It’s been a lifelong dream to take a pastry class at a school like this. During high school, I worked at Edgar’s Bakery in Birmingham, Alabama, where I spent days following the bakers and pastry chefs, hoping to learn to create beautiful treats like they did. But man, those butterflies! Even with my baking experience in high school and weekend baking at home, I knew I was totally a fish out of water and wasn’t sure how I was going to handle five solid days in a professional kitchen. Would Chef like me? Would I get along with the other campers? Would I be able to stop myself from eating my weight in dough and pastries?At CIA’s Boot Camp, each instructor sets the tone for the week, and Chef Hans Welker, our professor, was phenomenal. A former pastry chef in the German Navy (a perfect leader for boot camp) and a Certified Master Baker, Chef Hans has cooked throughout Europe (Zurich, Berlin, Darmstadt) and was the director of the bread program at New York City’s French Culinary Institute. Needless to say, he’s an expert at pastry. He got hands-on right away and encouraged lots of questions. Through his wit and willingness to jump in and assist each student, he turned what could have been a very stern learning environment into one full of humor—and fun. What a relief for my butterflies! There were 12 students in class (a baker’s dozen, if you count Chef Hans) and on Day One, we were all sizing each other up; I wondered if I was going to be out of my league. But Pastry Boot Camp is for pastry fans, not professional pastry chefs. Some students were very serious about pastry, and some even had dreams of opening bakeries, but most of us just wanted to learn to host better brunches.