Final projects earn sweet grades
FRANCES MOODY, Jackson Hole News and Guide
JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Baking and pastry students in Central Wyoming College's Jackson Hole culinary arts and hotel and restaurant management program ended their fall semester with rich fillings and buttercream toppings.
Asked to create holiday-themed desserts, the 10 chefs-in-training took the results to Jackson Whole Grocer to be judged by a panel of pastry chefs.
"This is our final baking project," said student Kilamu Sherpa, who created an old-fashioned chocolate truffle with mascarpone filling.
As the college's president, Chris Valdez, sliced the sweets for store customers, judges sampled students' work to comment on taste, presentation, originality and technique.
Couloir chef Regi Rikli, who was on the panel and who also taught the culinary arts students in October when the semester started, was impressed with the progress the future bakers made.
"They came a long way," she said. "Some of them did exceptionally well. Others didn't do so great, but within a short time period they managed to pull off some good stuff."
The culinary arts students who did their best to come up with a holiday dessert concept experienced a new course sequence this semester. Instead of going through the usual 15-week semester they went to school Monday through Friday for nine weeks.
Kyle Johnson, who moved from Casper to enroll in the program, said being in class all day for five days was overwhelming at times. Though the learning environment was fast-paced, Johnson feels he learned a lot in the four courses he was required to take.
Johnson made a chocolate cake with Kahlua filling and peppermint buttercream glaze for his final project. Although he didn't get to look at his critique sheet, he did remember comments the judges gave him.
"They said the flavors worked well together but the cake itself was a little bit crumbly and dry," Johnson said.
While Sherpa and Johnson tried their hands at making chocolate cakes, Meredith Weber decided to bake cupcakes.
"I chose cupcakes because I like bite-size things," Weber said.
For her end-of-term project Weber made two kinds: a sticky toffee pudding cupcake and a pancake cupcake.
"The toffee cupcake has a toffee glaze on top with a buttercream frosting," she said.
She made her a pancake-flavored cupcake with a maple syrup glaze and candied bacon.
"I thought of Christmas morning with a pancake breakfast," she said.
Weber was eager to hear what the judges and teachers of the program had to say. She said she was able to guess one criticism made by the judges.
"The pancakes were a little dry, unfortunately, but that is what pancakes are going to do," Weber said.
The chefs who graded the students' goodies also taught segments of the baking class. Having more than one instructor teach is another new component of the culinary arts program. The professionals worked with one another to select what aspects of baking they were going to teach.
"I started from the very beginning," Rikli said, "which is basically explaining what a tablespoon is and explaining all the different baking equipment."
A group of cooks also taught sauce, stock and soup class, one of the other courses students working toward their degree took.
"It's great that the school allows chefs from around the valley to come and teach us," Weber said. "We were able see their different perspectives."
Students were also required to go to two restaurant management classes.
The college's nine-week semester — which was designed to take place during Jackson Hole's fall offseason — is over, which means students will start a four-month internship.
Weber will be working with a personal chef during the winter months, while Johnson will be working with Rikli at Couloir. Sherpa is excited to have an internship at the Indian.
Their paid internships will count as college credit.
"I am going to be touching base with their supervisors and making sure that they are still meeting their requirements," said Amy Madera, the college's director of hospitality and culinary programs.
Johnson likes how the program is set up to have short semesters and seasonal internships.
"It's the fact that you can go to school and then spend an equal amount of time working in the industry," he said.
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.