My Amazing Internship at Bouchon Bakery

When JWU Providence baking & pastry student Isabella Tioseco heard that Bouchon Bakery’s Janine Weismann '05 was looking for summer interns, she jumped at the opportunity.

Weismann and her crew prepare cookies, pastries and tarts for Thomas Keller’s flagship bakery in Yountville, California — as well as bread production for nearby Keller properties The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, Ad Hoc and Ad Lib. As a result, the Bouchon bakery kitchen runs 24-7.

Isabella tells us all about her whirlwind summer, from the many ways she was inspired by the Bouchon philosophy and the awesome power of teamwork to the day she met Chef Keller.

My Summer at Bouchon | By Isabella Tioseco

Bouchon has such a small staff to accomplish what they do. But they succeed by planning everything to the last detail.

How I Got the Internship
Janine Weismann, who’s the pastry chef at Bouchon, is a JWU Providence alum. She’s stayed in touch with Chef Mitch Stamm, who is my advisor and who also oversees Operation Peace Love & Bread, a club I’m involved in. He came to the OPLB and said, “If anyone needs an internship...” I realized that Bouchon wasn’t that far from my house [in California], so I said I was interested. Janine and I talked on the phone, and I got the internship!

The Bouchon Philosophy
I didn’t work directly with Janine but I had a great mentor, Mai Nguyen. She was fantastic — she taught me what teamwork truly is!

The Bouchon philosophy is “sense of urgency.” I’ve never seen such an organized or CLEAN kitchen. They put a total emphasis on:

  • Urgency
  • Cleanliness
  • Organization
  • Communication + teamwork

The bakery kitchen runs 24-7 — and there’s one oven. The bread team would need the oven a lot, so all the teams juggled their work to ensure that no-one was waiting for the oven (and that everyone who needed to use it could use it).

Having a good team — and good communication — made all the difference when it came to choreographing the kitchen around everyone’s projects. You started to learn what went out, and when. You had to be incredibly mindful of the timing — at no time did you want to sacrifice someone else’s work for your own.

Reading recipes throughout helped. Since you only had roughly 20 minutes to complete each recipe, you needed to be familiar with it and super-efficient in executing the work.

"One day I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Chef Keller. ‘How are you doing?’ I was starstruck!"
The line out the door on a Wednesday afternoon. | Photo: Isabella Tioseco

The exterior of Bouchon Bakery in Napa, California

Piping pastries at Bouchon Bakery, Napa.

Chef Mai and myself piping eclairs. | Photo: Isabella Tioseco

Typical Night
My schedule was 4am-noon (although I usually left closer to 1:30-2pm). I typically started by baking things for the bistro next door. I’d finish off cream cheese danishes, cinnamon rolls and other pastries to put out in the showcase in the Bakery for the first 3 hours of every night.

My next tasks were aligned with the production cycle. I’d look at the board to see what was low. Some things could not be used the same day, like madeleine batter. And you really couldn’t make more than was needed — there wasn’t enough storage space to overprep anything.

Hardest thing to learn? I did a lot of prep — none of which was insanely hard on its own. But it was hard to figure out amounts, as well as what type of container could hold it (plus how I could possibly carry it).

They called me “Jam Master” because I ended up making all the jams. I made it in a huge pot that was even bigger than me. 50-60 pounds of peaches needed to be peeled and processed for the peach jam. And you had to constantly stir the jam mixture, or it would burn. Fig jam was the worst. Fig seeds pop when they cook — I got so many little burns. Who knew such a sweet fruit could be so vicious?

Importance of Teamwork
One day Chef Janine took us to task for working as individuals rather than sharing the burden and working as a team. And she was right — when you’re working in your own zone it’s all too easy to get off track. Working as a team keeps you moving in the right direction and find a scale of efficiency — you can save each other from the weeds.

"Bouchon has a small staff to accomplish what they do. They succeed by planning to the last detail."

I’ll give you a concrete example. Close to the end of August, we found ourselves down two employees. In my future I saw: a heavier workload, 12- hour days, and low morale.

What I actually discovered was that with fewer people, my team worked so much more efficiently. Turns out, fewer people means less to get lost in translation and better communication. My team and I would constantly yell out updates about our production path and we tackled large tasks with multiple people. We finished our tasks around the same time we would have if we’d had the extra sets of hands. It’s incredible how far constant communication can go!

The Day I Met Chef Keller
Thomas Keller is very soft-spoken. One day I was concentrating on a task and felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Chef Keller. “How are you doing? Everything all right?” I was starstruck! “I’m good!” “Cool.” And he went on his way.

He supports so much, and he remembers people. At their all-staff meetings he gives out scholarships so employees can go to other TKRG (Thomas Keller Restaurant Group) properties to learn new skills.

What’s Next?
I was supposed to do a bread stage but the timing didn’t work out. I hope to go back at Christmas.

One day I hope to open my own bakery and be my own TKRG. I would love there to be a nonprofit aspect — I want to help support hunger relief. I’d like to help folks that need to learn skills, as well as get the community involved.

Finishing touches: Painting gold luster dust on seasonal fig macaron shells. Right: Chefs Katie + Nicole piping pistachio macaron shells. Below: Retail Associates Julia V. and Carlos P. getting ready to serve pastries to the masses.

Isabella Tioseco and a colleague making macaron shells in the Bouchon Bakery kitchen.

The pastry case at Bouchon Bakery in Napa.