Jessica is currently a student at The Culinary Institute of America pursuing her Bachelors in Food Business Management with her focus being in Baking & Pastry. Prior to studying at the CIA, she was a passionate home baker. Jessica had no experience in the professional kitchen but she had always known since she was very young that she wanted to join the restaurant industry. At home, she would brainstorm, film and share YouTube recipe tutorials on my baking channel “Sugar Crystal Kitchen”. This was her first experience in the service industry, although she was not directly serving guests face to face, she felt as though it was providing viewers with an indirect online service. In high school, she worked at various boba shops as a bobarista. It was her first real hospitality service job. Jessica loved interacting with customers, chatting it up with regulars, and whipping up their special drinks.
What inspired you to pursue a career in hospitality? Although none of my family members worked in the hospitality industry, I was inspired by books, shows, and movies to become a culinary expert. When I first entered the food world as a middle schooler, I was unaware of its connection to the hospitality industry. I just knew I loved creating little pastries and desserts to share with friends and family. There was something incredibly special about making someone’s day, and I happened to do it best through sweets.
What challenges have you faced (or are you facing) while working in the food industry? As a professional in the industry, I have found that it can be difficult to meet customer expectations especially when you are just starting out like myself. When I started accepting cake orders during the summer of 2020 amidst Covid-19, I realized that people were unwilling to pay me enough for the work I put into my cakes. Custom cakes aren’t a huge thing where I’m from, so customers had a difficult time understanding why cakes at their local grocery store could charge such low prices and I couldn’t. Currently, I am back at school so I am not accepting any orders, but I have been job hunting since graduation is right around the corner. So far no luck because of how hard the industry has been hit by the pandemic.
If you weren’t in the food industry, what would you be doing? Besides being infatuated with baking and pastry, I am also highly interested in photography and media. Right now, I am doing professional photoshoots on the side, but if the opportunity arose for me to become a full-time freelance photographer I wouldn’t decline. I do creative, professional, group, couple, wedding, product, and website photoshoots.
If you had 30 minutes to speak with anyone in our industry who would it be and what would you want to ask them? I would want to speak with world famous pastry chef, Amaury Guichon. I would ask him “How did you get into pastry?” “When and how did you decide that you wanted to become a chef?” “Why did you specialize in chocolate sculpting?" "How did you get so good at it?” “How do you balance work and life?”
What change would you like to see in our industry? I wish people could see chefs more as artists who are artisans of our craft rather than undercut blue-collar workers. There is a disconnect present between the guest, the food, and the chef who composes the dish. I hope one day the world will acknowledge that positions in culinary and pastry as admirable professions, and that they would value it as such.