From Tech to Tarts: A Journey to Pastry in France

In the picturesque village of Tournon sur Rhône, nestled in eastern France, Valerie Valcourt has found her true passion—pastry. Her journey from a high-flying tech career in the U.S. to becoming a pastry assistant at Maison Chabran is not just a career change but a transformative experience of following one’s heart and embracing new beginnings. Valerie’s love affair with pastry began during high school Home Economics classes. She was drawn to the artistry and precision required in baking, but her dream of attending culinary school was put on hold due to familial concerns. Despite this, the desire to create and innovate in the kitchen remained deeply ingrained in her aspirations.

Transition from Tech to Culinary Arts

After several years as an administrative business partner at Google, Valerie realized that despite the financial rewards, her mental health was suffering. In the fall of 2020, she made a courageous decision to leave her job and pursue her passion for pastry. With determination, she researched culinary schools in France, eventually choosing Gastronomicom for its affordability and comprehensive curriculum.

Planning the Move to France

Valerie meticulously planned her move, setting a savings goal of $25,000 to cover tuition and relocation expenses. She started with $10,000 in savings and strategized to save the rest within eight months. Tournon sur Rhône offered an affordable lifestyle compared to her previous life in the U.S., with a one-bedroom apartment costing less than €600 in a vibrant neighborhood.

Life in France

Living in France has been a cultural immersion for Valerie. Tournon sur Rhône’s charm, accessibility to nature, and culinary delights have made it a perfect home. At Maison Chabran, Valerie’s day starts with assessing customer needs and preparing for the day’s baking tasks. The French work culture emphasizes work-life balance, allowing Valerie to fully engage in her passion without the burnout experienced in her previous career.

Financial Aspects

Valerie’s salary as a pastry assistant provides a comfortable living in France, where daily expenses are manageable. Groceries, including local produce and wine, are affordable, allowing her to enjoy a quality lifestyle on a budget. Her financial discipline and cost-effective living have enabled her to thrive in her new environment while pursuing her culinary dreams.

Culinary School Experience

At Gastronomicom, Valerie immersed herself in the art of French pastry. The structured program combined theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience, preparing her for a successful career in the industry. Her internship provided invaluable practical skills, paving the way for a permanent role at Maison Chabran and solidifying her commitment to the pastry arts.

Adapting to French Culture

Learning French has been both challenging and rewarding for Valerie. While not yet fluent, she can comfortably converse with locals, enhancing her integration into the community. Beyond work, she explores France’s diverse regions, enjoying the rich cultural tapestry and scenic landscapes that inspire her culinary creativity.

Reflection on the Career Change

Valerie reflects on her career transition with gratitude and satisfaction. The switch from tech to pastry has significantly improved her well-being and happiness. She plans to continue honing her skills in the pastry industry, possibly exploring other parts of France or Europe while cherishing the experiences that have enriched her personal and professional life.

Balancing Personal and Professional Life

Despite the distance from family and friends in the U.S., Valerie maintains strong connections through regular communication. She acknowledges the possibility of returning to her roots one day, bringing back the knowledge and experiences gained in France to contribute to her community and career.

Advice for Others Considering a Career Change

Valerie’s journey offers valuable lessons for anyone contemplating a major career shift. She emphasizes the importance of pursuing one’s passion, even if it means stepping out of a lucrative but unfulfilling job. Financial planning, mental health awareness, and embracing cultural differences are crucial factors to consider when embarking on a new professional path.


Valerie’s story is a testament to the transformative power of following one’s dreams. Her journey from tech to pastry in France is a reminder that with courage, perseverance, and a passion for creativity, it is possible to find fulfillment and success in unexpected places. As she continues to evolve in her career and personal life, Valerie remains an inspiration to those seeking to forge their own path in pursuit of happiness and purpose.

Valerie’s Narrative

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