By Abygail Elizondo
The sweet aroma of a fresh dessert fills your senses. You picture yourself floating in midair toward the delightful smell like a cartoon character. But instead of your grandmother’s kitchen, you are led into the heart of the Culinary Arts program at South Plains College.
Located at the SPC Lubbock Career and Technical Center, Culinary Arts is spaciously divided into four identical classrooms. This is where you will find Baking and Pastry or PSTR-1301-273.
The instructor for this class is Certified Professional Chef Sarah Reid. She says, PSTR-1301-273 is an introduction to baking. She says students start by covering snippets of chapters covered in their textbook. These include segments on cookies, brownies, cakes, and bread.
Bread happens to be the topic of today’s kitchen lab project. Baking, Reid stresses, requires patience because it is slower compared to cooking.
“It’s a process,” she says. “It’s more about the journey than it is the final product.”
First-year culinary student Viridiana Mancilla is a Texas Tech University graduate who decided to pursue her hobby of baking in the Culinary Arts program at SPC. She says learning baking and pastry should not be underestimated. She says students have worked on three breads today so far, and she’s learned the difference between lean and rich bread, the science behind both, and the importance of texture.
“You learn like sizes, or like how to measure, and like how everything effects it,” she says, “and it’s just a lot more like tedious compared to other majors.”
Reid says students also learn about other elements of baking and pastry such as “mise en place”. She defines that as “having everything where you need it when you need it.” She says students complete a list every day that includes all ingredients and items they need to prepare whatever dish is part of the lesson.
To take any of the courses offered in Culinary Arts, Reid says that you must be enrolled in the Culinary Arts program. All the classes, including baking and pastry, are offered only at SPC’s Lubbock CTE.
First-year student culinary student Michael Perez says he learned about the SPC Culinary Arts program from an event flyer his sister gave him.
To introduce more Lubbock residents to the Culinary Arts program, Reid says that the CTE hosts public cooking and baking classes.
“We offer community classes during the summer on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings,” she says, “and then during the school year, we offer them on Saturday mornings.”
She says these community classes usually happen six times a semester at a cost of $45 each. There are different topics for both adults and children aged 10 to 15. The community class schedule for this fall shows two Quick Breads for Kids classes in November. Unfortunately, Reid says both classes are already full.
What career opportunities can the Culinary Arts program offer? Reid says it is a “wide variety.” Grocery stores like United, restaurants, hotels, arenas, hospitals, and even prisons all offer food service, she says.
The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, which, according to international food magazine Chef’s Pencil, is the number one ranked culinary school in the world, says specific jobs in the culinary world include such titles as baker, specialty baker, chocolatier, pastry cook or chef, or a wedding cake baker and designer.
For those who have never thought about baking and pastry, Reid advises using YouTube, books, and master’s classes if it is something you want to learn.
“Find something that interests you and — you don’t have to try and jump from breads to cookies to cakes,” she explains. “Pick one area and start to learn about that one area.”
Reid says bread is the most versatile and cost-friendly item for students who want to bake on a budget.
“If you want to bake on a budget,” she says, “the breads you can make with just yeast, flour, water, salt, vinegar, and maybe an egg — there are so many different recipes with just that.”
In fact, with the fall season now here, there are many bread recipes that could add a new flavor to your holidays. For seasoned bakers who want to make one from scratch, try these pumpkinshaped rolls from the website Taste of Home. And for new bakers who want something a bit more simple, try this chocolate marbled pumpkin bread recipe from the website Saving Room for Dessert.
Despite the inevitable ups and downs of baking and pastry, Reid reminds us that when you bake for somebody it is like “love on a plate”. She says her personal definition of baking and pastry is “joy.”
“It brings joy to myself through actually preparing the food,” she says, “and then joy again when I watch people enjoy and nourish their bodies with what I make.”
Mancilla has some lasts word of advice for those interested in baking and pastry. If you are curious about what it feels like to be in this class, she recommends taking a year and seeing how a semester goes.
“And if you don’t go to work in it,” she says, “you can still use it at home.”