Monday, May 18, 2020

Young Baker Finds CVTC Culinary Program a Perfect Fit

Teala Mayer among the first graduates of the new program

Article Photo - Young Baker Finds CVTC Culinary Program a Perfect Fit

Teala Mayer, one of the first nine graduates from CVTC’s Culinary Management program, works in the Culinary kitchen earlier this academic year.

When Teala Mayer heard from a friend that Chippewa Valley Technical College was starting a new Culinary Management program two years ago, she was excited.

“A church friend who had been to a culinary school told me, and I said, ‘that’s neat! I’ll have to check it out,’” Mayer said. The 22-year-old from Wheeler in Dunn County became one of the first nine graduates to complete the program.

Mayer was one of 757 graduates in 59 programs honored at a live virtual graduation celebration on CVTC’s Facebook page on Friday, May 15.The event included messages from President Bruce Barker and former Student Association President Rachael Winterling. The largest program was Nursing-Associated Degree with 101 graduates, followed by Business Management with 45 and Criminal Justice with 43. The in-person commencement ceremony will be held in conjunction with the summer graduation on July 30.

For Mayer, Culinary Management was a perfect fit. She wants to be a baker and open her own bakery someday.

“It started when I was in middle school and in home ec we made a cake and decorated it,” said Mayer, who attended Boyceville High School. “Most of my skills as a baker are self-taught.”

Mayer worked at the Walmart bakery in Menomonie, then got a job at the Grain Bin Market and Bakery in Boyceville. “I made cinnamon rolls and baked bread, pastries and other things,” Mayer said. During summers, she has been working at the Vino Cappuccino Artisan Bistro in Elk Mound.

That’s all been great practical experience, but Mayer was ready for some formal training that would broaden her horizons in an international way.

“I took a little bit of a tour before the Culinary kitchen was even close to done and met the chef instructors,” Mayer said. “I had my picture taken by where the dish room would end up being.”

That first class in Culinary Management had 25 students. Most of those obtained jobs in the industry after a year of training, or even less. Mayer continued on to earn the associate degree.

“It was not at all what I expected, although I knew it wasn’t going to be all about baking,” Mayer said. “But I love that it was all so awesome.”

During the first semester, the students made bread and cookies, and the big gingerbread house project. In the fourth semester Baking Arts Instructor Bob Chaffee joined the faculty to focus on Mayer’s passion. Mayer realizes she grew so much in knowledge and skill as she learned about so many aspects of culinary arts.

“My favorite part during the second semester was the beef, chicken and fish fabrication,” she said, using a culinary term referring to the cutting and preparation of meats to menu specifications. “Then we did cuisines from around the country and around the world.” Some of the regional U.S. and international menus prepared for paying customers at the CVTC 620 North restaurant involved baking, especially for dessert entrees.

It wasn’t just in the kitchen that Mayer learned and grew.

“We also learned about the business side of the industry and how to run a culinary business,” she said. “I want to run my own bakery someday. I did a business plan for a bakery with a partner.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic having closed restaurants for all but takeout for a time, and with the uncertainty of what business will be like in the future, Mayer realizes this is not the best of times to be entering the culinary industry. But she is not worried in the long run.

“As soon as Vino Cappuccino opens for the season, I’ll be working there again, and eventually there will be jobs working at a restaurant or serving food, and I hope to have my own bakery sooner rather than later.”

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