Our student of the month is Violeta Gracia, a Baking and Pastry Arts student in one of our Diploma programs. Violeta decided to completely change careers one year ago to follow her passion for pâtisserie. As a single parent and full-time student who also works full-time, she is extremely busy. But her positive attitude and commitment allow her to meet all challenges. She talks about her experience as a returning-to-school student.
Name: Violeta Gracia
Current city: Houston
Course of study: Baking and Pastry Diploma
Year of graduation: 2015
Current job: I work in a bakery to gain more experience before having my own place.
- What is your favorite food or beverage?
I love everything! That’s why I came to the school, I love eating.
- What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
All of the best food I ever tried, I tasted it here. It’s always different; we get to experiment a lot. Before coming to this school, I didn’t know how good seafood could be. When it’s matched with the right ingredients, I see how delicious and different it tastes.
- What would be your ultimate meal?
I hope it’s a new thing that I never tried before. I would love to keep experimenting every day. New food, new countries…
- What inspired you want to become a chef?
My best friend always loved my cooking. He had the idea of opening a business with me, to be partners together. That’s how I got the idea of coming here. I used to work in a totally different field, and in 2013 I got my GED. And when I got it, I decided to do something different, something for myself. I wanted to do something I love every day. And I love dessert, that’s why I choose the Baking and Pastry Diploma program. In my family, when we get together, dessert is absolutely mandatory!
- When did you decide to come to Culinary Institute LeNotre?
Well, I looked at other schools but I didn’t like the pressure they put on you. They wanted me to sign and go. When I came to CIL, I loved their understanding. They let me choose my start date, they supported me with my busy schedule…I wanted to finish important things before completely committing to a new thing, and they understood that. I made a promise to myself to be here for the August 2014 start. And here I am!
- What is the most important thing you learned at CIL? Do you have a specific memory of one of your classes?
The most important thing I’ve learn so far is to respect the recipe. Baking and Pastry Arts is a really precise science, and you have to learn how to use the ingredients in a good way to get the perfect dessert or bread. When you miss something, you have to re-do the dish entirely. It teaches you precision and respect.
A specific memory would be the Napoleon Class. This was a tough one! The fondant of the cake is very delicate to do. Chocolate temperature is a real science!
- Describe your classroom experience. Any anecdotes?
I love to get along with my classmates. We are sort of a team, because when someone needs help, the other ones will provide support. We help each other to be ready on time, and to be able to move on to the next step…This is a nice classroom experience. Chefs are excellent, very patient with us. It’s a cultural exchange at every class. Some of them try to teach me French, I speak a little bit Spanish… And what’s important is that they understand you, they will always give you the right answer to your question.
- How do you handle everything, returning to school, family life, working…?
It is hard to deal with everything. I am a single parent with 5 kids, and four of them are still at home. My schedule is very busy. My everyday routine is to get my boys ready, go to work for 8 hours, come home and cook a little bit for the family. Then at 5pm, I come to the institute for the evening classes. It allows me to handle everything at the same time. I’m also happy to be able to graduate so fast. I’ll be a Culinary Institute LeNôtre grad’ in July this year.
- What is your most interesting subject at school right now?
Everything is interesting, because you learn something new every day. You can’t miss anything, because everything is linked to something else.
- What are your projects for after graduation?
First, I want to work in a bakery to use the skills I’ve acquired here and get better at it. I want to practice until I feel confident enough to do it on my own and open my own place. Maybe at first it won’t be a huge thing, but I want something of my own.
- Any recommendations for improvement? What would you say to students interested in coming to CIL?
One of the major recommendation I’d give is to come here every day (Violeta is one of the students at the school who has perfect attendance), because you are always learning something new. Anything you miss, well, you really miss it.
To women like me, interested in Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry, I’d say: “We can make something of ourselves”. We need to jump. I challenge myself for every step of my life. It might be hard at first, but it’s worth it at the end. And this school is really about you, about your goals, about what you want. I can always focus on one thing only: cooking. It is extremely important to have an environment like this where you can follow your passion.
- Anything you would like to add? Do you do anything besides cooking? Hobbies?
I like to sew; I love to spend time with my kids on weekends. They enjoy the meals I make for them!