Category Archives: Stories

The Start of a Day

My parents raised us with the mantra: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man (woman) healthy, wealthy and wise.”    Well, I try to get to bed early.  Yes, I’m definitely up early.  Healthy?  Yes, I have been blessed.  Wealthy?  I am thankful everyday for the amazing good fortune of wonderful family, great friends, excellent work and a pretty decent outlook on life.  Wise? No, I’m not finished yet……there’s still plenty to learn!

I love mornings!  How does your day begin?
Here’s a fun look at the start of my day.




I love cookbooks!

I love cookbooks, all kinds.  For me though, the components of a great cookbook include more than just recipes.  I want to know about the life of the author, the origin of the recipes and of course, the book needs to include plenty of quality photos!  I’m very excited to present a post by my guest blogger and colleague, Jean Moats.  As one of our Johnson & Wales University  librarians,  Jean is a great asset to the education of our students and our chefs.  I love it when Jean says ” I just got in the newest book by…….., you’ve got to take a look!”  So, I asked her to share with us the latest additions to our JWU library.

Fine French Desserts by Hubert Delorme

Fine French Desserts by Hubert Delorme












Fine French Desserts by Hubert Delorme: This book could be considered a textbook for a cook wanting to learn how to make beautiful French desserts. The first part of the book goes over basic techniques and recipes for making the different parts of the desserts. The next section is a practical guide featuring all of the needed tools. The final section, written by French pastry chefs, includes the recipes to make these stunning creations.


Jenny McCoy's Desserts

Jenny McCoy’s Desserts













Jenny McCoy’s Desserts by Jenny McCoy: Most dessert books are divided up by different types of desserts such as pies, cakes, cookies and candy.  Jenny McCoy used a fresh approach with book in organizing the recipes by seasons. If you need a spring dessert for your next party, then turn to the spring section for a lovely Blueberry-Almond Cream Tart. The recipes are easy to follow with clear instructions. McCoy includes not only desserts but also seasonally themed drinks.


Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook

Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook












Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook by Rick Mast and Michael Mast: Winner of the IACP in the Single Subject Category.  Rick and Michael Mast started  craft chocolate factory in Brooklyn  in order to produce handcrafted chocolate.  They seek to make the chocolate using best ingredients from small producers. This book includes the story of their journey along with delicious recipes.


Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino

Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino













Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino: Desserts in Italy are more than just cannoli and gelato.  Rosetta Costantino brings us the desserts of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia and Sicily, all regions in southern Italy.  Rich delicious desserts fill the pages of this book. Costantino explains the regional history, symbolism and lore behind these desserts.

The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer with Martha Rose Shulman

The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer with Martha Rose Shulman













The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer with Martha Rose Shulman: Winner of the IACP in the Baking Category.  Jacquy Pfeiffer covers the fundamentals of pastry, beginning with his life working in his father’s bakery.  The book continues with recipes for classic French pastries.  Pfeiffer includes a sidebar in the many recipes where he gives more information about a particular ingredient that is used. It is an excellent book for anyone wanting to learn the fundamentals of French pastries.

NOTE:  All of these editions are available from your favorite online book retailer OR, better yet, take a closer look at these great books in the library!


Jean Moats, Librarian, M L.S. from University of North Carolina at Greensboro; B.A. in Home Economics and Business from Otterbein College, M. Div. in Pastoral Ministry from Duke Divinity School; Prior to the library degree, Jean worked as a pastry chef in several local catering companies while earning a degree in Culinary Arts and Hotel/Restaurant Management from Central Piedmont Community College. She worked at Queens University of Charlotte in Technical Services Department while earning her degree in library science from UNC at Greensboro. Jean joined the library staff of Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte in August 2004. She is a liaison for the College of Culinary Arts. Other responsibilities include cataloging materials, staffing the reference desk, and teaching information literacy sessions.

Thank you Jean, for your dedication and your reviews of these fantastic books!



Food for thought

We commonly use food metaphors without even thinking that we are talking about……food!

“You are the apple of my eye.”

You are the apple of my eye.

You are the apple of my eye.  I credit my daughter with this idea.  Great job Tink!

“A piece of cake.”

It's a piece of cake.

It’s a piece of cake….or a whole carrot cake.  Yum!


“Mind your P’s and Q’s.”

Mind your P's and Q's.

