If you’re not a friend or relative of mine, or if you’re my Facebook friend but you’ve been living under a rock, allow me to update you. Yesterday, May 23, 2015(to be precise), my daughter, Amanda, graduated from Johnson & Wales University(JWU). She received her Bachelors of Science in Baking and Pastry Arts and Food Service Management with a concentration in Contemporary Pastry Arts.
Magna Cum Laude, no less.
That’s a mouthful. I had to look it up again to make sure I got it right. These life events have a tendency to make us nostalgic. The past four years flash before my eyes in a blur. Moving her in to her Freshman dorm. Summer internships in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Flying her to France for the Study Abroad program. But what really stands out in my mind is just exactly how hard she has worked and how truly talented she is. I just can’t believe that her father and I produced this creature. Mother Nature is a mad scientist. (So sayeth Kramer from Seinfeld).
She is admired by so many of our friends and family. For that, we are truly grateful. What I feel the need to address at this time, however, are the misconceptions and generalizations associated with my daughter’s chosen career. She has encountered some, shall we say, prejudicial attitudes during these past four years. Maybe prejudicial isn’t the best word. Elitist? I’m going with “uneducated”.
Allow me to educate you.
First off, “Culinary” and “Baking and Pastry” are NOT one and the same. Culinary is your appetizers, salads and main courses. Meats, vegetables, yummy starchy stuff, etc. Baking and Pastry is your universe of breads, cakes and desserts. And I do mean “Universe”. Too many delicious and mouth watering things to list. There is a lot of science in baking. Ask Amanda about the science of bread-making some time. Ask her about gluten-free baking, baking for vegans, or baking for diabetics.
The JWU Baking and Pastry students hone their craft in labs. Each specialty must be learned and perfected in a nine-day lab. NINE DAYS. Each lab is approximately seven hours each day. Ever take a stab at making artisanal bread or sugar-sculpting? Try learning the science and intricacies, practicing non-stop, then taking a three day practical exam for your grade – all in nine days. To top it off, most if not all of these labs also require a written research project to be completed outside of class. Advanced chocolatiering, wedding cakes, plated desserts, sugar works, etc, etc…. all in nine-day modules. Since the students earn a traditional Bachelors degree, they must take the same annoying liberal arts classes as kids in academic majors. My daughter chose the Food Service Management path for her Junior and Senior years with a goal of being well rounded and more prepared for the possibility of someday owning her own shop. This meant taking management courses such as accounting and macroeconomics. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the internship requirement. Amanda fulfilled this requirement in the JWU eight-week study abroad program, in Yssingeaux, France at a world-reknown pastry school. This, in a nutshell, is the training that she takes with her to her new job in Manhattan next month. She tackled all of this at an internationally respected university and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Oops….think I already mentioned that little detail. 😊
For the record, she is not the child of some multimillionaire who woke up one morning and decided that she wanted to own a cupcake shop. She is not a PTA mom making cake pops for the third grade class. She is not someone going through a mid-life crisis who decides that she can be fulfilled by making wedding cakes in her home kitchen, or cookie and muffin baskets wrapped in colored Saran Wrap and ribbons. She isn’t working in the supermarket bakery because there aren’t any jobs for people with (____french literature, women’s studies, humanities___) degrees. Most of what she creates cannot even be crafted in a home kitchen.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing objectionable about these confections or the people who create them. And I’m sure there’s a purpose somewhere for folks with liberal arts degrees……I hope, for their sakes and their parents’ sakes. Everyone serves a purpose in this world and deserves to be loved and respected for what they do. Nothing is better for children than baked goods made with a mother’s love. All I’m asking is to please respect the accomplishments of Amanda and her classmates by not lumping them in with anyone who ever opened an oven door and inserted a pan full of Duncan Hines batter.
Yes, doctors and scientists and engineers and literary scholars are to be respected and admired. But you know what? Baking and Pastry is both a science and an art. The accomplished pastry artist has both sides of the brain firing on all cylinders. The most successful doctors and scientists expect dessert creations when they indulge in the fine dining experience. They expect exquisite and breathtaking cakes and sugar sculptures for their daughters’ weddings. And they pay serious money for them.
Do I sound like a proud parent? Probably. Do I feel indignant when my child has to recite her accomishments in detail over and over, because simply telling people that she has a BS in Baking and Pastry Arts isn’t enough? Absolutely. Will this be the last time I have to tell this story? Doubtful. But you can bet your Magnolia Bakery cupcake that I’ll go to my grave telling it.