Caroline Pham

Women in WACS Profile: Caroline Pham

Position currently held: Pastry chef
Career Highlights: English supply teacher (2010), technical translator (2011- 2012), pastry cook in “Au P’tit Café” (2013), pastry cook in “Chocolats Morand” (2013- 2014)

What kind of formal education do you have (include apprenticeships)?: I have got an English License.

What made you decide to enter the culinary profession?: Cooking has always been a real passion for me but the impulse to my professional reconversion was my participation in a local cooking competition for amateurs. It made me realize that I wanted to ally passion and profession.

Culinary childhood memories?: I was used to cooking with my mother when I was a child, I loved to be her assistant, even just to peel vegetables or mix the pastry dough. One memory that struck me the most was when my mother taught me how to make an apple pie: I thought that it was a hard task to dispose the slices of apples in the shape of a rose and when I saw how easy it was to come to such a beautiful result, I became eager to learn more pastry recipes.

At what age did you first enter the food service industry? What was your first job?: I first entered the food industry at the age of 26 as a pastry cook in a restaurant.

What were important stepping stones to reach your current position?: I had to choose to leave my former profession and its advantages (good wage, arranging hours) to focus on a new culinary adventure in which I had no experience at all. Then, a quality restaurant gave me the chance to work with them as a pastry cook even if I had no experience at all in this field. I have learnt a lot from them in terms of organization, management and flavors.

Did you or do you have a mentor?: Yes I think that Gabriel Levionnois was my first mentor, he was my first employer, the one who trusted in me and who gave me the chance to enter the culinary world. Plus, he has always been of a great support when I had troubles (professional and personal) and his network enabled me to work in the chocolate factory in which I currently am. My current mentor is Mr Morand, my Chocolate/pastry chef who teaches me a lot and who encourages me to keep going, as far as I can.
What, if any, was the greatest obstacle?: The greatest obstacle I was confronted with was the constant condescension and the lack of consideration from a male colleague. He made a huge difference between me and one of my male colleague because of my gender and the fact I have no cooking diplomas.

What is your advice to young women entering your specific field?: First, I would advise them to have passion. It is primary to love what you do to overcome all the hindrances on your path, and to be motivated to achieve higher goals. Secondly, you must assert yourself because this profession is often a masculine one, and it is hard to find a place as a woman, to be legitimate. Then, I think that you have to be strong willed and to hold on, because this job is physically and mentally hard. Finally, to practice a (sport) activity helps a lot to release the pressure of the day and to focus your mind on something else.

What are personal and professional interests that you would like to pursue within the next 5 years?: On a personal level, I would like to have children and to travel (I love to discover new countries, cultures). On a professional level, I would like to learn about chocolate making. Actually, I want to train myself on many fields and to gain experience to be able to have my own enterprise afterwards.