Leah Shene is a lifestyle blog focusing on food, travel and design. Leah is a Portland native with a background in graphic design and art history. She has a strong eye for details, a true passion for aesthetics and strives to create beauty and mood, no matter the medium. Leah is currently living in paris pursuing her patisserie dreams at l’Ècole Ferrandi and working at the Four Seasons George V Paris hotel.
Your story is truly inspiring, tell me, how long did it take you until you finally decided to leave everything dear behind and journey in solitude towards building your dream?
It took a really long time actually. I used to be an art director and graphic designer for a knitwear company so I’m one of those career changers. Naturally, I’m a planner. I like to have all my ducks in a row so it was hard for me to take that leap of faith and actually quit my job and follow through until the opportunity came up. My friends who happened to be in town visiting encouraged me. Their exact words, “Why don’t you just go for it? What’s stopping you?” This was a little kick in the butt, a reminder that changing careers is totally allowed and dreaming big is possible.
The following week I resigned. I spent a lot of time considering how to pursue pastry and after a conversation with my father, who encouraged me to study in Paris, I applied for l’école Ferrandi. I was accepted and after this I immediately got a job working at a pastry shop in Portland to gain as much experience possible before my move to Paris.
Do you remember the first cake you baked, or what exactly triggered your dream of becoming a patissier?
I do remember the first thing I learned to bake. My aunt makes the most amazing blackberry pies. The kind with the super flakey crust which is the best in my opinion. During summers my family would pick a lot of blackberries and we’d freeze them in zip-block bags so we can eat pie year round.And I didn’t realize I wanted to do pastry as a career until much later in my life
Solitude and togetherness are opposites that can paradoxically coexist, when one positively highlights the other. Although you are now pursuing your dream on your own, how easy did you find it to uncouple yourself from all familiar people, places and routines?
Surprisingly? Easier than i thought it would be. I knew I would miss friends, family and the comforts of home but the excitement, unknown adventure ahead made it a less painful transition. The time I felt most homesick was during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas but other than that, it hasn’t been very difficult for me which I’m grateful for. Thank goodness for Face Time and technology in general. It seems like whenever we venture out to become whatever we imagine we should become, the obstacles we face are vital for the way we actually transform by the time we reach our destination. Name one obstacle with particular impact on you or your daily life since starting this journey. The language. Living here and especially working in a prestigious kitchen you have to be able to communicate in french and mine is a work in progress. It’s my daily obstacle… I often misunderstand or miscommunicate with others but at the same time it pushes me to keep learning and forces me out of my comfort zone.
You work in a truly sought after hotel and attend L’Ecole Ferrandi, sometimes referred to as the “Harvard” school of gastronomy. Tell us a bit about how you started studying here and what it was like to balance work as well.
Actually I found out about the school through an Instagram account. The girl who ran it makes the most beautiful, femme, sophisticated desserts I had ever seen so I started following her years ago when I was still working in the design industry and prior to any considerations of even changing careers.
So when I actually quit my job and was ready, I remembered this girl and found out she studied at L’Ecole Ferrandi. I applied and did the same International Intensive Pastry Program as her, which is a short 6 month program with a 3 to 6 month internship afterwards. And voilà, this is where I’m at now. I’ve already finished the program and I’m 2 months into my full-time internship at Le George, a 1 star michelin restaurant at the Four Seasons George V.
Finding yourself in Paris, what inspires you here more than anywhere else?
The healthy work life balance. Parisian’s effortless, smart chic fashion sense that is never over done and surprisingly functional. How everyone takes food seriously and appreciates meal time, where the food came from and all the energy that goes into it. The art scene is incredible. There’s always something to see, new expositions etc.
Do you enjoy any day solely on your own? What would it look like?
It’s uncommon for me to have a day solely to myself but if I did, I would catch up on my blog at a coffee shop or pastry shop. Visit a museum I’ve never been to. In the evening I would wind down with some r+r time, a hot shower, maybe light a candle and do a face mask.
What is next for Tiny Mood Bakeshop? Are you thinking of opening your own place in Paris as well?
To be honest, I have on idea what’s next for me… my visa runs out at the end of august so I’m considering my options. Regardless I think it would be nice to continue gaining work experience in the pastry industry before I start anything on my own.
If our readers were to visit Paris soon, where would you advise them stroll around and what snack should they grab on the way?
Love the Palais Royale. It’s on the smaller side and less known but worth the visit. And make sure to grab a coffee at Cafe Kitsuné while you’re there. Also Le Marais is a favorite area of mine–it’s a hip neighborhood in the 3rd and 4th arrondisement. Lots of great restaurants and shopping. If you’re feeling hungry make a stop at Yann Couvreur for something sweet or for savory, pick up a falafel, with the spicy sauce, from L’as du Fallafel.
Thinking solely about culinary Paris, what time of the day would you think is most spectacular as a complete experience?
For me definitely dinner. Start with an apéro somewhere, then spend a couple hours dining a course meal, with the wine pairings! After all it is Paris. There was one restaurant we went to in south of France, with my classmates, and the wine pairing was life changing. I almost cried it was so good. I guess I’ve never experienced food on such a harmonious, emotional level.
And where would we be likely to find you brunching/lunching/dining of a weekend?
Brunch: Holy Belly or Mokonuts
Lunch: Candelaria or The Beast
Dinner: Le Dauphin or Frenchie Wine Bar
TEXT: DAMARIS OTT