This year, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts is celebrating its 20th anniversary of delivering unparalleled education, skills, and experience to students from over thirty-five different countries. It is unbelievable to us to see how in two decades, thousands of graduates have made their mark internationally in culinary arts or baking and pastry arts, continually making us proud.
One such graduate is Andrea Dopico Cafarelli. She completed our Baking & Pastry Arts Professional Diploma Program at the top of her class, has lived in cities across the world, worked in multiple Michelin-star restaurants, competed in an international pastry event, and was named by Forbes as one of their Top 30 under 30 in Europe.
What was the one thing you learned and value most out of the whole Valrhona experience?
ANDI: To me, the preparation (six months prior) was crucial. I feel that's where I learned more about myself personally and professionally. I got the chance to work with some of the best pastry chefs in Spain to make my - MY - ideas come true, which was absolutely surreal. But you've got to love the difficult parts in order to enjoy the prizes. Even though I did not win, doing a good job will always open doors for you, and at the end of the day, I left feeling proud of what I presented.
Think back to your student days for a moment. You were a Baking & Pastry student here at PICA. What was your first impression and why did you choose our Institute in the first place?
ANDI: I chose PICA because to me, no other school offered such a complete program. I remember the day I arrived like it was yesterday, and how I jokingly told my Admissions Director that I wanted my name on the Excellence Board. To this day, I can say that the best decision I've done in my life was to follow my dreams, and I couldn't have done it anywhere else.
What are the top three elements you took from your time at PICA that you carry with you and use daily as a chef?
Work ethic. Easy. The team at PICA lead students by example, so this is not something they have to teach. I'm grateful to have had the impact of such a strong team in terms of values, because it without a doubt shaped my way of understanding this industry.
Broad set of skills. PICA offers one of the most complete pastry programs out there.
Opportunities. From a fundraising dinner to the Night at the Aquarium gala, there were always events to be a part of while studying at PICA. This got me in a mindset of going after opportunities even when I didn't feel 100% ready, and it hasn't changed since I left.
Your latest job is at Moments, a 2-Michelin Star restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona. Give us a run down of what an average work day is like.
ANDI: As the Pastry Chef at Moments, my team varies from two to four pastry cooks depending on the season. We are in charge of the cheese course, pre-dessert, four different desserts, and petit fours, which doesn't sound like much but all have an immense amount of detail. Our days are around 14 hours (split shift), so we arrive to the kitchen and organize the products (delivered daily) first thing in the morning, start with mise en place and any special orders (such as wedding cakes or dishes with allergies). By 12:30PM, we should do a half-hour lunch (this rarely happens), then come back for service at 1:00PM. When the last dessert goes out, we have a break, and come back around 7:30PM for dinner service...and do the rumba one more time before the day ends. It sounds exhausting, but it's also a LOT of fun.
Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, Andi! One last thing... a few parting messages?
For PICA: I will never be able to thank you enough, because you saw in me a potential that I didn't know I had in me. You built my confidence to go after my dreams, so I owe all to you.
For its Current Students: The culinary industry is no funny business, yet you can work incredibly hard and also still have a LOT of fun. Ultimately, there's nothing more gratifying than being able to do what you love every single day.
For prospective students: Don't look further, you've just found the best school there is!
To check out Andrea's continuing pastry journey and career, visit her instagram: follow @andidopico!