Mind your P’s and Q’s.  Preserve the harvest: take care of your pints and quarts. Thanks Nanny!

“That’s a real pickle.”

That's a pickle of a problem.

That’s a pickle of a problem.  “Oh, pickles!”

“Keep your eyes peeled.”

Keep your eyes peeled.

Keep your eyes peeled.  Potatoes have eyes…..are they watching you?


“That’s a recipe for disaster.”

A recipe for disaster.

A recipe for disaster.  Honestly, some of my test recipes ARE disasters!

“You are nuts!”

You are nuts!

You are nuts!  Thank you.  I love nuts!

“That’s as easy as pie.”

That's as easy as pie.

That’s as easy as pie.  Really, not so easy, but so worth the work!


What is the origin of these phrases?  Why do we use food as metaphors for what we really want to say?  Food has always been and will always be such an integral part of our lives.  Of course we depend on food for sustenance, but it has become so much more.  Around the globe, we celebrate with food, compete with food, and show love for each other with food.  Just in our country alone, we have  everything from pig-pickings to oyster roasts, fish fry’s to apple bobbing, watermelon seed spitting tournaments to blueberry festivals, and don’t forget the ever-present “Bake Sale.”  Those examples are just some of the tame food related activities we enjoy.  Of course, there are more food events everywhere, but now we have plenty of television shows to fulfill every inkling of food curiosity we may have.  Food is everywhere.  So it makes sense for us to use food in our spoken language as well.

What is your favorite food phrase?  Do you every want to eat your words?


Creativity: Food as Art, Art as Food

In food education, we name the programs of study:  Culinary Arts.   The two-year degree though is called an Associates of Applied Science.  So how do we make the connection between “art” and “science?”  Often, people say that cooking is an art, while baking is a science.  What makes this distinction?  Do the two overlap?  YES!!!

When cooking, measurements are not always crucial to the final product.  A recipe may have the following instructions:  a clove of garlic, a bunch of chives, two chicken breasts and “season to taste.”  The exact measurements are not indicated as it is up to the chef to determine the amounts, according to the desired result of the final creation.  An experienced chef can estimate the proper proportions and predict the outcomes.  Therein lies the art of taste!  How these creations are assembled on the plate then requires the art of presentation.

During one of the “chapters” in my professional career, I worked as the first mate and cook on a private yacht.  The owner of the boat, an attorney, and his wife, a classically trained chef, went out to different restaurants for dinner six nights of the week.  On the seventh night, I cooked for them on the boat.  Why did they eat out so much? They believed in the art and entertainment of the dining experience.  They would examine every component of the meal:  how the hostess greeted them, the décor of the restaurant, the eloquence of their waiter, the font of the menu, the feel of the cutlery and the design of the china, and oh yes, the meal itself!  The food, though an important part of the meal, was not the only creative medium in the art of dining.  The choreography of the entire evening involved many interdependent components.  When dining out, how often do we think the food was good, but the atmosphere made the meal less enjoyable?

In the baking and pastry world, we follow formulas.  We think of a recipe as a list of ingredients, whereas a formula determines the exact amount of each ingredient with a specific method of preparation (MOP).  As we “eat with our eyes first,” initial appreciation of a product relies upon the presentation.  We value wedding cakes for their beauty, birthday cakes for their whimsy and sometimes we create sculptures of food for their visual appeal alone.  Although the eating of the creation may be a secondary desire, taste completes the experience.  So although the ratio of ingredients and the method in which the product is prepared can be considered a science, the art depends on the visual appeal.

I find joy in trying a new recipe, or adapting an old recipe by using the ingredients at hand, making substitutions to accommodate the tastes of whom I am feeding.  For baking, I make a rule of following the initial formula as indicated.  Then, through my knowledge of baking science (more on that next week!), I may make adjustments to please my palate or alter the texture.  When making wedding or birthday cakes, I spend more time at the drawing board, then the actual production of the creation.  These are just some of the creative aspects of the food world.

The photos included in this post offer a variety of artistic views of food.  Food art can be everything from the natural beauty of fresh picked strawberries, to sugar and chocolate showpieces, to a sculpture of the world’s largest lobster. You can decide, is it art?

How do you “create art” in the culinary realm?

Fresh picked strawberriesFresh picked strawberries, nature’s pure art!  Very edible!

Chef Duke's Cake, Food as Art

Chef Ellen Duke’s Fruit and Vegetable Cake.  This is edible art!

