Students Handle the Heat of the Kitchen

by Georgina Bridger

One afternoon Nicole Renard went into the Randall Dining Hall to meet with the executive chef of Chapman cafeteria.  Little did she know that she would leave with an apron, chef hat, unlimited kitchen supplies, and a job.  

She’s not swiping people into the Cafeteria; she is the new specialty dessert baker for Chapman Cafeteria.  

“I wanted a one day thing and then as I started talking to him he said, ‘Okay, you’re hired,’ and I said, ‘Excuse me,’ and he goes, ’You wanted a job didn’t you?’ Renard said. “I didn’t think about it and said, ‘Yes sir.’”  

Although cupcake stores like Sprinkles have made baked goods easily accessible with cupcake ATM’s and drive-throughs, students at Chapman are still finding lots of pleasure in baking.

Imagine arriving to your birthday party and seeing cupcakes with detailed images of your face all over them. For Pavin Browne’s Great Grandmas 90th Birthday he baked and frosted individual cupcakes perfecting details including the skin color.

Walking into your first social gathering at Chapman University many would expect beers, red cups, and maybe shot glasses. At Lauren Mah’s house you get candy, handmade chocolate strawberries, heart shaped cut sandwiches and warm cookies.

Pavin Browne, freshman business major, has been baking since his grandmother took him to a cake decorating class in the 5th grade.

“I’m a really artistic and creative person and it’s just another medium like painting,” he said. “You can do all sorts of stuff with different colors and you get to learn how to do all sorts of designs.”

Although Browne is focused on the presentation of his baked goods he also loves to experiment with different flavors like eggnog, candy cane, and snicker doodle. 

“I like the reactions not just to how it looks but how  it tastes,” he said.

After baking a birthday cake for his mothers’ friend, Browne was told he should start a business. Browne heeded the advice and during his Junior year of high school he started his own baking company that relied solely on word of mouth.

“I really enjoyed doing it especially around Christmas time when I got a lot of orders coming in,” he said.

Since coming to college he has stopped his venture but hopes to start it back up by working with Chapman to provide students with baked goods and developing his skills.

Other students have followed a similar path through discovering a love for baking in classes and continued through college.

Lauren Mah, senior business major, was taught that there are five ways to show love to friends. Mah shows her affection though baked goods.

“Baking is not only a therapeutic and calming hobby for me,” she said.  “I like to use baking as a way to celebrate a friend or bring friends together through a social gathering.”

During the school year Mah found the best strategy is time management. She flourishes with a busy schedule and does not preoccupy herself with social media or television which allows her time to bake.

“I literally think ahead of time what and when I want to bake and schedule baking time into my life,” she said. “I also bake while I am studying to allow myself break times during my homework.”

Mah has been baking since elementary school when he mother won an auction for a tea party where she learned how to make pastries, tarts, and tea. Today she continues to bake for good friends and for her own enjoyment.

“I have a very big sweet tooth and I love baking to satisfy my cravings,” she said.

Once out of the dorms many students enjoy cooking for themselves and sophomore communication studies major Josh Nudelman is no exception.

Nudelman always shadowed his mother in the kitchen. Since coming to Chapman he has continued to bake.

“My Mom has always baked, so I’d bake with her,” he said. “I love the control you have on what you can make.”

Many students bake and cook for their own enjoyment, but there are also many students who get paid for what they love to do.

Renard, a freshman Broadcast Journalism major, started baking at a young age but quit after her sister started to take over the kitchen. Her junior year of high school she got back into baking after her sister left for college.

“When she graduated and left I got back into it and I really loved it,” she said. ”That’s when Pinterest first came out so I was finding a bunch of recipes and I really got into it.”

During her Junior year of high school, Renard made her own cookbook, with the proceeds going towards the Children’s Network.  As Distinguished Young Woman of America, Nicole has had the chance to go on Studio 10, a Fox network in Alabama, and cook with the host live on T.V. Now as part of the baking team in the cafeteria, she works Tuesdays and Thursdays for four hours, baking over 300 items at a time.

“They literally have every ingredient you want,” she said.

Baking provides an outlet for stress; it is an easy project. You read the information you need, gather the things you need, put it all together just like with a paper, but instead of coming back an hour later to edit, you get to eat the final piece.








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