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Melissa Rapp, Pastry Chef at The Forest Club

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Melissa Rapp headshotName: Melissa Rapp
Hometown: Houston
Age: 35
Year of Graduation: 2009, 2011
Program: Diploma in Culinary Arts, Diploma in Baking & Pastry
Current occupation: Pastry Chef at The Forest Club, Houston

  • What was your inspiration that led you to wanting to become a chef?

I started cooking when I was about 16 years old, and I didn’t go to school right away, I started working in a grocery store, in the daily counter, and then I when to the bakery. I guess I wanted something bigger, so I started to work in a Hotel, and I did a few cooking competitions. That got me into working in a kitchen, and so after that I started working in restaurants. I got encouragements from fellow coworkers, and I felt that I needed the edge that an education can give you, when it comes to finding better jobs for yourself and better experience.

  • Describe your classroom experience

It was hard, but it was really good. I had a choice of what teacher to have, and I tried to pick the hardest teachers because I knew that that way I was going to get more out of the classroom experience. I started with a Diploma in Baking and Pastry, and I went on with a Culinary Arts Diploma because I think every chef, or anybody that wants to be a chef needs to have experience in both. Even if it’s not a vast experience, you need to have it to be able to tell people what to do as a Chef, in order not to be clueless in anything.   I am a Pastry Chef but my Diploma in Cuisine from CIL really helps, I have a better knowledge of Pastry.

As a Student here, I had a great experience. I enjoyed coming to school every day, that’s important. It wasn’t just about making this recipe or this one, it was about figuring out the theories of food and pastry, and learning where it came from. To be able to access teachers that know that kind of things was great.

  • Any anecdote?

It was before I went to school. I was working as a French Café as a line cook, and I felt that I was kind of stumbling over myself, because I didn’t have a plan of want I wanted to do. The Chef was teaching me how to make gazpacho. We spent two hours working on this gazpacho. I putted it in a container (there was about 5 gallons of gazpacho) and carried it to the refrigerator, and I tipped on myself and fell. There was gazpacho everywhere, inside of the fridge, on the floor, all over me. And this is when I figured that I needed to get myself together and go to school. And this is how I came to Culinary Institute LeNôtre! My Chef pushed me a lot to go to this school.

  • Do you have some recommendations for students?

If you are planning to be a Chef, you have to go to school. It will be ten times harder to learn everything on your own. School gives you structure, it’s very important especially at LeNôtre!

  • What have you been doing since graduation? And what are your projects?

After graduation, I worked at a small restaurant, in cooking, doing a little bit a pastry because they didn’t have a pastry chef. And then I came to Pine Forest Country Club, where I am currently the Pastry Chef.

I like to travel and work, so I would like to work on a cruise ship again. I already did that in the past, and it’s an awesome experience. You get to travel, you get to cook for a lot a different people from a lot of different countries, and you learn a lot of techniques, because you are working with people from different backgrounds and formations. And someday I would like to work abroad, it’s an old dream with my husband.

Learn more about Pine Forest Country Club here!