Chocolate Sculpture

Chocolate sculpture.  Never intended to be eaten, but smells really good!

Sugar Sculptures

Sugar sculptures.  Again, never intended to be eaten.

The World's Largest Lobster

World’s largest lobster! (Sculpture and kids, not edible!)                                                                                  Shediac, New Brunswick, CANADA

Einstein, in Toast

Toast “painting” of Einstein.  Technically, edible.  (Ripley’s Believe It or Not Exhibit)

Fresh Fruit Tarts, Plated Desserts

Fresh fruit tarts, waiting to be served in our school dining room.  Delicious!

Themed Mini-Cakes

Themed Mini-Cakes from our Advanced Cake Decorating Class.

Cowboy Cake

Cowboy Cake.  Edible.  In fact, it fed 400 happy guests! 

Why do we eat?

Why do we eat?  The easy answers:  to satisfy our hunger, to nourish our bodies, to feed our souls.  But is that enough?  When I was a young woman, my mother used to say: “the way to a man’s heart is by way of his stomach.”  I figured that in order to have a man fall in love with me, I better be able to cook.  Chocolate chip cookies….the first gift for my first boyfriend.  Good enough?  Well, I needed more. That initial motivation, to find a man, soon morphed into a love of cooking.  So, I started learning from my grandmother and my mother.  Later on I learned from a chef for whom I worked and following her suggestion, I eventually I went to culinary school to become a pastry chef.  I am still learning and I hope that my desire to learn will continue.  Some people have a stack of novels on their bedside table.   For me, there are cookbooks.

Growing up in a household that never purchased any sort of sweet other than Girl Scout Cookies (bought only to satisfy the charitable need), my mother baked everything.  She found joy in pleasing others through her cooking.  She baked for our family, our church, our neighbors, and anyone else who looked like they needed something to eat. She would spend hours searching her cookbooks for the perfect recipe to make for a particular function.  Did my mother eat everything that she made?  She would taste it, but the real joy for her was in the sharing of her creations.  I share that joy now, and so often find more pleasure in the challenge of production than the taste of the final product.  But just like art, the sharing and mutual appreciation of the work gives the product more meaning.

What do we eat?  I believe that food should be a personal choice.  We select what we put into our own bodies. So, just like the clothes we wear or the hairstyle we choose, food is a choice.  Many people eat just to fill their bellies or satisfy the whims of their taste buds.  Does your life revolve around your next meal or do you eat whatever happens to be available when the hunger strikes? Your answer to that question may vary from the time of day to the day of the week, or with your mood.

This blog will explore topics related to food and pastry, the artistry involved in its creation, specialized diets, instructional videos and lots of photos.  I hope to create interest in food, not only as nourishment, but also as a vital connection between us.  So often, we celebrate with food, share time eating together, share recipes, memories and stories. I think we can all relate to this intriguing topic.

Why do you eat?

My son helping his grandfather blow out the candles, celebrating his 90th birthday.

My son helping his grandfather blow out the candles, celebrating his 90th birthday.

A pie story

As a pastry chef at one of our country’s best culinary schools, students often ask me….what’s your favorite dessert?  I have access to the highest quality ingredients, the best equipment and some of the most respected chefs in the industry. This blog will give you a look into my work, and maybe a little glimpse of my life.

Blueberry pie.  The answer to their question includes a story, as good food should.  First, we need to drive a thousand miles to Northern Ontario. Then, on a perfectly sunny day in early July, we take our 60 year old 17′ Alumacraft to the end of Lake McFarlane.  There, up on a rocky knoll, spared from the bears, lies the perfect blueberry patch.  Once everyone has filled their buckets, swatted horse flies and mosquitoes, and avoided sunburn, we cool off in the lake.  Back at the cottage (or “camp”, as Northern Canadians call it), while the boys clean the fresh fish, my daughter and I make the pie.  In a 1947 GE electric oven, baking can be a challenge!  Good pastry, made with Tenderflake lard (yes, lard!), encases our fresh-picked wild blueberries.  We eat our dinner on the picnic table in the yard: smallmouth bass, some quinoa, a salad and…..of course, wild blueberry pie!  Farm to table, at its best.

What’s the story behind your favorite dessert?

Blueberry Pie

Just pie? Really? That’s your favorite dessert??? But….you are a pastry chef!