Many people use many different paths to get into this industry. Can you tell us a little bit about how you arrived at this point in your career? How did you start?
Luckily, I have always known what I’ve wanted to choose for my career. I was so fascinated with anything baking or culinary related.. as a child, I was especially drawn to books and toys that revolved around food/sweets and it just stuck with me. I couldn’t wait until I turned 16 to be able to work at the local bakery in my hometown, Tewksbury. I started as a cashier, then went to dessert prep & cake decorating, and it took off from there.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Having so much creative freedom to tap into different ideas and experiment with flavors really drives my love for what I do. My job never bores me because there are ENDLESS combinations that I can come up with – constant excitement!
Two years ago today, where did you envision your future self?
Two years ago, I was pregnant and worried about getting back into the field. Being a mom is a full time job in itself, so I was a little nervous about having to juggle both parenthood and a career, as they both require so much attention. I did not think I’d be in the position I am in now whatsoever… so I’m really thankful for this opportunity.
What is a challenge in your career you didn’t think you’d be able to overcome, but did?
It’s true when they say, “you’re your own biggest critic.” I’ve always been so hard on myself when it comes to my work, constantly comparing myself to other pastry chefs in the industry (I’m still guilty of this occasionally). At one point, it felt impossible for me to be able to even touch their level of success… but I’ve grown since then. I have overcome my fears of failing – which started with me believing in myself more.
At what point in your life did you know being a pastry chef was the job for you?
Going to Johnson & Wales University really opened up so many doors for me and showed me just how many directions I could potentially go in regarding my career. I used to think that I wanted to strictly decorate cakes, but after taking several courses, I realized I had a passion for plating. From then on, my goal transformed from being a cake decorator to a pastry chef, so I would be able to do a bit of everything but specialize in my favorite area… desserts!
What was culinary school like? Is there anything you wish you could have focused more on, and why?
Culinary school was like stepping into another world. I learned quickly that I needed to be speedy yet precise; very organized but super flexible; patient as well as persistent. I basically learned to adapt to everything. I also learned at school that so many of my peers THOUGHT this was what they wanted to do… until they started doing it. Culinary isn’t as easy as it looks. This industry isn’t for everyone. School prepared me for the real world.
I wish I could have focused more on my academics, honestly. I’m a hands-on learner, so I put most of my attention & energy toward labs… when it would have benefited me to focus a bit more on my hospitality/food service management courses. I’m basically re-learning all of that stuff now in the field.
What trends are you noticing (specific to pastry/dessert) in the industry?
The bigger and flashier the better! People these days want the desserts that are over the top, the ones they can Instagram. If it looks whimsical or excessive… it’s sure to be popular and sell!
Who has been the biggest influence on your career choice/passion?
My family is filled with plenty of talented cooks which made me love food even more. Growing up my mom would always get cookie kits for my brother and I to make and decorate each holiday. I feel like I was born with this passion and everyone had their part in supporting me.
What's the most important thing you've learned about your job?
All good things take time. There have been a lot of things I haven’t been able to execute properly, and that’s frustrating. But, practice makes perfect.. or close to it. So it’s really important to give yourself the time to grow and be patient with yourself too, practice seriously does make all the difference. I look back on things I’ve made in the past & constantly find myself in disbelief because of how much I’ve grown. I know I still make mistakes, but it’s about growth and going through the process of everything.
What was your most unique job in this field?
Definitely working for the Red Sox. It was my first job where I was able to assist in teaching interns who were in school for baking & pastry arts, which was so exciting for me because I was able to take what I learned, and help make a difference in their journeys. The best moment overall for me was being able to design & assemble custom cupcakes for Pedro Martinez & his charity for an event at Fenway. I was honored to be given the opportunity, which in itself made me realize I was in the right field for sure.
Any advice for someone just starting out?
Make sure this is something you’re serious about before pursuing it. It can take a lot out of you and is a completely different lifestyle that takes some time to adjust to. Everyone else’s vacations will be your busiest days and some holidays will be your longest nights but if you truly love what you do, I promise it’s worth all the sacrifices & work you put in!
What are the top two things people should know about you?
That I love being a mom, it will always be my favorite job of all time! And that I’m a very passionate and loving person.
Last time you dined out, what was your favorite dish? OR...Last time you dined out, what did you drink?
The last time I dined out was in Puerto Rico & I went to a Brazilian steakhouse, the tomahawk steak was beyond delicious & my absolute favorite!
Tell me about your proudest professional moment.
My proudest professional moment would have to be where I’m at right now. I’m able to express myself by making edible art which has always been my dream. It’s so fulfilling to be able to see someone’s expression when they eat something that I baked & their reaction of how happy it made them in just a moment. The best compliments I receive are when my desserts have triggered a memory that has taken someone back & reminded them of specific time in their lives. Food is truly so magical to me! Everything about right now in my career is something I’m very proud of. Earning this position as head pastry chef for the first time is by far my biggest accomplishment and I can’t wait to see what else my future brings!