Ever catch yourself daydreaming in class, picturing your favorite Pinterest recipes all lined up behind the glass case at your very own hip bakery in Brooklyn? Or do you just wish you could be in the shoes of Christina Tosi, head chef/owner of Momofuku Milk Bar, where life is all about how to incorporate frosted flakes into a cookie that throws you back into a real life #tbt of eating cereal as a kid? Oh, and also being beautiful and flawless and casually having spreads in People and Bon Appétit while you make said recipes? Now that is the dream.

Pastry Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Momofuku Milk Bar

While it is much, much easier to appreciate pastry goddesses such as Tosi from afar with a compost cookie in hand, some of us think eating our way through New York City is not enough to satisfy our food cravings. Some of us are actually crazy enough to accept the food industry’s typical pay range (which ranges from the national minimum wage of $7.25/hr to over $12/hr, depending on the workplace and job type), working ten hours a day, six days a week, holidays and weekends, just so we can learn exactly how Tosi makes that compost cookie you crave every week. And I, a liberal arts student from the Dirty Jerz, seem to have found myself amongst the crazies. We like to call ourselves pastry cooks.

I did not always have this desire to work in a pastry kitchen. When I was growing up, I changed my mind about a million times. I have no fancy story. I cannot tell you that I have been baking since I was five and that my grandparents were from France and we all loved to cook together on Sundays. It just kind of happened. One day I was pondering the meaning of life as an angsty teenager and the next I was looking up culinary schools. Before I knew it, I somehow managed to land my first kitchen job as a pastry apprentice at one of the best restaurants in the nation, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York.

Pastry Kitchen

Photo by Alex Hawkins

And you know what? I was not ready. On my first day I was expecting to be greeted by Ina Garten and to be patiently taught the ways of the kitchen. Instead, my first two weeks were filled with angry Gordon Ramsay moments as I was yelled at left and right for anything and everything. As my conspicuous vulnerability was shining bright like a diamond, I began to question my life goals. Did people actually enjoy this profession? How do these people live a normal life? Was I going to have an ordinary life if I pursue this? What was I even thinking?

I left that summer with a few answers. No, I was not going to have a normal life. I was going to work odd hours, I was going to do a victory lap when I was granted the Fourth of July off, and I was going to be just as sore as I used to be after soccer conditioning sessions in high school. To understand how something ends up beautifully plated, I was going to eat, sleep and work. Nothing else.

I learned to shake off the tears and puff out my chest while reminding myself that even though a chef may berate me for not getting the tuile crackers just right on every single petit four truffle, they were only making me feel terrible about myself because they wanted me to do well. And guess what – I loved every second of it. Probably because I am just as crazy as the rest of them.

I would tell just about any foodie out there to give it a shot, just to appreciate how much effort goes into a dessert ordered at a Michelin starred restaurant or how much fun and dedication goes into Tosi’s famous crack pie.

But the real question remains – would you give up that much for food?