Hometown: Prairie Village, Kansas
Current city: New York
Course of study: Classic Pastry Arts
Year of graduation: 2004
One food/beverage you can’t live without? salt, sugar, and an acid (vinegar, yuzu, lemon, etc.)
Describe your culinary POV in three words: flavor, mouthfeel, balance
Best meal of all time: The honey-sweetened poached carrots from Tatsu’s, in my hometown, when I was eight years old. That dish awoke the culinary curiosity in me.
What would your last meal consist of? A taste of the following: Chinese dumplings, thin-crust pizza topped with a little ricotta, fresh figs with lavender syrup, and lightly sweetened mascarpone. And then a huge serving (maybe a whole cake) of a super-fresh, super-premium chocolate devil’s food cake with layers of hazelnut buttercream, properly salted, of course.
Current job: pastry chef/co-owner of DessertTruck LLC
When you first entered the International Culinary Center, what was your culinary background?
Basically, nothing. Pretty simple as that!
What made you want to pursue pastry school?
I don’t think I’ll ever know the exact answer for that, but I had a really strong gut feeling that going to pastry school would be something good for me. I knew deep down that I needed to be an artisan of some sort—I was a lawyer before. I needed to work with my hands, and I’ve always been fascinated by pastries
How did you decide to focus on pastries?
I already enjoyed baking a lot. I’d go through 10 different recipes of chocolate flourless cake—just finding recipes, tinkering with them, and seeing how they would change.
When you first started studying at the International Culinary Center, was it what you expected?
My first day was one of the most memorable days of my life. It was extremely humiliating. I was on the wait list and someone had dropped out, so I went in on the second day, and I already felt like these students had been in class for six weeks. They knew where the bowls were; they knew where they kept their tools; they knew where the locker room was. I was already playing catch up after one day. It was one of the most intense experiences that I ever had, but at the end of day, I knew I wanted to do it again. That first day, I knew I was going to be doing this for a career for years to come.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned while attending the International Culinary Center?
One of the things I remember for some reason is switching partners in class and working with different personalities. The International Culinary Center doesn’t just give a crash course on the foundations of pastry or cooking, it’s also a crash course on working with different personality types, because that’s what happens in the kitchen. It was very interesting. You meet all different types of personalities and their working styles, and learning how to collaborate with that person is really important.
How did your chef-instructors help you?
Super supportive, and whenever I asked questions, they definitely knew the answer—and even if they didn’t, they would try to help.
What do you think you learned at the International Culinary Center that you’ve applied to your own career?
It makes you to think about the big picture. The curriculum and the way it’s set up forces you to think that way. It’s something that a school like the International Culinary Center does best. If you’re self-taught, you might not exactly understand what a mousse is, but because you go to the International Culinary Center you understand what a mousse is. It helps you see the big picture and understand the foundations of what you’re dealing with and why they exist.
How did the International Culinary Center help you along this path, to this point in your life?
I started really late, in my mind, and without the International Culinary Center there is no way I would be where I am today. I needed that jump-start. I needed that intense curriculum. I needed them to get me the foot in the door. I needed them to get me up to speed.