The grand view from the top of the hill at the Brumit Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality on the campus of A-B Tech was tempered with a light rain chased across the mountaintops by heavy wind gusts as friends, family and faculty convened inside the dining room of the Magnolia building on Thursday, April 7. The crowd had gathered to view and taste the Senior Capstone projects of 15 new graduates of A-B Tech’s baking and pastry arts program.
To earn their associate degree in applied science for baking and pastry arts, students must complete 73 hours of coursework. Subjects include the expected classes about baking, pastry, candy and chocolates. Plus, there are also classes on computer skills, public speaking, food science, sanitation and food safety, cost control, mathematical measurement and a lot more. The capstone project is the culmination and demonstration of all this work in a two-day event of preparation and presentation.
Each student was required to create a variety of chocolates, candies and petits fours, two varieties of tortes, showpieces of sugar and chocolate, a special-occasion cake, a bread display and a plated dessert. Students were also required to submit a business plan, including marketing and a bakery display, to complete their projects. Many A-B Tech faculty members acknowledge that this is one of their favorite days of the year.
Behind a closed door in an adjacent room, a very different collection of people gathered to sample the students’ creations. Chefs from other culinary schools and local hotel and bakery establishments, such as Biltmore Estate and City Bakery, judge projects from a professional perspective. Critiques and reviews from these judges are based not only on taste and flavor but also creativity, presentation and plating — this is the true final test for this class. At least 30 professional bakers, chefs and chocolatiers pointed out what worked, what didn’t and where to improve.
As the event began to wind down, graduates shared stories of frustration and triumph from the previous days and weeks that led up to bringing their ideas to the table. “My co-workers are really going to miss my capstone project,” says Rylee Fan Fan of her Indian-inspired confection and light lunch cafe, called Kerela’s Kitchen. “They were taste-testing for me for weeks. We’ve all had too much sugar.”