Maggie O'Brien

2011 Recipient

French Pastry School: What was your background previous to studying pastry and what led you to pursue an education in pastry?

Before pastry, my passion was swimming. I was a competitive swimmer for 14 years and swam at the Division 1 level at Ohio State. I had always enjoyed baking and decorating. During college, after my swimming career ended, I got an amazing job at a French pastry shop in Columbus, Ohio called Pistacia Vera. I worked my way through the front of house and then got invited to work in the kitchen. I decided to come to The French Pastry School because I wanted to learn more about Cake Design since that was something I was missing at Pistacia Vera and my scholarship from For the Love of Chocolate helped me to attend. I decided to do the L’Art du Gâteau program so that I could focus primarily on cakes while using my knowledge and training in French pastry to help me along.

FPS: What was the most surprising or eye-opening moment for you so far in the program?

I never knew that I would learn so much in such a short period of time. I can’t believe how fast the program goes! I was always surprised when another week passed and we had produced another great cake using all new techniques. I love how the program is organized to be able to do that and I loved being able to work with all of the different chefs each with different backgrounds and new advice.


FPS: What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I hope to get a job in a cake shop. I really want to focus my energy mostly on cake. Eventually, after I gain some more experience in the industry, I would like to open my own French pastry shop specializing in celebration cakes.

FPS: Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you hope to be?

In five years, I hope to begin planning for my own shop. I know I want to stay in Chicago because I think it’s a city that values great food. I hope to be confident in the kitchen and with my skills but with an open mind for more learning.


FPS: In the future, what will you look back on and remember most vividly about your time as a student at The French Pastry School?


I will remember my classmates. It has been so great to see not only my own improvement in the program but the improvement of my peers. Our class was so supportive of one another and so helpful in critique and encouragement. I will remember how much fun we all had together and I can’t wait to see where everyone ends up.