not foreign to me; but, I was in a new country with a new language in which I had not received formal instruction in three years. So, when I started in March, I knew I would be facing a challenge.
While I spent most of my life learning Spanish in the classroom, I always knew that if my Spanish failed me, my teacher or classmates could help me. In Spain, I was often the only foreigner and did not have my teachers or classmates as a safety net. While in Spain, I took a complementary internship course that enhanced vocabulary. During the internship course, we relayed our experiences and discussed vocabulary that we encountered during our shifts each week. This course along with the real-life professional context of my internship, allowed me to put to the use the grammar and vocabulary I was taught without a dictionary or another English-speaker around every day. Working in the kitchen forced me to improve my listening and comprehension skills in a way that only full-language immersion can.
"Even when I made mistakes (like when I accidentally put 2 Kg of salt instead of sugar in a batch of cakes), I dusted these mistakes off, learned, and moved on. The island’s “no pasa nada” attitude (translating literally to “nothing happened” -- the Spanish equivalent of “don’t worry about it”) really made the kitchen a fun and family-like environment where I learned and fell in love with food again and again during every shift.
My experience working in the kitchen became one of my favorite parts of my time in Spain. My passion for baking and pastry arts was lived out every time I went to work. I learned everything from traditional Mallorquin recipes to portion size management. The hotel has 303 rooms -- the largest hotel I have worked in to date -- and I learned the ins and outs of feeding 600 people. I loved working with my boss, the head chef. He always made sure that I was learning something new and improving on what he had already taught me. Even when I made mistakes (like when I accidentally put 2 Kg of salt instead of sugar in a batch of cakes), I dusted these mistakes off, learned, and moved on. The island’s “no pasa nada” attitude (translating literally to “nothing happened” -- the Spanish equivalent of “don’t worry about it”) really made the kitchen a fun and family-like environment where I learned and fell in love with food again and again during every shift.
As I start preparing for Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for the opportunity I received to hone my culinary skills in Spain. I am more confident in the kitchen now because of what my boss and coworkers at Hotel Cabellero taught me. My boss in Spain broke the notorious reputation chefs have for being hot-headed, and taught me what it means to create a peaceful yet driven environment for his employees. This example is something I want to take with me to my bakery in the future, as I believe people succeed when they feel valued, just as I was during my internship. I am grateful for every employee there who encouraged me and helped me as I learned the language -- especially in mastering the technical language of the kitchen! Learning the language helped in the kitchen, but it also built up my confidence to speak Spanish outside of work. I loved my time abroad and would do it again in a heartbeat; but I am grateful for the skills and experiences that I could take with me, because they did not end when I left Spain, but will continue to be with me for the rest of my time at the Hotel School and life after Cornell.