It was a regularly scheduled Thursday night Zoom meeting for the Emerging Leader Program (ELP) at Boston College when almond croissants appeared on the horizon of our conversation. ELP is an organization for freshmen that helps build leadership skills through service and education. The program is overseen by Boston College’s wonderful Assistant Director for Leadership Development, Katherine Waxstein (affectionately known as “Kat”), while alternating groups of ten sophomore facilitators help guide and advise the first-year students. For the last eight months, I have had the privilege of serving as a sophomore facilitator for ELP. One of the features of ELP I most appreciate is its implementation of constant and intentional reflection, which never fails to spark meaningful discussions.
Every Thursday night from 6-8 p.m. this past year, the Leadership Team has gathered on Zoom to discuss programming updates, forthcoming events, and the general implications of our roles. We start every meeting by sharing our “highs and lows,” the best and worst moments/experiences that stood out to us from that week. This activity provides us with the extremely beneficial opportunity to catch up with each other, which allows us all to be on the same page and work effectively together. During one fateful Thursday meeting in the fall semester, Kat shared a high that irreversibly impacted me: she mentioned that every weekend, she visits a bakery in Boston where she orders an almond croissant. Eating an almond croissant at this bakery, she told us, has become an enjoyable ritual of her adult life. At that point in time, I had not yet eaten an almond croissant, but I internalized her words and decided that I eventually wanted to.
When I returned home to south Florida for winter break, I was ready to indulge in the flavorful array of food that my hometown had to offer. My mom eventually brought my attention to a new bakery that opened in town, Bonjour French Bakery and Cafe, tremendously praising its authentic French sweets. Trusting my mom’s judgement, I drove to Bonjour, where I was greeted by a cozy, vibrant, and welcoming French atmosphere. From cheesecake to crème brûlée to lemon pie, the desserts on display were an abundantly glorious sight. The time had come for me to choose what I wanted to try from this esteemed bakery, and I was at a loss: every single baked good looked fresh and visually stunning, like it was made with love. When my eyes lingered on the almond croissants, though, I immediately knew what my taste buds were going to encounter. I purchased one almond croissant to-go, and quickly headed home to take my first bite. Remembering Kat’s high from several weeks prior, I was ready to finally experience what she so thoroughly savored.
Based on mere appearance, the almond croissant was a joyous sight. The dough sported a striking golden shade, completely risen so that you could see each layer build upon the other. Powdered sugar elegantly accentuated the croissant’s color, mimicking the finest snow. The toasted almond topping tied every element of the croissant together, reminding me of its fundamental ingredient. Actually tasting the almond croissant, however, completely transcended the state of awe I was in solely based on its presentation. The crust had a buttery and almost savory flavor, accompanied by a crisp and flaky texture. Within the crust lived a delicately-risen dough, layered with care and flaunting deep buttery notes. Perhaps my favorite element of this croissant, though, was its creamy and decadent filling: almond paste. Evenly distributed across the entire croissant’s interior, the almond paste was smooth, rich, and balanced. The nutty flavor paired beautifully with its sweet undertones, both of which contrasted pleasantly with the saltiness of the croissant itself. The toasted almonds on top skillfully reinforced the flavors of the almond croissant, and introduced a pleasant crunch. Overall, the pastry was a magnificently scrumptious medley of almond flavor, bolstered by harmonious textures and subtly sweet accents.
Even though leadership and almond croissants seem like totally unconnected entities, they actually share several characteristics. As a participant and facilitator for ELP, I have learned that leadership is multilayered. It is much more than taking the initiative in a group project or speaking up first when presented with a question; leadership is about serving others, being a role model, staying true to your values, and holding yourself accountable to growth. In a similar fashion, almond croissants are certainly not just plain croissants with a few almonds sprinkled on top. The almond paste filling and the powdered sugar topping elevate this baked good to a point at which earthiness and sweetness delightfully merge. Leaders––like almond croissants––are multidimensional.
Not only have almond croissants become one of my favorite hometown treats, but they have also taught me something valuable about life. Food offers more than just satisfaction for your stomach, or time to share with your family. Although these are important things, it is also imperative to recognize just how reflective food can be of personal endeavors. Since I have started college, leadership has become a passion of mine. Growing in this area involves motivating and guiding others to be the best versions of themselves, which has not only developed my own confidence but the confidence of those around me. Leadership is comforting, yet challenging; serious, but also light-hearted. It can be demanding, but exponentially rewarding. Leadership–in all its complexity–has grown close to my heart, likely contributing to my decision of purchasing an almond croissant at Bonjour Bakery and Cafe back home in Weston, Fla. Kat’s “high” inspired me to indulge in a baked good that proved to be tremendously fulfilling and enlightening, much like leadership itself.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Jeanie and Lulu’s Kitchen.