Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Tis the Season...

As part of their final exam, Chef Carrie Risner assigned her Baking and Pastry students a festive project fit for the holiday season: use their creativity to design and build a gingerbread house with the skills learned throughout the semester.  Take a look at some of the fun results below!
Harry Potter, anyone?
Created by Rachel Bryan and Maria Ramirez
Three Little Pigs
Created by Becca Rice and Nicholas Komisar
Created by Julia Matera
Created by Josh Tharp and Clare Saragnese
Winter Wonderland
Created by Tori Deckhart and McKenzie Johnson
See the dog out front?
Created by Kenna Stanley and Sydney Tolbert
Star Wars!
Created by Jake Rettke and Ashleigh Johnson
The new phenom Angry Birds
Created by Zach Osborne and Jacob Jones
Pretzel Fence
Created by Jeff Ausmus 
Ahhh, we wish!
Created by Stellan Harris and Andrew Silvey
Created by Shaniqua English-Samuels

 Special thanks to Muhammud Al-Rawi for taking the photos!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Students Help to Create French Bistro

Chef Carrie Risner's Baking and Pastry students joined University Club Executive Chef Daniel Pliska to create a French Bristro right here at the Columbia Area Career Center.  Chef Pliska's traditional recipes included Almond Lemon Roulade, Mocha and Chocolate Eclairs, Fruit Tarts, and White Chocolate Mouse Tart, among others. Students helped to bake the pasteries, plated, and served them to walk-in customers as well as filled orders made in advace.  All proceeds went to the CACC Culinary Team Fund.  To receive advance notice of 
             Culinary events and specials, email                   and ask to be added to the distribution list.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Culinary Student Gains Experience at KC Eatery

Ever notice the boom of cooking shows over the past decade?  With the advent of cable television and the reality TV revolution, television stations like the Food Network and Bravo have turned a relatively quiet and behind-the-scenes profession into a modern day phenomenon.  Names like Giada De Laurentiis, Rachel Ray, and Paula Deen all resound in our pop culture minds for their roles on television shows and as media personalities.  But we often forget that behind the glitz and glam of celebrity-chefs are years of culinary training and countless hours spent in the kitchen to perfect a craft that hasn't always gotten the recognition it deserves.

One such chef you may recognize taking advantage of the blitz is Lidia Bastianich, known for her PBS cooking shows and a handful of high-end eateries across the country.  Luckily for the midwest and, in particular, one  CACC culinary student, Bastianich operates one of her rustic Italian establishments just north of Union Station in Kansas City, aptly called Lidia's. 

That student is Dahnya Rogers.

Dahnya is a second year Culinary Arts student at Columbia Area Career Center.  The Rock Bridge High School junior has compiled quite the academic and cooking resume.  Alongside her AP calculus and anatomy classes, Dahnya has become a leader in the CACC state-of-the-art kitchen, taking Culinary Arts I last year and Culinary Arts II this year--along with being a Teaching Assistant to Chefs Brook Harlan and Jeff Rayl.  "We've never had another student like Dahnya," Rayl and Harlan said.  "She's driven, works hard--I can't say enough about the kind of student she is."   

Enter Lidia Bastianich.

Through a chain of convoluted events, Dahnya found herself in Lidia's restaurant--but she wasn't there to get a bite to eat.  Instead, Dahnya spent the day working the line of the fast-paced restaurant, plating sandwiches and expediting orders.  For anyone who's ever worked in the culinary industry, it's hard to believe a young woman could come to a restaurant, jump right in, and keep up.  Though not a stranger to the upscale restaurant business--she's works the line at Mizzou's University Club when she's not cooking or studying for AP Statistics--it's still quite the accomplishment.  Working the line is stressful for the most experienced of chefs, but it's also an experience that many culinary students would be envious to have.   So how did she get herself into such a situation?  Well, it wasn't easy.

Students involved in the Culinary Arts program at CACC have the opportunity to participate in a student organization called SkillsUSA.  The group can be compared to DECA in marketing, FFA in agriculture, and HOSA in health professions.  It serves as a mechanism for students to hone their culinary skills and compete against other skilled students from across the state and nation, as well as meeting industry professionals.  While Dahnya was competing at one such competition last year, she met a manager for Lidia's in Kansas City.  After a brief conversation, he invited her to visit the restaurant and spend the day immersed in the day-to-day grind of the eatery. 

Dahnya jumped at the opportunity to gain experience at one of KC's best known Italian restaurants and took him up on the offer.   When she arrived at 7am, she found out that the manager no longer worked at Lidia's.  

Many 16 year-olds would have called it a day.  Instead, Dahnya phoned Chef Harlan, her teacher, who advised her to "just find a way in."  So that's what she did. She got into the restaurant, introduced herself to the manager-on-duty, and asked if she could shadow him for the day.  He agreed, and she spent the early hours learning the menu, touring the restaurant, and getting familiar with how Lidia's back of house operated.  "I had to learn fast.  I was really nervous, but once I got into the groove, I felt like I was a part of the team."

She must have done something right, because the manager invited her back--not only to work, but to actually meet Lidia.  So that's what she did...on her 17th birthday.  "She was so nice, and I got to work in the kitchen again."  This time, she made desserts and was able to chat with Lidia about her future.  

Seeing a successful businesswoman in the culinary industry serves as motivation for Dahnya.

"I want to go to Columbia University and major in business so I can start my own catering company," she said.  It's an endeavor that her parents whole-heartedly support and her instructors encourage.  Harlan agrees, "Dahnya has what it takes to operate a successful business.  If her high school record is any indication, she'll do very well for her herself."

Dahnya is appreciates having access to professional kitchens, chefs, and classes at CACC.  "I love coming to the career center.  It gives me the opportunity to learn skills that will translate into a career.  Without it, I wouldn't know that this is what I want to do with my life."

So how about that whole celebrity-chef stuff?  With a smile and a laugh, "I don't think so, but I do hope I'll be in the position one day to help high school students learn the trade like Lidia's has done for me."  

If we were the betting kind, our money would be on Dahnya doing just that. 

Broadcast Students Intern at KOMU

When Mizzou students vacate Columbia for Thanksgiving break, KOMU often calls on students enrolled in Columbia Area Career Center's broadcast journalism program to fill in. This year, CACC alum and current KOMU reporter Ashley Colley, known for producing the Friday Night Fever program, requested help with the local station's sports website.
"I love being able to give back to Mrs. Brueck and her class by providing them with opportunities at KOMU that she worked so hard to get for me," said Colley.  "It's a great way to get some experience inside a news station and see if this is really something they want to do when we are in need of help."

Rock Bridge seniors Anna Brugmann and Sarah Henzel volunteered and spent their break researching, writing, and publishing articles.  Colley noted that both Brugmann and Henzel were "very eager to learn and help out in any way possible."    

Instructor Haley Brueck encourages her students to get involved. "It's such a great opportunity for our students to be exposed to a working environment. With this experience they can enter college steps ahead of their peers."

As for Colley, she's now producing This Week in Mizzou Football with Gary Pinkel and This Week in Mizzou Basketball with Frank Haith that air on KOMU as well as Fox Sports Network in six different states, along with other sports and newscasts.  She credits her start to Mrs. Brueck, the BroJo program, and CACC: "Mrs. Brueck and the Career Center helped open the door for me at KOMU which helped me get to where I am today. I will be forever thankful for my time in Mrs. Brueck's broadcast classes and my time spent at the Columbia Area Career Center."

Check out Anna and Sarah's stories below!

Anna Brugman:

Be sure to watch for work done by CACC students during the holiday break--most likely they'll be in the "Today" show cut-ins!